The Wonk Panel Survey 2018

Today we launch the results of our first Wonk Panel survey. The Wonk Panel 2018 is the first of a new annual health check on the higher education sector across the UK by the colleagues in the sector on the frontline of policy making and politics. The report and the research was kindly sponsored by EY Parthenon.

There is no standard definition of a wonk in higher education. It’s not a job title or a position, so we have developed our own panel that represents a range of different viewpoints, backgrounds and levels of seniority. Below shows how we compiled the panel:

We asked about the professional life of the wonks and found that – at a personal level – the group are generally positive about their own roles. Although they are perhaps less optimistic about the future of their own institutions. 

The pace and volume of change in HE can feel overwhelming. Consultation after consultation, new initiatives, revisions to old initiatives. A new excellence framework every week. Or so it can feel. Wonks are dealing with these changes, but their ability to engage with these questions can be overshadowed by more fundamental issues about institutional performance.

Competition for students, and the ability to recruit international students easily, are major challenges. How can higher education institutions ensure they’ve got a diverse range of income sources? The challenges – and the range of viable responses – are not evenly felt across the country, and institutions’ local circumstances vary widely.

There is significant positivity when it comes to the engagement with the policy development process. While change can feel imposed from “on high” there is still a widespread sense (though still varying by position in the sector) that change can be influenced by individuals and groups. A key part of Wonkhe’s mission is providing an outlet for views on policy: there needs to be space – in public – for policy ideas to be developed, shared, refined. Wonks are standing ready to engage in this process.

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