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PODCAST: Number controls, safety nets, community contribution

This week on The Wonkhe Show we're thinking about student numbers, and the types of regulation and national intervention needed during and after the Covid-19 lockdown
This article is more than 3 years old

News, analysis and explanation of higher education issues from our leading team of wonks

This week on The Wonkhe Show we’re thinking about student numbers, and the types of regulation and national intervention needed during and after the Covid-19 lockdown. We also think about students and their need for safety both over assessment and enrolment, and the role universities are playing in the community during the crisis.

With Jim Dickinson, Associate Editor at Wonkhe, with Selena Bolingbroke, Lead for External Engagement & Strategic Development at Goldsmiths, University of London; and Andy Westwood, Vice Dean for Social Responsibility for the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Manchester.

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[00:00:00] It’s the Wonkhe show, we’ll chat admissions and student numbers and things, we’ll talk about assessment and graduation and risks for students. The civic role of universities suddenly sounds pretty important. So we’ll have to think about that. It’s all coming up.

[00:00:50] Welcome to the Wonkhe show, your weekly. Weigh in to this week’s higher education news, policy and analysis. I’m Jim Dickinson up in the attic. And here to help us make sense of this week’s stuff. As usual, we have a couple of excellent guests in back that Andy Westword is vice dean for Social Responsibility for the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Manchester. Andy, your reason to be cheerful this week?

[00:01:10] Well, my reason to be cheerful was definitely finding out that I was going to do a wonky podcast with a couple of fellow West Midlands. This is like the regional edition of new shows when kind of, you know, the the primary candidates aren’t available to regular listeners will be surprised to learn that.

[00:01:25] Our second guest this week is Selina Bollyn. He was only on a couple of weeks ago. That, as Andy says, we could not resist the opportunity to reunite the West Midlands Massif. So A Grave’s and Selina is lead for external engagement and strategic development at Goldsmiths, University of London. Syleena. Your reasons?

[00:01:42] Which airfoil reasons to be careful. Obviously, you know, we’re having to dig deep this week. I thought a thought to my reasons to be cheerful was I did sign up like I’m sure many other people have to be an NHS volunteer. So Tuesday was my day when I was free and a toggled myself on duty on the up and then up there. I had an extra egg on my my breakfast that morning out of my rations just so I was fit and ready. And then nobody called on me. So I wasn’t very careful. And so probably the only thing I can think of that has made me smile this week is I found in my cellar a unopened pack of 30 mil cable ties and cable ties always make me feel safe because there is no job that isn’t improved by the addition of a cable tie.

[00:02:33] So, yes, we start this week with the news that student number controls might be on the way back. The Guardian reported on a meeting of the UK board that discussed admissions practice in universities. Talk to us about this one.

[00:02:45] Yes. So you’re right. This is the big policy story rippling round English higher education kind of this week. It’s the return of or the likely return of some form of no controls sitting across from this autumn’s recruitment, obviously, which is the sort of recruiting season that’s that’s already kicking off at the moment. And I think, you know, there are three three things driving, driving this this story. The first, obviously, is the growing coronavirus and kind of the uncertainty that that’s bringing to when the autumn term starts, but also to the exams that year, 13 students are aren’t sitting and other qualifications. But that’s on top of, you know, a rump, an H.E. market where the market based reforms, enhancing competition over places, uncapping of places has has really kind of, you know, satisfying competition against each other. So when there’s a when there’s uncertainty stemming from international recruitment in particular. Q Ash released a survey overnight talking about the number of into international students out there globally who are still sticking to their plans and they report that only 14 percent are planning to enroll as planned. So this is a kind of, you know, a huge change to two English higher education, but so utterly dependent on on international recruitment these days. And and what lots of universities throughout the sector have have raised their concerns about is that these ripples are going to go through the rest of the sector. Those selective institutions in the Russell Group and elsewhere are going to take more from the domestic applicant market than they might normally do.

[00:04:36] And that’s going to kind of put some places into more more risk than they might ordinarily have been facing. And it gets worse. You know, the financial risk for this for the sector gets worse the longer the lockdown and the physical closure of university campuses goes on. So it’s it’s something that kind of, you know, lots of different universities right across the sector are. Getting increasingly worried about and, you know, their first opportunity to really sort of change the incompatibilities is recruitment this summer. So, you know, so there’s a huge amount of pressure on it. It looks very likely to happen. And I have to say, I think it’s very sensible that it happens. Chris Husbands, the VCA Sheffield Haarlem, wrote a piece on Happy last week which proposed a soft cap based on plus 5 percent of an institution’s recruitment average over the last three years, which seems like a pretty, pretty sensible place to start. It’s it’s not clear where where the FSN and DFI will end up, but I think it’s I think it’s it’s certainly very sensible for them to be looking at it. And I think kind of, you know, as far as the government’s concerned, they’ve intervened in every other market. So even though we’ve been used to a fairly rampant and accelerating market in higher education, it’s no surprise that a government previously committed to that policy agenda is beginning to kind of change its mind over sort of, you know, those immediate measures that it might have to do to shore up the sector.

[00:06:11] And I think to to sort of last thoughts really by way of introduction. One is that, you know, there are there are two big agendas for the government here that they need to be thinking about the long term for. You know, one is, is the levelling up agenda. So it’s their their commitment, you know, headlining the budget, which was only a couple of weeks ago, where they want to address and reduce regional inequality, which is a big, big issue in the UK economy. And the second is, is their support for science and research. And I think, you know that also a headline in the budget. And it’s clear that kind of you know, this government doesn’t want to see the capabilities in either of those areas irreparably damaged because of kind of the market in student recruitment. So this brings both Russell Group institutions, post-9 tutus and everybody else into the set in the sector, into the scope for, you know, for for policymakers to think about. Well, what do we want to preserve here? Um, the very kind of final point I would make is that, you know, suddenly the office for students is is becoming kind of even more like Haski every day, which I suspect is also a pretty good thing.

[00:07:26] Selina, obviously, the the the principal that’s being thrown around and discuss this is the idea of attempting to at least to spread the pain around the sector. If everyone suffers pain, does everyone then need some actual treatment in terms of financial support?

[00:07:44] You know what what what are what are the kind of, you know, the numbers that people around the sector that a senior are thinking about?

[00:07:51] I think the numbers are absolutely eye watering. And I think there is pain for everybody. I think that at the moment the attention is on international students and what the drop might look like. And as Andy said, the US survey that came overnight. I mean, you know, I think it would be optimistic now to start doing scenario modeling. Fifty percent of those were previously planned to come, I think, more realistic, you know, in the range of 10, 20 percent. But I think the fears the international students have in the actual obviously physical physical controls in some case of international students being able to go to the university in country of choice. We haven’t yet started talking about what the impact might be on the domestic market. I think certainly some people that I’ve talked to who’ve got young people in their household who were thinking about going to university next year, they feel very uncertain, very unsure about whether next year is the right the right time for them to go. So I think it isn’t just the international students that universities will be worried about. It will be their home, U.K. students as well. And in which case it is pain across everybody. And it is pain of a magnitude that we will have not seen before.

[00:09:13] And I think in that context, yes, I think student number controls is the one area where, you know, the government through OFAC can exert some control. But actually it is a little bit like fiddling around the edges. I think it is going to look like that in retrospect. But as Andy says, this is something that’s going to require a level of intervention. I don’t, in fact, use the term bailout, but a level of intervention, intervention across the sector in a way that we’ve not seen before. I suppose the question from a public policy point of view is where do we set in that queue of people of sectors with their their begging bowls out? Oh, we can. Top 10 or even their top 20.

[00:10:01] I’m not so sure. I think the one thing it does expose is I think something that, you know, some of us have feared for a long time is the fragility of trying to put, you know, a marketized framework onto our higher education sector. And I think this is the time that we will have to think about, you know, what the what the quid pro quo is if there is going to be the kind of national support for our university sector and then what will be expected in the long term to pay that down.

[00:10:38] And obviously, there’s been lots of focus on England, but that, you know, a potential collapse in international students has a massive impact on, you know, slightly less depending on which nation you look at. Marketized Nations.

[00:10:51] Yeah. You know, there’s been a story this week in the Times about Scottish universities raising that already with the government. And, of course, you know, in in in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, to an extent, you’ve got a very different relationship between universities and public funding and kind of the way the state is operating in each of those places. But the essential story is the same. You know, this is this is something that I think I think government kind of, you know, has very, very quickly realised that the policy frameworks that it has put in place and supported over the last decade are in many ways the worst possible preparation for the time that we’re experiencing now and the time to come. And I think, you know, we’ve often made the point that higher education escaped the worst of austerity. And, you know, in some universities in the sector have become, you know, awash with cash and have done very well out of the change in approach to no controls and competition and all the rest of it. But what it does show is, though, is that of, you know, these the finances of all these organisations that have been pursuing that policy agenda are incredibly finely balanced and incredibly fragile.

[00:12:09] There’s a fantastic piece written this week by Chris Cook, who used to be the education correspondent at the A40, now works for Tautou, this great news organization, doing some really interesting stuff. And in the context of the NHS, he talks about kind of, you know, government policy based on competition, on productivity, particularly the public sector has created this kind of fragility, a fragile state, which means that things are off very, very quickly, vulnerable in circumstances that don’t suit. And I think that’s what we’re seeing. That’s what we’re likely to see in higher education with some very well-established, very kind of, you know, high reputation institutions. The longer this year, the longer this lockdown and the uncertainty around it goes on. So, you know, it just shows kind of how finely kind of balance star business models and the policy networks and contacts that have supported it have have left the sector, you know, and how quickly that can descend back into a situation of real risk.

[00:13:09] Selina, let’s say that, you know, a way is found on on the finances. One of the things that people have been sort of talking about all week is, you know, what would kind of online only September look like? Is that actually viable? That’s sort of, you know, that kind of scenario that people have been working up that says, you know, social distancing will still be huge in September. So we’ll plan to do everything on online for the first term.

[00:13:36] I think that, you know, different learners would would have different reactions to it. I think for the majority of young learners, you know, they’re 18 to 24 year old, staple of most universities, full time students. I dont think that is it.

[00:13:52] It’s definitely not a like for like, is it in terms of student experience? I have to say I’ve got my own 21 year old. And when we when we caught a pop face time last week and I asked her what she was missing. You know, the first thing she said was the pub took her a while and then she said, yeah, I’m kind of missing you. My brother as well.

[00:14:12] But, you know, without being too kind of trivialising it too much, the social side of university for a lot of our students and social not just at the pub, but the engagement with one another. The social interaction is not just a big part of their social experience. It’s an incredibly important part of their learning experience. I’ve always had the view that learning is essentially a social activity for really deep learning in particular. And so for those reasons, I don’t think that is going to be something that is can just be addressed through doing what we do know and moving online. I think in some cases the quality of what we’ve done has been amazing over the last couple of. Weeks as a temporary fix, but I think that, you know, all of us would take a step back as teachers and say, is that really the best kind of learning activities that we can have for the learning outcomes that we have previously set out? I think there are another group of students I was talking to a vice chancellor last week who was telling me that when they looked at their engagement analytics from their sort of various online platforms, that for a certain group of students, their commuting students, they had found higher levels of engagement than they previously had when the campus was open. And I thought that was quite interesting.

[00:15:38] You know, life is often a relative game.

[00:15:39] Spending less time on the bus. Yes.

[00:15:42] Spending less time on the bus.

[00:15:44] But also, I think, you know, suddenly realizing that a lot of the things that they might have been doing that were exceptional before and that they were doing alone, actually, they now probably had a better sense of student community who were doing the kind of things that they had previously been trying to do to keep their learning go. So, you know, I think that they might be the people who who would cope best. But I just think that it’s not a credible alternative. It’s it’s a stopgap. And I think, you know, there will be people in the sector who are thinking we’d rather delay than to just put up an online offer for the first term starting in October. And I think we do have sufficient time in our calendar year the way the academic year works. I think there are things that we can do potentially to truncate terms, to have less holiday time, to have faster assessment turnaround. So a bit like the football season, I tend to think that I want to finish this season at all costs. And even if it means we start 2021 a couple of months late, then so be it. But I think that in terms of the way in which we need to think about our response, this I think, you know, number one, we need to start operating collaboratively as a sector. You know, the role of University UK in terms of building that collaboration and not leaving it to the, you know, the various sort of mission mission groups is incredibly important.

[00:17:14] I think, number two, we need to separate out what is the short term get get us through response from what is the long term, because I think like every other sector, there are some aspects of this crisis that will stay with us for much longer than the virus is about.

[00:17:31] And until just before we it just just before we move on this thing about just to bring it full circle, this thing about the kind of, you know, the role of national agencies, national leadership. There’s a couple of student union presidents on there on the site this morning that are saying competition is unhelpful. chivian universities, along by announcing expectations to students in a letter, is unhelpful. And being overcautious about not centrally prescribing approaches is also unhelpful. And is has something changed around competition and the role of, you know, AFSC.

[00:18:05] Q And so on. Has something changed here? That means, you know, a significant dampening down of competition and autonomy.

[00:18:15] I think I mean, autonomy is another point entirely. I think. I think, you know, this is a an existential moment for not just institutions, as Syleena said, you know, what do we prioritize? What are we for and how do we kind of, you know, achieve all of the things that we need to achieve? But I think it’s a pretty existential moment for all of those agencies and national organizations, including the DFA, about kind of, you know, what’s the right what’s the right kind of policy context and the right operating. So, too, for agency landscape to kind of make this happen. And as as I said in the introduction, I think, you know, we we’ve been watching I guess over time the IMF has sort of stepped back from of, you know, the the the Joe Johnson model of of absolute competition. No real interest in institutions themselves, no real interest in place in regions, in sectors, you know, utterly kind of stripped back to to return to that kind of agency that needs to act much more in the way that the Haski did. You know, what’s the right balance between institutions? What’s and and student interest. Watch the right forward looking capability you want to build into and preserve within the sector. So I think, you know, this is this is a big moment. I very much doubt we’ll see the kind of end of competition in time. I don’t think, you know, this is going to be kind of one of those things that completely changes the world from top to bottom. Competition existed before 2012, the most recent kind of, you know, policy reforms that have created, you know, what we what we exist in today in England.

[00:19:54] But, you know, it’s clearly going to be sort of pushed back. You know, the. World that this government kind of came into power and particularly, you know, after the election in December, the world that they thought they were creating is is going to be very different. The way that they are going to act is going to be very different. The kinds of institutions that they didn’t have much faith in when they kind of, you know, when they came into power, suddenly they’ve got more faith in because they’re having to use them every day. That includes university scientific advice, the BBC, the civil service. And and, you know, the world is. The world is changing pretty rapidly. But I think it’s it’s also worth saying, you know, this government kind of already had its doubts about competition. So, you know, when I talk about the leveling up agenda, it’s clear that you couldn’t really achieve all of those things given that kind of competition and market framework that the IFRS was was kind of established to oversee. So I think I think kind of, you know, that there there are a lot of universities and there are a lot of university agencies, higher education agencies that will be taking a long, hard look at themselves and asking whether they are are set up in the right way, not just for handling the crisis as it kind of hits us today, but for the world that comes after it.

[00:21:14] Great. Let’s see who’s been blogging for us this week.

[00:21:18] Hi, I’m sorry to jump. I am partner and had a vacation at Shakespear Martineau. I wrote the piece this week for one key about the impacts of consumer protection law in the context of the current public health emergency. And it’s obviously really important for institutions to try and manage this risk whilst at the same time trying to implement quite significant changes to how they deliver their services to students. So the main points that I wanted to emphasize in my piece are that there will be ramifications depending on what’s in institutions terms and conditions. And therefore, it’s really important that institutions think widely and carefully and listen to students about the changes that they’re making right now.

[00:22:05] Now, next up, when you’re in a crisis, get people to safety. That’s what the textbooks say. And this week, a wave of student petitions signing on assessment safety nets has swept the sector. Selena, tell us more.

[00:22:16] Yeah. And so the well, not just the student movement, but universities, I think over the last couple of weeks have been very focused on starting to think about what these no detriment or safety net policies look like in terms of assessments, particularly final year assessments. The principle being that no, no student should receive a degree classification that’s worse than their performance in their degrees so far. But the academic regulations that people at universities have, they have not perhaps been completely adequate and sufficient in terms of dealing with the current situation. So many academic boards and senates will have been looking at a revised exceptional academic regulations to provide the kind of safety net that students require. But I think it’s raised all sorts of issues. And, you know, it’s not just about the safety net in terms of assessment, although that is the short term immediate task. I think in the longer term, we start to think about what kind of assurances as universities we can provide to students that will re-enroll with us next year. And as we mentioned, when we discussed discussing student no controls new students. So the the adequacy of student protection plans has also been something that people are starting to think about. I think probably in a nutshell, what we would say about student protection plans is that they are you know, they are not designed to deal with a crisis of this magnitude as so much else in the world we are discovering. So in some senses, it almost seems just a complete waste of time and effort to start to kind of do a critique of individual institutional student protection plans. This is where we require, again, a sector response. No individual institution can really adequately protect all of its students, not least because so many people’s lives are predicated on the basis of an individual institution failing and therefore looking to another institution to take on responsibility for their students. And as we’ve said, they will not be an institution that, you know, is unaffected by this crisis. So where do people look to?

[00:24:42] I think that one of the things that, you know, it is, again, at risk of repeating myself.

[00:24:49] It goes back to this point, which is we just start to see how fragile individual institutions are as a system. You know, what we need is a national system. I think we look to other parts of the UK, we look to other European countries to see. I think the level of assurance that those national systems have been able to provide to their students and I think and their academics, their academic staff, I think that feels entirely different. I think that they are much more able to focus on solving this problem as a short term issue, knowing that the fundamental demand for higher education will be, you know, unaffected in the long term. It may need to change in terms of the kind of provision that is there. I think it just shows that, you know, within the English system, we’ve taken ourselves to a place that makes it incredibly difficult to formulate sector responses. And I think that, you know, if student protection plans are never going to be the vehicle that were capable of Olivier in the risks of continuation of study faced by students.

[00:25:59] Andy, what what what should we do? And, you know, even if we just take the English system. You know, there’s quite a long tail of providers on that. OFAC register what what what should we do to offer some assurance to students who might be re-enrolling in a provider that’s only Нundred 50 students, you know, about about that about the their studies and sharing, you know, them incurring tuition free debt?

[00:26:24] Well, I think I mean, non-student protection plans I’m not sure about well designed for the world before the crisis. But, you know, that’s a that’s a whole of a discussion that you can probably find on previous podcasts. I mean, look, I think I think if you take the approach that the government has had so far in over other areas, look at employment, look at kind of businesses. You know, they’ve been they’ve been bold. You know, I think the Treasury and Rashie Su Knack of have done particularly well and they’ve done things particularly quickly. And, you know, you only have to look at kind of, you know, where the NHS in the Department of Health is at the moment. And you can. See how how well the Treasury and how quickly they they moved. But, you know, taking the Treasury is an example. They’ve been very clear that they’ve not been able to help everybody in every organization. And I think, you know, there’s a there’s a there’s got to be an element of realism and pragmatism here. And, you know, the long tail of institutions. You know, some of which have only just come into the sector, some of which are vulnerable because of those small numbers. You know, it sounds terribly kind of Darwinian, but you know that they’re not going to be the priority. And I think, you know, given given this is a moment of setting priorities and preserving kind of those institutions that are going to be the most important, um, preserving kind of, you know, the experience of students and the rights of students within those, I’m afraid you’ve got to you’ve got to take that view. When if it’s 80 percent of kind of institutions on the register, then it’s 80 percent of institutions on the register. And I think kind of, you know, DFA, HFS and the institutions themselves have got to be pretty honest with with students and with applicants that that’s gonna be the case.

[00:28:18] And Selena, this is a fascinating question, isn’t it? So secret life of students, how do we have actually run the event? One of the things we were going to talk about was student safety really broadly. And we were going to ask the question, look, is it the role of institutions to warn students about dangers? You know, here’s where, you know, parts of the campus are dark or, you know, if you do X, Y and Z, you’re more likely to be stressed and so on. Or is it the role of institutions to eradicate dangers a bit more parental? And I guess, you know, it’s a big questionnaire for our fash going into September. Is it its role, Tercel of, you know, assess some riskier institutions and say you can operate and then cause chaos? Or is it its role to say to students, these are the riskier institutions financially or should it back off and just try and help? I mean, that’s a really that’s a tough call for the regulator.

[00:29:05] I think it is a tough call for the regulator. And I think, you know, this is when you you realize that OFAC is again, there is all sorts of failings in the way in which they were set up in terms of the remit that they have, because I think to follow through on what was in the higher education research at to in a very kind of purist way, then yes, it is their responsibility to advise students and the public of those institutions that are facing financial risk.

[00:29:38] But when it is a situation that all of them or most of them would fall into that category, then the actual medicine becomes worse than the disease that they’re trying to to mitigate. So I think that, you know, I actually think people need to put their hands up.

[00:30:00] And I think they they need to kind of treat people as adults and admit where the limitations of what would have been the everyday ordinary duties are just not going to cover this. And I think that there is a this is why I think the kind of that the that does have to be a national response to this. There has to be government intervention if there is any sense that the higher higher education experience over the next academic year can be truly de-risked from a student perspective, because I think otherwise what will happen is, as it has sort of said earlier in our discussion about student no controls. I think there is a real fear that home students will defer in very large numbers. And I think that, you know, there are universities who have not got huge reserves. There are a few that perhaps could get through a very, very dry year. But most universities are not in that position either in terms of the reserves that they have or the kind of lending facilities that they would need. And in that case, I think the cost of a later bailout would be so much more than the cost of putting up a robust protection plan that came directly from the DFA and an anti just to bring us back full circle.

[00:31:26] One of the you know, one of the things I know has been happening over the past couple of weeks is there has been some nervousness in some institutions around no detriment because, you know, some institutions are being watched very closely on the basis of grade inflation. So there hasn’t been a particularly strong signal around, you know, the interaction between protecting students, no detriment and, you know, being under the cosh for, you know, your grade inflation numbers. Yeah, that’s a good point.

[00:31:56] I mean, I think whether it’s grade inflation or unconditional offers or, you know, a whole bunch of other behaviors, there are institutions that are worried. The OFAC is going to take a dim view of of of of what they do in this particular moment, which actually I think is is is unfair. I mean, you know, we talked about the kind of the context of no controls. I mean, you know, in all of our conversation this morning about, you know, how institutions are going to respond, whether domestic kind of demand is going to be anything like, you know what, we need to get through this period. It’s clear that universities are going to go are going to have to go. Absolutely. Flat out just to just to get even close to the three year average of recruitment come of that they might be confronted with. And I think, you know, our efforts have got to help here. They can’t come into this in quite the tenured way that they did at the start of the crisis and say that those things matter as much as they did last year. And I think, you know, that’s that that’s partly our fasces fault and it’s partly the fault of the legislation and the kind of policy framework that set them up. But they’ve got to adapt and they’ve got to change pretty quickly. You know, Syleena and a new of both mentioned the kind of higher education research. I mean, I think all that already looked like a poor piece of legislation in the run up to December. Given this government’s agenda over kind of, you know, over not just leveling up and competition and science and research, but kind of it’s its attitude to how policy is made and enacted, it already looked vulnerable. I think kind of what the crisis will do is put is put that approach to higher education under the spotlight. And I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a new Higher Education and Research Act before the end of this policy that graduate class of 2012.

[00:33:54] What a hard time they will have.

[00:33:56] Hard just to get through university, I mean, for many of them.

[00:33:59] They will also have this is a bad time to lose access to career services.

[00:34:03] And while this was going to be my point. I mean, you know, not only of these these students, you know, had to suffer, you know, lack of contact because of industrial action. Then you’ve got the Kovic 19 crisis. You know, assessment is the most anxiety provoking activity on campus in normal circumstances. But now you throw this on top of air and then they all go and go into a graduate employment market that again, is fundamentally changed. And, you know, the impact of this, of course, we know will fall harder on some students than others.

[00:34:38] And so the kind of task that I think our career services have in terms of trying to support students into employment or into into enterprises, as many students now wish to do. I think it’s really, really important that those services are able to sort of double down and to put in extra efforts, because I think, you know, this is the other thing that universities are very conscious of, that their job is not just about letting people in. It’s not just for entry. It’s not just about teaching. It’s not just about assessment. It is about graduate outcomes. And I think that that’s something that we, you know, again, could be an area we’ve seen in the past when the graduate employment market has suffered. But it has been an area in the past where there has been public policy and government funding to support different types of interventions of support.

[00:35:30] Great. Now he’sa has put some finance data out and DKA has had a bit of a down to see if it gives us any clues on financial sustainability.

[00:35:40] He’s a finance open data release always attracts a lot of attention. But this year the attention is of a very different sort. We all love to know how our university and other providers we’re interested in are doing financially. He says our new release may be for the year before the current one. But it helps us put signals and announcements into perspective. The data is easy to read and easy to manipulate. Far, much more so than your institutional financial report. The general financial position of universities has in the most part deteriorated between 2017 18 and 2018 19. Do not to increase spending or lower income, but to a one off pensions cost linked to the 2017 US valuation. It’s not a great place to face the oncoming crisis from. Of course, this year our attention has been drawn to the income from international student fees, following widespread assumptions that the September global cohort will simply fail to appear on the site. I broken down the income figures by mode and level of study. For some providers, international fee income, dwarves, home fee income and postgraduate study played as big a part of this as undergraduate study. Clearly not all of them think and can or will be made up by increasing home student recruitment. There’s some evidence some providers make a loss on home students topping these costs and research costs up with international fees. A fall in international student numbers would have widespread repercussions in these cases. Providers and lobbyists need really to be thinking about the case for direct state aid in the short to medium term rather than an admission cycle that could put many smaller providers out of business.

[00:37:21] And finally, many universities claim to have a civic mission, but that claim is trivially tested at times of national emergency. Andy, what have you spotted?

[00:37:29] So, yes, this this week we’ve seen the announcement from from the u.p Foundation that Sheffield Hallam, second time I mentioned them in this podcast, have been awarded the hosting rights for the Civic University Network, and they’ll be working with the Institute of Communiqu of Community Studies and NC C.P.A. And, you know, they’re not going to have UPC money. They’re going to have cash from DFC Arts Council and others to to operate this network. So that’s fantastic news. And I think I think you’re right.

[00:38:03] You know, it’s it’s, you know, this this this piece of work that began, you know, nearly three years ago now around the civic university and kind of thinking about how important it was, what could be done to support it in the future has just got more and more important as time has gone on. And I think some real credit is due actually to the u.p Foundation, to Richard brabner in particular. But I’d also I’d also pick out Alex 5v, a NI Myles at the University of Nottingham, because this was something that, you know, they they both spent a lot of time thinking about before it was before it was set up as an initiative. And I think, you know, in in in the in the moment that we find ourselves in, you know, it’s something that is is just gathering important some pace. We know it kind of you know, it merited aligned in the conservative manifesto. We know the policymakers have become more interested in it. Michelle Donlon, when she writes to the sector, now mentions it in every letter and we can see that kind of head of steam just developing. But we also just know instinctively that it’s the right thing to do. And you can see in individual universities response to the to the pandemic and kind of, you know, what they’re doing that that this part of our response is becoming more and more important. And I think in in in their hearts, institutions know that that is only going to get bigger when the next crisis is over. So I think it’s some you know, it’s part of our existential moment that we’ve already we’ve already talked about. And I think it’s it’s something that’s going to become more and more important. And I think that kind of you know, Sheffield Hallam was an excellent choice. Bob Kerslake is obviously chair of governance there. Chris Husbands has very much been on the front foot in in terms of the civic university agenda and and kind of policymaking in general. And I think they will do a brilliant job supporting the sector as as they really begin to take this much more seriously.

[00:40:10] Selina, lots of positives here.

[00:40:12] Yeah, lots of positives. And I think that as well as the examples that we’ve seen over the last week of individual universities stepping up in relation to the Kogut 19 crisis in terms of, you know, lending equipment, facilities, housing blocks, I saw the University of East London, my old institution was putting over one of its accommodation blocks to house NHS workers at the new NIGHTINGALE Hospital down at the Xcel Center. I think that’s obviously the kind of volunteering effort as well, which is something that has been where universities are staring, tensions, student staff, volunteers into local volunteer networks. These are all great things. And I think really emphasize the role that universities can play within their communities. I think that what I hope is that universities this isn’t just a one off that actually this is something that, as Andy says, is it is a change that is long, longer term. I think this is something about tone as well, because it’s not just having people who all become kind of class in their community for a couple of months. I think it’s about thinking in a much more fundamental way about how our offer, whether it be teach in research facilities, can orientate itself towards public use in the long term in a much more accessible way.

[00:41:42] It’s somethink goldsmiths that we’ve thought long and hard about over the last few years because we’re a relatively small institution. So it’s not as if we have ever sort of. But, you know, it’s never been possible, I suppose in many ways just a sort of set up a separate community unit, you know. But we have got across the institution, across our academic departments, lots of lots of different examples of where people are able to engage in a really positive way with their community. But I also think this is a real opportunity in the context of the Civic University Network for there to be more partnerships with other. Asian providers, particularly Effy colleges, because I think they tend to be much, much closer to the ground in terms of the communities in need who are most affected. And I think it is a great opportunity to show how education providers can work together to have real impact in terms of a locality.

[00:42:40] So that’s about it for this week to find out more about anything we’ve discussed today, you’ll find links on the episode page at wonky dot com where you can also leave your thoughts and comments. Don’t forget, you can subscribe to us automatically. Just search for the wonky show on your favourite podcast directory or you’ll find a feed you need on Warnke dot com forward slash podcast. And if you think you’ve got what it takes to be a guest on the show, do drop us an email on team at wonky dot com and we’ll be in touch. So thanks again to our guests Andy and Selina to everyone at T Wanky for making the show happen. And of course, to you for listening. Until next week. Stay wonky.


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