PODCAST: Uni budgets, quality, admissions

This week on The Wonkhe Show we have a think about maintaining quality and standards in the middle of a crisis, and ask - what is reasonable?

This week on the podcast we discuss the impact of Covid-19 on university finances, we have a think about maintaining quality and standards in the middle of the crisis and we discuss the big admissions questions as the moratorium on unconditional offers continues.

With Smita Jamdar, Partner & Head of Education at Shakespeare Martineau and Andrew Hargreaves, co-founder of dataHE.

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Transcript

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[00:00:00] It’s the Wonkhe show, We’ll chat University Finances. Think about maintaining quality and standards in the middle of a pandemic and the big admissions question as the moratorium on unconditional us continues. It’s all coming up.

[00:00:13] We are all obviously really worried about this. This cohort of students whose dreams to start university in September may well be, you know, affected by what’s gone on. But then at the same time, let’s step back and think separately. We’re having discussions about the hundred year life and the fact that, you know, the fixation on sending everybody to university 18 as the be all and.

[00:00:42] Welcome to the show, your weekly weigh into this week’s higher education news, policy and analysis, some Jim Dickinson up in the attic. And here to help us understand what’s going on, as usual, we have a couple of excellent guests in the West Midlands, Smita Jamdar partner and head of education at Shakespeare Martineau. Your reason to be cheerful this week, Smita?

[00:00:59] My reason to be cheerful this week is I’m actually really enjoying spending lots of time with my sons, one of whom is currently teaching me to play cricket. And I hit my first cup of drive this week. So I’m well impressed with myself, frankly.

[00:01:11] And in Bristol, Andrew Hargreaves. He’s co-founder of Data H.E.. Andrew, your reasons to be cheerful this week.

[00:01:17] I’ve got a few, but but for fear of sounding philosophical, I’ve got to call on Omniture and the weather because when I go for my daily walks, just see in nature, bring itself back to life with butt implants and a new birds that that gives me a spring in my step and helps me walk a little bit faster.

[00:01:34] Excellent.

[00:01:35] So, yes, we start this week with university finances. Now that the big issues in the emergency meetings are starting to fade away, thoughts are turning rapidly to budgets and cost savings and so on and so on. Andrew took us through it.

[00:01:47] Well, Jim, as you rightly say, attention seems to be shifting from what what is the initial crisis around? It’s a health crisis essentially to the knock on effects of this. And I wondered if it be just helpful to put some things in context of costs. We mustn’t forget that before this very disruptive event, we were coming to the end of what’s been a prayer long desert crossing for the sector in terms of demand. We were about to enter a period of fertile recruitment and that would offer some some relief to the sector. And then, of course, boom, we get this enormous disruption, which is still largely not understood. And of course, throughout that that desert crossing, we’ve we’ve had universities coming out at the end of that in very, very different sets of financial health. Some candidly, although they may not feel that we’re to them haven’t really expended any energy in that crossing, that they’re leaving in pretty good health. They haven’t had to play any major strategic hands to get across was, of course, we’re all too aware. And recent data shows us that that many we’re already in a pretty precarious financial position with with huge burdens on them.

[00:03:01] I think the other piece of context that’s really interesting around this is that the sector is suddenly going to find itself competing with what have been wholly private enterprise for government attention, sympathetic funding. And we all need to try and understand where Hetchy sits in the hierarchy of priorities. And then my final bit of context around this is, is, is the government itself. I mean, only this morning the government’s had to announce direct funding from the Bank of England by by means of printing money. And that’s a clear sign that government doesn’t believe it can fund this extraordinary world through its traditional model of gilts. And so whilst we’re thinking about this financial landscape of Kosmos, most leadership teams are mindful of their own institution. It’s got to be poor against this backdrop of probably a financial landscape that we may never have experienced in our history. I mean, I know people keep talking about comparisons with with the Second World War. But but actually this is a series of extraordinary events, probably beyond those of a wartime crisis.

[00:04:12] Smeets are obviously most of the kind of focus to some extent has been on at least so far. International demand, you know, will it hold up well?

[00:04:22] Will students be allowed to come? Will they still come if they’re allowed to come? What’s your sense of where, you know, that kind of, you know, will we all be on planes again in August or it seems extremely unlikely that that’s going to be the case, doesn’t it?

[00:04:34] I mean, I think, first of all, we don’t really know what the position will be in terms of officially imposed travel restrictions from different parts of the world. We’re already seeing worrying signs that some parts of Asia are seeing sort of second peaks. I read something about Singapore earlier. So we dont know what the state of play will be for travel from those countries.

[00:04:51] But also we dont know what the psychology will be around people who, you know, are having to make decisions about either leaving their families or indeed allowing their children to leave to travel across the world to study without really knowing whether things have gone back to normal and things are going to be stable. And I can’t imagine many parents at the moment would be comfortable with the idea that they’re young, you know, that they’re adults, but they young adult children, you know, would be several thousand miles away if another lockdown came in, for example. So there are just so many unknowns. And I think one of the challenges we’ve got with a lot of the conversations we’re going to have during the course of this time is that we’re trying to make medium term decisions at a time when even the immediate future is pretty unclear. So there’s no stability on which you can then predict and build and say, okay, we can now say in a few months time the world will look like this. I don’t think we’re there yet.

[00:05:42] So the idea of suddenly, you know, all heading off the across the world to study does sound quite challenging right now.

[00:05:50] And Andrew, in terms of konono University finances provided finances, it’s almost a year ago to the day that we got our, you know, OFAC first iteration of the financial sustainability of the sector report.

[00:06:01] And it said, you know, cut a long story short. The sector wasn’t close to collapse, but lots and lots of providers had made very optimistic assumptions about recruitment.

[00:06:12] Now, on the assumption that a hell of a lot are those assumptions now look very, very optimistic. Could it be that we end up with some providers getting very close to the actual going over the edge over the summer?

[00:06:27] Well, I think we’ve got to accept that that is a there’s a high probability on that eventuality coming to come into the fall because that the math just simply won’t won’t add up. Now, whether they’re allowed to or whether there’s an intervention, I think is a different question. But if you were just simply looking at your balance sheet, economics of income expenditure, borrowing the likeliness of of of an institution to just sit down to say this doesn’t add up and whether or not there are lenders in there, all and constraints have to take a more robust view of that. I think we’ve got to be realistic that that that’s going to happen in some circumstances. But as I say, I think there’s a different question then about where does Hetchy and those individual providers sit in the whole hierarchy of demand on the public purse? What willingness is their fault for intervention to protect the diversity of the sector so that eventually it might create some different responses? But as I say, I think we’ve got to be prepared for the idea that some institutions just simply cannot sustain their current operation in this environment, that that seems a reasonable assessment from my perspective.

[00:07:39] Slate Let’s look on the bright side, right? Let’s imagine that universities can make some in-year, very rapid, very dramatic savings and kind of scrape by. Are there no other legal implications if a university starts suddenly significantly reducing its, you know, set of modules it offers or, you know, the hours its library opens or.

[00:08:00] I mean, I think there clearly would be. There would be, on the one hand, the sort of legal consequences that flow from the individual relationship with the student. And then there would also be a regulatory question around whether by making those changes, institutions are still complying with their conditions of registration. And I think the important thing in trying to navigate any of those changes is to keep coming back to how how far are you departing? From what you promised, there will be a temptation for institutions to think, well, we can just keep going as long as we actually, you know, completely alter everything we’re providing that will help us survive the next few months. But from the student perspective or the regulatory perspective, that may mean you’re so far adrift from what you promised. They are no longer really delivering the same, you know, that contractual promise or regulatory requirements.

[00:08:51] So there is that tension and that line to be struck. And I think just picking up on a couple of Underoos points that he made there, for me, the really important things in terms of the sector being able to position itself right to get government’s attention. Here is something that I know UK are already thinking about, which is how do you express the value of the sector in terms of what it can do for governments in this recovery and how it can help, you know, make sure people can access training and services to get the economy back on the on the on the hopefully the straight narrow. But also that institutions, you know, will need to look at their wider activities and try to make savings where they can’t.

[00:09:32] I don’t think there’s any question that you can just carry on as is and expect that expect government to bail all that out. So there will be some tradeoff between, you know, getting that support from government and then how you make sure you’re delivering everything as efficiently as you can. And it’s just going to be an enormously complex legal balancing act between all those different considerations and how they play out for individual students.

[00:09:53] I mean, I think Sumita makes a really good point about that. The case for Henchy in this in this kind of hierarchy of demand. And I think there is a case to be made actually about what, you know, what’s the cost of somebody on on benefits? Sorry. You know, you’re both the social and the economic cost of of our nation’s young people are not accessing higher education compared to to the benefit that that comes out of what what both. What does it cost to bring somebody into Henchy and then as well how that generates employment? I definitely think there’s a case, a case of imagine this as me to said, I’m aware that you care very clear that that that’s the narrative we’ve got to get across. So we certainly shouldn’t should just kind of accept this as a, you know, just a tension that can’t be managed. But what we will need to think very carefully about how we present our case to government. And essentially, you know, is a compelling case against the backdrop of everything else. Ministers and officials are having to deal with.

[00:10:43] I’m really interested. I mean, a few of you might have a view on this. I’m really interested in the stuff that has come out from governments so far. So Michelle Donlon, new universities minister, certainly has been, you know, to some extent very clear on her kind of Facebook live appearances and so on.

[00:10:59] You know what? This is business as usual. We we want students who are doing their A-levels to, you know, be able to go to university and so on and so on. How strong is that sort of, you know, that concern about students, future students currently that 16, 17 have their dreams of going to university. How strong is that in the kind of overall picture here, do you think?

[00:11:18] Well, if I if I’m if I’m allowed to start and then I’m I’m shaft’s may have more tattooist. I think it really it really is important, actually, because we’re talking about medium and a long term impacts on on society on just on just so many levels. I’m I’m absolutely convinced that at this point he feels like an imperative. And it strikes me as absolutely the right stall stall to say how. But but I would add to that, we don’t yet really understand the scale of the impact of the of these recent recent events. And for fear of sounding a little bit kind of under a cloud and an ado monga, you know, just simple things crossed my mind. Like we’ve never really experienced large scale unemployment amongst middle classes in the south of England, where we see huge amounts of demand for Henchy come from. You know, I might argue as a northerner, there’s a bit more resilience in people from the north around some of those characteristics, certainly a northerner of the 80s.

[00:12:16] Our society just hasn’t experienced that level of anxiety was particularly, you know, tuned into Smeets point about, you know, the anxious parent of an international student. But let’s not forget the anxious parent of a UK student who actually, you know, we sadly may have mom and dad not working. And I do think, though, you know, the sect has got to stay alert to what’s happening in the private sector. I am a private entrepreneur and unessential said that that part of our economy is it has stopped. It’s not a temporary delay. It’s not that people are still be based, just literally stopped overnight. And we don’t yet understand how that’s going to play out in the system. And we call these the big macro data points that we would just encourage universities to keep an eye on, because actually they can give us some signals, despite all the uncertainty about about the environment we’re in. So I do. I do think it’s right that we talk about young people, their future, their prospects and each right. That was how they stopped. But we must do that. Understanding that the climate around us could become very severe very quickly.

[00:13:21] Yeah, it’s me to ask him the other day, you know, if we say, I know some people don’t like it when I do this, but if we say international student recruitment as a tie parv kind of long term educational Toryism, even if we have a one year debt.

[00:13:35] And I think, you know, most people are predicting that that might be long. And if you have a one year dip, that will be a big hit to local economies that are, you know, kind of depending to some extent on that money as much as the universities themselves are in favour.

[00:13:48] Oh, absolutely. I mean, I think as we all know from all the kind of economic impact assessments that have been done around universities generally, so students generally and also international students, the benefit to the wider local economies is massive and all that will have a knock on effects over the you know, if those economies suffer, then as Underoos said, that consists often of local businesses who may have kids that weren’t going to go to university. And then parents are slightly anxious about, you know, how they’re going to finance things like accommodation, for example, stuff where there’s still a massive parental subsidy. Tuition fees is one thing. But, you know, there’s there’s money that needs to be found out of people’s pockets as well. And it may not be there.

[00:14:27] I mean, for me, there’s a slightly perhaps longer term thing to think about, which is we are all obviously really worried about this. This cohort of students whose dreams to start the university in September may well be, you know, affected by what’s gone on.

[00:14:41] But then at the same time, lists that back and think separately. We’re having discussions about the hundred year life and the fact that, you know, the fixation on sending everybody to university 18 as the be all and end all of their academic endeavours is probably not sensible in that context. So even if we did need to accept the financial issue is massive. But if we could balance that against the fact that people might have to delay for a year, surely we could find productive things for those people to be doing which benefit them more broadly than, you know, immediately going into into university as they were planning. So I hope subjects of the financial blow to H.E. being managed in some way that the young people who find they can’t go as planned. There are other things that we could offer that they could be doing. Maybe it’s because I’m a middle aged woman now, but there were so many things I wish I’d done at 18 rather than starting university. So maybe we can find something productive out of this really, really very awful set of circumstances in my year, in my gap year.

[00:15:39] Mehta. Travelled and worked. Yeah. I travelled to Wolverhampton and worked in a shoe shop.

[00:15:47] We were travelling from was quite an expedition. Great. Now let’s see who’s been blogging for us this week.

[00:15:55] Hi. Ken Hackett, only reste director at Research England. My article in One Key this week takes a look at where we are with a revised timetable for their research excellence framework since the exercise worth put on hold while the uncertainty on timelines and dates is difficult to plan for. And my piece explains that we need clarity following the period of uncertainty and wider uncertainty ahead before the right decisions on the side can be taken in terms of the deadlines for the exercise of wide deadlines or impact and the end of the period for output.

[00:16:32] It’s clear that there are a number of a number of things that we need to embed in the revised framework and that this will need to involve discussion with the sector. So we’ll be looking for input at the hereafter.

[00:16:44] And don’t forget, we’d love to have your contribution on the site. If you’d like to purchase a piece, just drop us an email on team at wanky dot com with your idea and we’ll be in touch. Now, next stop, new guidance has been published this week by the Quality Assurance Agency covering all while all sorts of things. Slater, tell us.

[00:16:59] Okay. Well, one of the things that struck me about the guidance actually was the sheer breadth of issues that it covers. So we’re talking about academic standards, student achievement, practice and love based assessments, etc.. And it made me think about the actual breadth of issues that institutions are grappling with right now, with this being only one, albeit an extremely important part of the student experience that they’re trying to manage. So I just wanted to raise a sort of virtual glass to all those in universities and colleges and independent providers who are sort of working their socks off to try to adapt very complex operations to really quite extraordinarily different ways of working. So on the guidance itself, the areas that I think from, you know, was look at these things, Jim, as you know, from a sort of legal perspective, because that’s my mindset. The things that I think are going to become very, very relevant and potentially controversial in the future will be things around academic integrity. How how is the academic integrity of assessments assured in this period, the no detriment policy? Is it actually no detriment? How’s it how’s it worked for students? The relationship with Peer Selby’s, there are 250 of them. I mean, who knew the courses that are sort of practical and lab based where for obvious reasons, that detriment to students will be much greater than something that you can very easily access online.

[00:18:20] And similarly, web based learning. So that was one thing. You know, I think it’s a good piece of guidance that really starts to put into sharp focus the things that are going to become, you know, issues in the near future. The second thing that struck me about it was really how it reflects the complexity of the regulatory environment, because, of course, the OFAC is issuing its own guidance on these very issues. And we’re told there’ll be more guidance coming on, credit modifications and things like that. And that’s not really how I expected the higher education and research out to operate when it set up a designated quality body and a principal regulator. But that is how it’s panned out. So complex regulatory environment. And then lastly, I suppose the question for me is to what extent will this guidance become the kind of benchmark of what’s reasonable if people bring complaints and claims based on their experience? Students I’m talking about here. You know, their experience of education during this period, I mean, to what extent will the RIAA and the courts say if you followed the kuar guidance, then we will accept that that was a reasonable attempt to mitigate the disruption. So those were the kind of things that stuck out for me from from what what, as I say, is an extraordinarily broad piece of work by the QSA.

[00:19:35] And under you’ve you’ve had a skim through the staff, you know, from a kind of far from from a kind of non-technical perspective. What’s your what what’s your impression of the stuff you’ve seen?

[00:19:47] Well, I mean, I just want to pick up that that word that this meeting is really about, about the notion of guidance. I mean, I would, you know, having read it, I thought, well, this is just if I was in a university, this is just welcome still factually, because in all this uncertainty, anxiety, just having something helpful that sets out some parameters and gives some some best advice, I’m sure I’m not not the people who have technical views about it. There must be given some reassurances to universities and not least for the very reasons that’s me to describe it. If that gets tested later, can I at least demonstrate that I followed that public public document? I mean, again, I’m also struck by somebody who doesn’t work in a university and just up that range of issues that the universities are having having to manage. And these these are right at the heart of the very purpose of a university’s these guidelines. And he was brought to life for me when I was actually privileged enough to have a one to one telephone call with with a vice chancellor yesterday. And, you know, just just. Wired about what is it like trying to lead a university from your spare room? Because of course, we also can ignore the universities are just so much about the place and the live in experience of the physical. And again, you know, these areas in this guidance try on that things like practical lab, lab teaching. How on earth do you do you do justice to that? Again, you know that the whole assessment piece, I just thought it was a positive step. How things to find in this this deep uncertainty have just provided in a little bit of ballast in these in these pretty uncertain times. So. So, yes, as a as a external leor person, I was like that. This is sensible, sensible stuff.

[00:21:22] Smeets, obviously, none of this is ideal.

[00:21:24] And, you know, it did strike me right in this guidance that this there’s a hell of a lot of square pegs being nailed into round holes here for kind of obvious reasons. But I guess there’s a difference, isn’t there, between what a student might accept in the middle of an emergency and what a student might accept until a three months time or even come September? And I wonder, you know what? What about the courses and the students that just won’t stretch and can’t stretch unless the campus is physically open? And what happens if a student really is unhappy? You know, how much disruption and change should they have to put up with?

[00:22:03] Yeah, these are I mean, absolutely excellent questions, Jim, which are undoubtedly going to be tested in some areas. And I think it’s really hard to answer them in the abstract because so much of it depends on exactly what’s gone on.

[00:22:16] But I think you can draw a distinction perhaps between students who are already midway through a program where really the option of just saying, you know what, this is so far from what I thought it was going to be, I don’t want to do this anymore, is is not really very attractive, especially if you’ve already spent two, maybe three years in some cases. And you just you know, you’re going to have to finish based on whatever is available. And so your priority then is really getting that qualification and finishing with those who, as we’ve talked about already, the ones who are starting in September, where they you know, they may well look at it and say, you know what, this isn’t really what I wanted out of a university experience and now is not the right time for me to start this. And so I’m going to make the decision not to take my place up or decline my place. Now, what the consequences are in terms of, you know, obviously, if you’re a student who decides you’re not going to go to university, you won’t incur the fees. You won’t incur the accommodation, expenses, etc.

[00:23:14] So compensation is a very different concept there. And if actually what’s happened is, you know, there isn’t anywhere you could go to do the course you wanted because, you know, whatever the external environment is won’t support that. We can’t have students back on campus, for example. That’s very different to an individual institution who’s made very specific choices about changes to a course that are out of kilter with what others are doing, where those students may well be able to say, actually, you know what, I’ve lost the chance now to go to an institution that’s dealt with all this better. And therefore, now I feel I’ve been disadvantaged by the fact I can no longer continue. So really hard to give a general view, but I do think that that big split between continuing students who probably have no choice are going to want to finish. That’s their priority. And then they may well have questions over refund Sophies, et cetera, against those who just look at what’s now on offer and say, you know, this isn’t this wasn’t what the brochure said. It’s not what I want.

[00:24:08] This is you know, I mean, this is a question I’ve been thinking about always country.

[00:24:11] You know, clearly if students but I’m talking about home students here at home, students weren’t paying fees and everything was being, you know, delivered by the state. We could probably expect student stuff to put up with quite a bit of disruption. But given the whole thing is framed around them buying a thing, it becomes harder, doesn’t it, to expect them to expect a whole ton of disruption, at least in the medium to long term?

[00:24:34] I think that’s right. I mean, that the notion of kind of tolerance for compromise probably in all walks of life actually are going to get tested. You know, a classic metaphor of how how far can we stretch this before starts to say Elgar’s. And, you know, you could even feel that in your own private life about, you know you know, you’ve got to do. But you’re right. Is this a fair transaction, weighs the psychological contract in this, let alone the material contract? What does that do to my sense of connectivity, to my sense of value? And there’s no question there is a a financial transaction takes place. Now, I’ve seen in my time spoken to lots of students. Some of them don’t regard themselves as a customer or a purchaser of a service, but some do. And that that latter group may well move faster on their idea of it. Is this contract in the broadest sense of the word being delivered against it? And am I willing to compromise? Again, I think it’s a realistic assumption to imagine that significant numbers might might not think that represents the value for money that they were expecting.

[00:25:39] And smarter. You know, I mean, I’ve got a feeling that maybe in five years time we’ll look back at this suites of stuff from the kuar and think, you know, it reads like everyone was in a fever dream because it’s actually quite surreal. If you take a step back and think, you know, the amount of stuff that people are doing to their academic rags and their student experiences and, you know, replacements for years abroad and replacements for placements and so on.

[00:26:05] How much of this do you think will stick in September, for example, or. Well, you know, that is the sector kuar. And so I’m going to have to look again, you know, in a couple of months in terms of, you know, what we might have to do when we’re in and out of social distancing if we are.

[00:26:19] Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, the the thing about reasonableness as a concept is that it is infinitely flexible and it has made many lawyers very, very rich as a result, because the that, you know, what is reasonable has to reflect what’s going on in the in the circumstances at the time. And so there is a massive difference between what’s reasonable in the context of an emergency. You dont have much time. You can’t plan. You’re just having to do the very best. And the courts generally tend to give, you know, a fair amount of deference to that and say, fair enough. It was a dilemma. You did what you thought was possible. But the longer you’ve got to plan, the longer you’ve got to implement better mitigations, the more the court will say, well, they cease to be reasonable at a particular point. And that argument will be at what is that point? And I suspect, you know, that there will be some arguments over it, both generally in terms of, you know, QSA guidance, how does that evolve over time, but also specifically between institutions and their students where students say, OK, we lived with that in the summer term because we had no choice. But why is it still not fixed in September or why has a better arrangement not been reached by September? Yeah, definitely. It’s got to be kept under review and it will be. And I do, you know, just taking it on an absolute human level for everybody involved, those from the institutional side, in the sense that it will be exhausting because you’re constantly having to look again at things, things you want just dealt with. They’re not dealt with. They have to keep being lookatthat.

[00:27:43] They have to keep changing things that, you know, in some cases, you know, regulations and things that genuinely haven’t changed in decades after Jane.

[00:27:51] Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I mean, you know, from my point of view, they could all do with changing anyway because they they do they generally were written in a completely different time. So but but this would be the wrong time to try and do a wholesale review of regulation. Right now, we know sort of the plan for how A-levels will be replaced this year because of quality. Told us under explain.

[00:28:14] Yes, that’s right, Jim. So we’ve obviously had this climate of uncertainty around exams, grades, Çizer, pool caps, control choice. And we’ve been talking about it for some weeks now and off qual- of helpfully announced their their plan and helped, in my view, to actually remove remove some of that uncertainty. They’ve given a direction of travel. That’s not to say it hasn’t created lots of questions and views and of course, motivated and mobilized universities in thinking about how they implement or what the implications of that policy announcement are. I mean, I think in true factually what what we’ve we’re all talking about under these these guises is back to that word, word of anxiety. So how do we sell a policy and an approach that reduces anxiety for universities and what the future looks like an an an attempt to reduce anxiety for those students who were expecting to take to take an exam? I would out by the way, I think we’ve got to be mindful that this this effort is trying to do to do two things. One, it needs to award a grade to everyone who would have sat an exam this year. And and again, I just just remind people that that’s not always people in a school setting. And we’ve got to be mindful that people in prisons, people in other learning environments, people in Effy, et cetera, are taking those equivalent qualifications. So it’s got to do that job. It just has to provide a grade for everybody. And as well, then it’s at 4:00 AM on local issue. It’s got to suppor decisions around university admissions. And it’s our view that that’s where the nuance and the balance between those two things needs to be managed carefully. And actually universities need to be allowed, in our view, to use some of their freedoms, autonomy and skills and experience in managing admissions at a more local level, because we’re dealing with two very different outcomes here.

[00:30:15] Interesting. Now, Matt, Matt Nash, Matt Mashpee and her, of course, talks about autonomy in admissions decisions.

[00:30:22] And, you know, actually, the other thing we’ve been kind of watching over the past few weeks has been our efforts attempting to do its admissions review in four times the speed in the middle of a pandemic. So when the moratorium on unconditional ofmaking comes off, you know what’s going to happen then? What’s your prediction?

[00:30:37] Well, I mean, the. The sort of autonomy over admissions decisions is something that’s been nagging away at me for, you know, quite a few weeks now based around the interventions that the minister and the office had already made before the pandemic started, but also have now, you know, reinforced through the moratorium on ofmaking. And I just don’t know how. I kind of get the sense there’s too much of a desire to centralize the approach to admissions and thus missing out on the opportunity slash risk depending on which way you’re looking at it. Of institutions making those decisions themselves. And actually, you know, just on a very practical level, we’ve already had clients contacting us and saying things like, well, you know, we’ve got courses here with capped numbers, externally, cap numbers, medicine, dentistry, that sort of thing. What happens if we end up with students who through this process, very many more of them meet the grades than we had expected. We can’t expand those numbers unilaterally. So what do we do with those students? So there are going to be lots and lots of issues. Leaving aside all the special cases Andrew mentioned about, you know, a typical A-level students where something different is going to have to be done. I do hope, however, that the sort of sector recognizes that all individual institutions going off and scrambling and perhaps de-stabilizing even after the moratorium, destabilising the overall admissions system is going to be bad for everyone. So we do need to strike that balance between centralized oversight of admissions, which terrifies me and away from OFW and the minister, the individual rights of institutions to determine their own admissions decisions and then the impact on the sector. If everybody pulls in different directions and creates a horrible mess around admissions.

[00:32:22] I don’t know what the answer is because it goes under. That sounds easier said than done to me.

[00:32:26] Yes, well, quite so. I mean, along with me, too, I am concerned about a centralization of this because we’ve we’ve got people with huge amounts of experience and discipline. And Annie and I have to say, sometimes I do get a little bit perplexed about a narrative that I can see Beldin as if, you know, kind of universities are characterless, thoughtless, you know, rampaging around out of self-interest. You know, my experience of the sector is one that takes its duty pretty seriously. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have to balance out against itself or the complex. I do want us to be really careful in this notion that it’s Santa vs. universities because likes me, too. I’m actually convinced that that the wealth of experience across those organizations is enough to create an environment for success and allow universities to make local decisions.

[00:33:15] And initial no, Jim, we Detriot are pretty confident actually about the reliability of predicted Gretz overall that you can model on the basis of the predictions have already been submitted to the are already in the system that they can be used as a good a good indicator. And that in fact in all of this we mustn’t forget that the freedom of choice of students for some of the reasons we described earlier about the psychological contract, because in my view, one of the first things that would be a breach of that contract is you’re not going to the place that you wanted to go to. And I think we should be careful that we don’t alienate huge Qwest’s of potential HENCHY entrants just because we’ve come up with a solution that looks good for universities, but not good for the student themselves. And I don’t believe it’s beyond our creative skill to come up with a way that allows the traditional CFC CIA model to do its business, where we clearly get in an expression of interest and determination from an applicant and then use that to size the pool and understand what that might mean for recruitment for local universities once they’ve exercised their admissions process. And also, just just to add, I think we get ourselves into a little bit of an iron triangle when we assume the fee income has to be purely locked down per head for her in a model that we’re used to that works in normal times, if we have to adapt the fee model to support diversity and sustainability in the sector. I think we need to decouple the two things. Otherwise we’re going to come out with a solution that’s trying to create an outcome when actually if we decouple them, we can give ourselves a little bit more flexibility.

[00:34:53] And actually, at least in theory, although it might not have been playing with very big numbers, IFRS has already done a whole bunch of work preparing around that in terms of its funding review and, you know, thinking about how to support particular objectives, its funding review. So maybe some of that can be applied to them.

[00:35:07] But let’s make sure this is you know, on the one hand, some people you know, I am one of them in there in the first few days of the crisis were talking about, you know, there needing to be a kind of, if you like, less marketisation in order to avoid some institutions scooping up incredible numbers of home undergrads and destabilising others. But I guess the other thing that I’ve been thinking about a lot is at what point between now and September? Is it going to look okay for that usual sort of clearing and adjustment period to appear where there are all those adverts and all those supplements and you know, all those what Nicola Dandridge of Call has called inducements to, you know, come to university, those that that surely at any point he’s going to look really problematic, that that kind of usual advertising around the market.

[00:35:52] Well, it certainly is. If if institutions don’t know that they’ve got the freedom to deliver the places that they are seeking to recruit people to. So it surely. To flow from whatever the overall proposal is to manage admissions. You know, if if in reality there are student no caps, how are those implemented? You know, is it. Is there any flexibility for institutions within those? We assume there will be. And so I’m sure that at that point, sort of, you know, there’ll be some attempt to recruit to whatever cap you’re given. But clearing seems like, again, a you know, a mythical fantasy unicorn like in it’s sort of a probability at this stage. I just don’t know. And it’s a horrible feeling because you could kind of you want to know because you want to be reassuring people. But I dont think anybody knows really how all that’s going to play out. And it’s only a couple of months away, isn’t it, here?

[00:36:44] Just back on this admissions question, Andre GTA, we upset with we’ve seen Michelle Donlin over the past couple of days. Can at least in theory, suggest that people would get their results if they chose to reset. You know, this group of students who actually want to choose term, you know, do this in the autumn rather than just get this, you know, kind of calculated quayside, predicted grade, but get those results before Christmas. Now, I’m I’m not sure that’s possible, but, you know, is that what’s that about? Is that is that assuming there’s gonna be a kind of big January, in fact, you think, well, well, no.

[00:37:18] I actually wonder if it doesn’t speak back to this to this anxiety question that if you’ve got, you know, a group of students who are expressing a frustration about their inability to actually sit their exam.

[00:37:31] And, you know, I’ve I’ve I’ve worked. It sounds like to me like a simple, practical offering that says, listen, if you want to do that, you can. Nope. Nobody’s gonna stop stop you doing it. If they if they if all of the factors, the environment, the ability to bring people together allow. So I’m not I’m not sure that it’s actually about some great big strategic wave event. I think it’s simply about we need to try and keep people onside and answer their their questions. I mean, I mean, I have to say, if I if I if I was an individual other than short of the motivation of love into love into an example, I believe in have a very different outcome. I don’t know why I would. Because it may differentiate me from the large swathes of the cohort when in fact that, you know, this idea of comparing and awarded grade compared to an exam awarded grade, it’s kind of a bit of a bit of a phantom, because the truth is there are no exams this year in the in the normal system. And so our new model is this teacher led awarded grad model.

[00:38:26] So, you know, I wonder if if if I personally would choose to do that, although I suspect and understand some people may feel they want a genuine I mean, not least I I was kind of anticipating when yest comes over, this cohort come out into the workplace and somebody says, oh, you’re from there, the 2020 cohort, then the great gifted, you know what? What how will that play out with unpleasant and likes me? I don’t know the answer to that, but there’s no question this group are going to have a feature of them that is different to any people that have been either side of them in in the education system. So I can kind of understand the multiple, but I wondered if I would do it. I’d probably not want to stand out from the crowd. Really.

[00:39:09] 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 one key dot com. You can also leave your thoughts and comments. Don’t forget, you can subscribe to us automatically. Just search for the Warnke show on your favourite podcast directory or you’ll find the feature need. I want you to come 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 Warnke dot com and we’ll be in touch. So thanks again to our guests Mehta and everyone at T-1 key to making the show happen. And of course, to flawlessly until after Easter. Stable.

 

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