This week on the podcast we discuss the advice on offer to universities about reopening in September. We also look at the reaction to the murder of George Floyd, the (re)introduction of student number controls and the budget issues facing many universities.
With Sue Rigby, Vice Chancellor at Bath Spa University and Jonathan Grant, Vice President & Vice Principal (Service) at King’s College London.
Items this week:
- Tahmina Choudhery reflects on social media conversations about race and racism across higher education following the murder of George Floyd.
- Do the criteria for non-health care additional student numbers offer a preview of government policy focused on elite providers? For David Kernohan, that would be indefensible.
- The search for savings in university budgets.
- The UK HE sector has plenty of principles for managing quality during Covid-19, but there’s not much concrete assurance on offer. Debbie McVitty wonders how much that matters.
- Student number controls are back – with deadly penalties for over-recruitment.
To get involved in The Wonkhe Show, email firstname.lastname@example.org
With all the attention given to cross border student flows I thought I’d take a look at where Welsh domiciled students tend to end up. I’ve plotted the number of Welsh domiciled first year full time first degree students at every provider in England against the total number of UK students. Do Welsh students tend to go to larger English providers? Do they behave in the same way as other students in the UK? Whose coat is that jacket? Yes, but does it correlate?
No it does not. R squared is about 0.2 – so a surprisingly low correlation. Welsh domiciled students tend to go to providers in England near Wales – with UWE, Liverpool John Moores, and Chester the big recruiters in this specialised market. Data is from the HESA student record for 2018-19 and Lle nad yw’r data’n bodoli, nid wyf wedi ei blotio.
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[00:00:01] It’s the Wonkhe show. A whole raft of re-opening guidance this week. We’ll pick it apart. Student number controls are back, but are there devils in the detail? Well, it’s not race and racism in nature. In the wake of the George Floyd murder and making savings to university. But it’s all coming up.
[00:00:16] You know, frankly, has been going on since sort of early March and in some cases late February. In anticipation of this, the colleagues have done right across the sector in every part. Right. You know, we’re talking about security staff, our state staff, our academics, our leadership teams.
[00:00:42] Welcome to the Wonkhe Show, your weekly weigh into this week’s higher education news, policy and analysis, some Jim Dickinson. And here to help us understand what’s going on this week. As usual, we have two excellent guests. Both say Rigby is the vice chancellor about Spa University. Sir, your highlight of the week, please. Well, is there any week that has a highlight that doesn’t involve Dominic Cummings or Boris Johnson? Hard to say, really. Is there anything specific from the ongoing saga that, you know, you would pick out?
[00:01:10] Well, I did really enjoy yesterday. Boris Johnson taking umbrage at being questioned by the leader of the opposition. And I’m thinking about ways to work that into my senior team going forward. This agreement from the opposition should never be permitted in any in any circumstances. Excellent.
[00:01:25] And in Cambridge, Jonathan Grant’s his vice president and vice principal service at King’s College, London. Jonathan, your reason to be cheerful from the week?
[00:01:32] Why? What have I got news for you twice now. The last episode, which sort of resonates quite closely, was seized comment. But every time you need to cheer yourself up, just put that on for five minutes.
[00:01:43] Excellent. So, yes, we start this week with bubbles. We’ve had guidance on reopening from KUAR Advance, HK, UK and DFA, with the press picking up on some of the more restrictive social mixing ideas that have been floating around the sector to see what’s going on.
[00:01:58] Well, ever such a lot of people are telling me how to be at my university and all I can do is be incredibly grateful to them all. And if there’s any degree to which I feel like I’m being taught to suck eggs, I’m trying to swallow very hard and just be very, very grateful. But yes, Department for Education are telling us how to make buildings. They say we should operate a risk assessment. QSA are telling us how to maintain standards. The Department of Education is reminding us that we have to maintain standards at the same time as being a university. Universities UK have come up with a 27 page guideline of high level principals on how we reopen. And with all of that, I’ve got a lot of reading to do and I don’t think have really got time to read my university before September because I think it will take me until then to understand what it meant to be doing.
[00:02:42] I Jonathan, you will have read some of this stuff. Is is is it. Is it. Is it. What’s it for? Well, exactly, Jim.
[00:02:49] It seems now is blowing bubbles, isn’t it? The we’ve got into a state where our response, I think, to a lot of this crisis is to issue guidance from government, where the sort of the nuances of locality are not understood and there’s a sort of concept of institutional autonomy is suddenly disappeared. And actually on the ground in Kings and Bovespa and Putti or the universities around the country, we got teams who are examining all these issues and looking at them in considerable depth and coming up with appropriate solutions for their fiscal spaces, for their contacts and for their students. So I do worry that we are seeing too much guidance and not enough reliance on sort of local and common sense in applying all of this.
[00:03:37] So it’s interesting, though, in that in that sense that, you know, your complete you know, you’re autonomous, it’s up to you how you open. But it’s the best thing in that insofar as, you know, the subtext of that is you’re responsible, you’re not getting any help, and you’ll find the money to do this from your existing budgets. You’re on your own and you’ll get the blame.
[00:03:53] Yes. Well, I think I think that is a position that universities have got used to occupying over the last little while. I mean, I’ve been standing back to all this because the details just too tedious, really, to go into in any detail. And I’ve been thinking, what do these different bodies trying to get us to do? I have to say, I think the Department of Education guidance has been written to make sure that we have access to all of the other guidance that’s given, which is actually quite useful. You have it in one place and you just click through so. So I can see that point. And I’ve tried to ignore things like them saying, you know, very, very obvious things like if you can leave home, you can leave into student accommodation and really to to engage with any of these documents, you have to turn off the no shit Sherlock button in your head. The KYOHEI guidance system is brilliant. Actually, it’s the only one that suggests that we should engage with our students to find out how they feel about reopening. And I think for that alone, it makes the outstanding guidance we have available. Universities UK is, as you’d expect, very top down, very comprehensive, very well-written. But I have to say, I think it’s designed to make everybody else not to universities feel like we’re all speaking with the same voice and that if you’re an international student, it’s fine to come to Britain in the autumn. I think broadly they’re all written for different audiences and only a peripheral audience really is university senior leaders.
[00:05:09] Jonathan, is there anything missing from all of it? You know, are there things that you know from from your charter, with that, with others that, you know, people really do need advice and help with in terms of kind of solving thorny problems or, you know, big tensions?
[00:05:20] Yes and no. I think so. I mean, it’s so comprehensive. Everything’s kind of covered, but not in a sort of necessarily helpful way. I think, you know, sort of some of the symbolic stuff as much as anything. You know, for example, facemasks. So, you know, the scientific evidence on there is increasingly that it’s probably a good idea to wear some form of. Face masks, the cultural imperative in Asian countries is to be seen to be wearing face masks. So what is our policy on campus? Come September, do we mandate that people have to wear face masks on campus? There’s quite a good argument for that, but it also seems quite a draconian position to take as well. So, yeah, I think Sue in New Jim Apsey, you’re right. I think there’s a lot of covering one’s backside coming from government at the moment in this guidance. And the challenge for universities is interpret that in a way that both protects them somehow in any sort of long term political shenanigans that are going to happen. But also, most crucially, protects their students and staff. And that’s got to be the key thing that we look at at all times.
[00:06:30] So I’ve had my eye on local press coverage, as usual this week. And I saw you add a few things to say to the local press about student accommodation this week in bathhouse, as many vice chancellors will do around the country. What’s there what’s the sort of interaction like at the moment between kind of public health officials locally and universities? Because, you know, these kind of local outbreak plans that public health directors are having to develop, you know, don’t look necessarily like they’ve taken into account a million students moving out in September.
[00:06:58] No, but I think all of us who are working with local government at the moment have the utmost respect and sympathy for what they’re doing. But they’re being told by the government what’s happening. I think about 25 minute special, the announcement in the House of Commons or two hours later has leaked.
[00:07:11] And if it’s in the House of Commons, you’re lucky, aren’t you?
[00:07:14] Yes. Sometimes it’s just a government ministers mind and they never get into articulating it. But councils are meant to respond.
[00:07:20] And so I think we’ll be working very closely with the council, with Public Health England, because you know what I and I guess all of my colleagues across the UK are terrified of is that there’s some kind of cave in nineteen outbreaks associated with the university and the risk Kastor exists, particularly at the start of term, because lots of people from different geographical regions are going to move to co locate. And we can’t keep to all absolutely separate from one another. So there is a risk that one infected person absolutely accidentally starts a transmission that not only shuts that university down, but brings a real kind of frisson of fear to a locality. Universities have to sit amicably in their region, otherwise they can’t do the good that they’re mandated to do.
[00:08:01] And Jonathan, you know, just my sort of wider perspective, you know, if we add up all of the things that universities are being expected to do in all of this guidance, it’s a hell of a lot of things to do between now and September in a period where in theory there’s much less money around to do it because people are having to look at their budgets and, you know, ask serious questions. Yeah.
[00:08:20] And in one sense, that’s the existential threat that we’re facing, I think, as a sector. Now, I I’m actually more optimistic than that. But the sheer workload that, frankly, has been going on since, you know, sort of early March and in some cases late February in anticipation of this, the colleagues have done right across the sector in every part. Why, you know, whether we’re talking about security staff, our state staff are academics, our leadership teams, that the sheer volume of work that has gone on over the last few months is extraordinary. And there’s no indication that that’s going to let up. And I think that’s a real concern for the whole sector. How do we sustain this intense pace and intense pressure at the same time? And I think we have to be live to that. I don’t have the answer to it, but I do think at some point we we need to acknowledge the amount of change that has occurred in such a short amount of period and the amount of change that needs to occur over the next few months. But at the same time, completely acknowledge the amazing sort of contribution universities across the country actually made in responding to the pandemics are not only have we been reorganizing our business models, but our students have been volunteering. Our staff have been shifting to clinical practice. My researchers are working flat out to right across the mix. You’ve suddenly seen sort of a productivity improvement to sort of use that horrendous phrase, which has probably gone up hundred, 200 percent, and that’s not sustainable over the mid term.
[00:09:53] And say, I mean, you know, you talk about talking to the public health officials in local authorities, at least in theory, they’ve had a little bit of extra funding to deal with the pandemic. You know, is it is it realistic and reasonable, given the wide, you know, both direct and indirect responsibilities that are being placed on universities around, you know, health of a hell of a lot of people to expect them to be able to do that extra money?
[00:10:15] It’s tricky. I mean, I, I think I don’t speak to other vice chancellors when I say this, but I think we are being asked to value R.E. our autonomy at the moment and put an actual financial value on being autonomous. And I’m very, very nervous about accepting money from any source other than grants. And didn’t income and philanthropy be nice if anybody wanted to vulgarly a million quid. But, you know, the more we get. The more we get supported, the more we get funds to help us to do what we’re told to do, the more our autonomy is compromised by that support. And I do think universities have to think about how much pain they’re prepared to take to remain in that position, to be able to choose how they respond to a crisis or indeed an opportunity going forward. I think we might come out of this with the worst of both worlds where we’re insufficiently financially supported but no longer fully autonomous agencies.
[00:11:08] I know if you look at the demartino, the demand for higher education in the UK is not going away in a five to three to five year timeline. The demand for impactful research is not going away in that timeline. And the demand for, you know, sort of civic institutions is not going to go away in a three to five year timeline so that this crisis and is an absolute crisis. But it is a short term crisis. And we’ve got to be very careful strategically what we give away in that short term, because it will have a longer term impact. And I do worry that if we do get bailouts, which I don’t think we will, because we are clearly bottom of the pile, but we do get some form of bailout. The conditions that would be attached to that would be too sort of too compromising on our autonomy and our purpose as universities.
[00:11:59] Now, let’s say he’s been blogging for us this week.
[00:12:03] Hi, my name is Nina Chargee, and I’m the vice president for professional social sciences at Middlesex University, FedExing. So I switched wonky asking yesterday about the first people to prepare for the impact that I think is going to have on students. I could cancel. Yes. I’m in Miami Canopy’s.
[00:12:20] I said that relationship and trust between Ukraine and students of color weren’t always the best. But then the events in America completely off me and the lack of trust Hispanics that all of the social media. And so I’m at peace. And think about how Visco and Hinkie are all going to come back in September.
[00:12:37] And to the people that essentially racism in higher education and how it’s contributing and part of systematic racism that exists within the white people and how it can and should be changed in history, how close it has, both the disparity between being a non being and that there shouldn’t be a ticket for conversations.
[00:12:53] I think university should be in the current situation because I think these gaps have been exposed and highlighted because it was, in fact what universities can and should begin from now on, something that we don’t have a race, this type of mindset, that student in background. Issue isn’t fair. And so I think he really could have against the banking institutions that feed into that money and how they are able to be treated equally and keep them in the center. I think they need to because it is a lot more than 19 students because they’ve not had had because of the color of their skin.
[00:13:30] Hello, my name is Barb O’Keefe and I am vice principal for the student experience at Royal Falo, where University of London. I was previously the dean of management and economics in my article. We saw the crash coming. I argued that we have failed to plan for a potential downturn in the number of Chinese students enrolling in UK business schools and in all likelihood, we now see a major crash. It’s fair to say that the seemingly endless supply of Chinese students has made us lazy. What we provide to Chinese business students, both undergraduate and post graduate, has been cracking for a few years. Education in China is better and more flexible than it was even 10 years ago, and the expectations of students and parents are changing fast. So most we don’t forget.
[00:14:20] We’d love to have your contribution on the site if you’d like to purchase a piece. Drop us an email on team at Warnke dot com with your idea and we’ll be in touch. Now, next up, the Department for Education has released further details of its proposed student no cap and it’s controversial. Jonathan, tell us more.
[00:14:35] Well, you know, a bit like our earlier conversation, we got another bit of guidance which, you know, doesn’t really make sense and creates up a bunch of perverse or potentially perverse incentives and challenges, I think, for the sector at a time when we need support from government and we’re not necessarily getting that. I think the sort of premise of this is to allow universities to increase domestic students whilst not creating a dogfight for enrolments, which is obviously the right thing to do. But, you know, as everybody knows in the sector, predicting student welcomeness is challenging in the best of times and is even more challenging in the worst of times. The risk and the financial penalties about overinvestment in this guidance where if you go one over the cap, yet you get a massive financial hit.
[00:15:35] Seems strange from a policy point of view because it sort of creates two bookend incentives. One is that you. You sort of go well below the cap or B as you go well, stuffier, I just go miles over the cap because there’s no difference between one and 100, if you like. So that just seems odd. I think on a personal level, you know, I find it very bizarre that we have a so-called sort of conservative government bringing in, you know, sort of sort of almost a standard market management technique like this. And, you know, I think that’s something to reflect on. I don’t know if I’ve got the answers to that. And, you know, I think there’s some deep complexities here and here in the sense that, as I understand it, it is based on the cap. Is the student uncontrol or is. Are we looking at the students that accept it or are we looking at those who’ve been offered and how that’s going to work of. Or the clearing and clearing plus and what have you. So I think what it is. And the final point in that is it’s obviously different for different countries and the United Kingdom. So there’s a deep level of complexity, which I have to say I have yet to get my head fully into.
[00:16:51] I did speak to one of my colleagues at Kings yesterday when I saw we’re gonna be talking about this and he has spent the last 24 hours. I’m reading the. Over and over again, and I don’t think he had fully understood all the nuances, so, you know, again, you know, the word dog’s dinner comes to my mind quite quickly. I’m trying to be charitable, but I think we’re still trying to work out what it actually really, really means. And so was I think that the overall objective is probably right in the context. The detail of here seems to be written by people who don’t really understand the processes by which we involve students.
[00:17:34] So if I was Michel Donlan, then I would say, well, you know, low that, you know, 30000 offers got converted to unconditional in the week after, you know, the weeks following the lockdown, an hour. So this this had to be done. Dimmock.
[00:17:48] Well, there certainly was some rapid action on the part of diversities. I think there is a case to be made for no caps. I think Jonathan’s already kind of covered that. I think somewhere in the process of deciding what there should be, ideas like simplicity and clarity have been admitted from the civil servants dictionaries.
[00:18:09] And indeed, I think it would be really useful is if vice chancellors could a high level principles guide to send to people who want to tell universities what to do in future. And I think we could probably get it into under 27 pages.
[00:18:21] And I, I slightly blame the investee set today for bringing this to bear, because we are really good at doing a sort of Chicken Little analysis of what’s going to happen next. You know, we went around saying the sky is falling. And it was a perfect example of that in a news yesterday. And then as this scenario unfolds and actually it doesn’t look like the sky is falling, we then resent the actions of somebody over a third party who’s trying to help us because they’ve actually taken literally what we meant in a slightly sort of SPRO. Well, we’re all buggered, aren’t we? Kind of context. And I think it’s as clever institutions. We’ve forgotten that sometimes you don’t say the first thing that crosses your mind as as it crosses your mind. And really, maybe we jumped too early in saying that we weren’t gonna get any international students next year and we jumped too early. And the seeming that applicants would be very radical in their approach to entering university this year actually turns out applicants are quite conservative in the way that they approach this. So, you know, it is a dog’s breakfast. Absolutely right. As Jonathan just said. But I’m not sure that we’re entirely blameless in, you know, at least creating the context for a dog could be fed its dinner.
[00:19:34] Jonathan, is there a danger that you know that? I mean, the idea here, the policy idea here is that, you know, the pain is spread. But is there a danger that if you spread the pain, you know, everybody ends up ill rather than, you know, there just being a small number of casualties that maybe could have been bailed out?
[00:19:52] Well, I mean, yes, I mean, that’s that’s speculation. I do have to go back about the sort of rush for unconditional offers. And whilst I think it was right to pause that given where we’ve ended up, we’ve how a levels will be marked. I don’t actually think offering unconditional offers based on predicted grades when students were applying is absolutely ridiculous position to be in. So, you know, I mean, like you just said, there was a sort of knee jerk reaction to a bunch of quite rational behaviors. And that has led us down this path to student gap caps. And if we had just paused and understood, which we did not know at that time, but had a better understanding of how the A-levels would been assessed, actually a system which was based on broadly accepting the offers that were out there. And then some kind of arbitrage for those who obviously umberto’s more offers than they could take on would would have, in my view, seemed to be a more simplistic approach and clearer approach to take. But again, you know, as Sue said, I think the sector throughout this crisis actually and preceding this crisis has bought a lot of this pain upon itself. The fact is that we are not the flavour of the month in this government for reasons that are entirely understandable. And therefore, every time we go pleading for money, we are at the bottom of the pile because there are other sectors pleading for money as well. And they are higher up that priority list than we just got to accept that.
[00:21:27] And so while we’re on this this, you know, the additional places, the 10000 places, that kind of nursing home healthcare is what it is. But our DKA, obviously on the site this morning, has done an analysis of the of the others, you know, the other places. And, you know, as if if nothing else, as pointed out that all of the Russell Group are entitled to beds and none of million plus are entitled to beds. And it seems when we you know, one aspect of the detail is that we’ve now abandoned the benchmarking approach of Taffe and DFA now seems to be going for really quite raw.
[00:22:00] Judgments about what counts as a good quality provider.
[00:22:04] Yes, it’s interesting, isn’t it? I mean, as someone who has invested, I think about six months of my life in the test, it was a real pity to see that, you know, TEF ratings have quality of teaching, didn’t actually have any bearing on decisions about who could take extra students. And when you’ve got tangled institutions that can’t apply for extra student numbers and Taff, France institutions that can, then I think that’s a real disappointment in terms of Taffe offering the opportunity, however badly freight, of how complex the process was. The outcomes had judgment involved in them taking these two metrics, which are eight to 10 years out of date and applying them in this way, simply privileges universities that take middle class students. They happen to be the Russell Group. But what it’s doing really is getting something deeper and I think slightly creepier, which is that it’s privileging the middle class over anybody else. As long as you’ve come from a supportive background so you won’t drop out of university and you’ve had the support of education, that means that you’re probably going to get a good job at the end of it. Then the institutions that you choose are now privileged to take more students, presumably like you. And I think it’s completely incompatible with any kind of inclusive city or diffley pay agenda. And what it makes me wonder is exactly where which universities the people went to who were in a position to make this decision. And I think it’s a failure of inclusive city in those ranks as well, that that’s manifest here.
[00:23:26] And I’m Jonathan, that the subject choice is interesting here as well, isn’t it? So, you know, that might give us some signals about what is a valuable, you know, counted as a valuable course in architecture, science, maths, social work, engineering and factory science. Those are you know, these are apparently the valuable subjects where we apparently do need more students.
[00:23:45] So, I mean, that opens up another can of worms, isn’t it, in a long running debate we’ve been having in the sector about what is value and how we measure value of university degrees? You know, in one sense, I’ve got no issue with government saying that as a nation, we think these are the priority skill areas that we need to be training a cohort of young people around and indeed putting incentives in place to support that. What I worry about is, is that at the expense of other disciplines, other subject areas, and indeed the students who want to study those subject areas. So, you know, I you know, is is an interesting signal coming from governments in terms of the subject choices. I don’t think we’re that surprised by it. But I do think, again, it has a bundle of consequences, which, you know, kind of understandably have not been fought through. And we’re going to be unwinding some of those in my three to five year time horizon rather than the 18 to 24 months.
[00:24:46] Now it’s time for yes. But does it coronate status at this week’s coronation? Question is one. He’s associate editor David Kernahan.
[00:24:54] Welcome to. Yes, but does it correlate the podcast segment? That is a devolved matter with all the attention given to cross-border student flows. Recently, I thought I’d take a look at where Welsh domiciled students tend to end up. I plotted the number of Welsh domiciled first year full time of first degree students at every provider in England against the total number of UK students do well. Students tend to go to larger English providers. Do they behave in the same way as other students in the UK? Whose coat is that jacket? Yes. But does it correlate?
[00:25:31] So. So I’m going to say yes, but that’s based on a 50/50. Yeah. I suspect the answer is yes. Broadly speaking, yeah.
[00:25:41] Well, I have to say no data inherent dramatic tension in the past until it’s pointing that we’re agreeing with one another. So much so. No, I think that well, students will not behave in the same way as English students. I think tailgater attractive universities, probably in rural settings quite close to the Welsh border, possibly English based on listed buildings as part of their infrastructure and cattle grids.
[00:26:06] Yes, the answer is no, it does not. R-squared is about nought point two. So a surprisingly low correlation. Welsh domiciled students do tend to go to providers in England, that army or Wales with UEE, with the pool, John Myers and Chester. The big recruiters in this very specialized market data is from a he’s a student record for 2018 19. And Chenard, you’re not but only need with where the IB lost you.
[00:26:35] Now, next up, the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota has generated a wave of both physical and online protests this week. And universities in the UK have faced significant criticism. Say, tell us more.
[00:26:46] Well, just that. I mean, every so often an event happens, which is both awful and emblematic. And you can almost feel the rage and the frustration and the and the upset racing around the world and. The killing of Jorge Floyd is one of those events, isn’t it? And it makes us all reflect on how underlying societies of which we’re very proud. There is a tendency to behave in ways that take us back 150 to 200 years to a past that we deplore. The university sector has to respond to that. But in any event, was challenged to respond to all of the different minority student groups that we tried to serve. And I thought that the piece by Tahmeena Chadri was really pertinent to that. I’m very frank, very practical, very angry, and something to make us all sit up and take notice.
[00:27:35] Jonathan? Yeah. You know, it’s I mean, it points out this, you know, this process. I mean, almost every organization that their social media team has felt the need to, you know, take part in blackout Tuesday and, you know, post messages of solidarity. But other then been, you know, held to account.
[00:27:51] And and universities have very much been in the middle of the you know what what what what what what’s going on there is that is that is that is that reasonable, you know, so unreasonable. You know, what’s what what what should we take from.
[00:28:02] I think is deeply reasonable. And it’s about anger and justifiable anger. You know, we’ve seen this week. The, you know, frankly, institutional racism that has been associated of excess deaths of BAME community. We sort of understand that. I challenge any university to actually hand on heart to say they’re not institutionally racist. You know, that’s not a criticism. That’s an observation looking at the data.
[00:28:34] And this is a issue that has been around for, you know, probably a generation. And the as you just said, the events in the US have been created a catalyst and appropriately so. My worry and nervousness is that we’re seeing lots of fine words and they are fine words and they are appropriate words. But actually, we need to move beyond those words and see action and see change and how we do that.
[00:29:09] I don’t have the answer to that. And frankly, as a, you know, a white guy of privilege, I think it would be somewhat absurd for me to propose the answer. I think there’s got to be a sort of period of deep, deep listening to, you know, within the sector, to our students and staff. But actually, right across the UK and right across the western world, because this is it, this is a long running stain on how our societies are organised. And you can not get away from the fact that there is institutional racism right across every sector of society, because that’s what the data tells us. And we either carry on with the warm words that we’ve seen pouring across the social media over the past week, or we see this as one of those moments where we actually start to try to address these fundamental inequalities in our society.
[00:30:07] So Tahmeena points out that, you know something? I’ve definitely you know, I spotted earlier on in the week where there was a chunk of my kind of social timeline that was about this and then another chunk of my social timeline that was about, you know, the increasingly preposterous reopening guidance that was appearing from every national organization. And they were sort of two totally separate timelines. But in many ways, given what we know about the way, you know, Colvard exacerbates existing inequalities, I mean, is right, isn’t she, when she says that the way in which universities reopen has a direct bearing on an impact on these kind of wider issue of race and racism?
[00:30:40] Yes. She’s completely right. And the challenge is going to be to address all of those areas of exclusivities that are opened up by Cofidis, exaggeration of inequality properly at the same time as getting campuses running in the autumn. You know, we’ve already established that that’s going to be quite a complicated issue. Adding the subtlety of opening the campus well, for every group of students is is the added complexity. It’s a challenge. We just have to rise to it. A lot of the time there is a degree of intersectionality so that we know that students may be preferentially exposed to the virus or preferentially affected by it. We can make adjustments that mean that we can teach people who are not able to be present physically on campus to more or less the same standard as people who can. And that will also then benefit students with disabilities, students with caring responsibilities and and so on. But I think what we have to do coming out of this, as Jonathan said, is listen, very hard. I think we’ve all must work hard. And the problem in universities by taking baby steps so often that IBM students are now furious with us. Most of the time, and I think probably they’re quite right to be, we have to make a step change in this. Whether we can actually do that at the same time as moving into this rather agile blended model is a requirement that that. Intermediaries is facing, as with it depends on the bandwidth of individual universities, to what extent they meet that challenge, I suspect and some of this is gonna be really tough, isn’t it, Jonathan?
[00:32:09] Because the army I was talking to some on the other day, you know, that there are going to be in the next four or five weeks really, really difficult decisions about, you know, who gets those little shards of contact hours that are available once all the estate’s people have come back with that type measures and said what’s just possible? And you know, as well as thinking about, you know, whether to privilege first year or whether to privilege, you know, people, international students who’ve had a lot of money or whether to privilege certain subjects, they will need particular, you know, lab access or whatever. We probably do also need to think about that, the kind of socioeconomic and and racial and, you know, other characteristics, distribution of students amongst subjects.
[00:32:48] And, you know, as you said, Jim, it is hard. And I don’t have the solutions. I think the you know, the approach is an approach, a principle. And we need to be ensuring that in all these short term decisions that we are taking, that we have built in some kind of a quality impact assessment or whatever joking you want to use to ensure that we are not unintendedly exaggerating the existing, as in equities that operate within higher education.
[00:33:26] But again, you know, those are easy words for me to say and quite hard to do. So, you know, at you know, I think it comes down to what do universities at the end of the day want to prioritize? And I would. But that’s right at the top of the list, you know, at King’s, you know, half our undergraduate intake, his firm Bain background. And it’s a really pertinent issue for us as an institution.
[00:33:55] But understanding how those inequities will pay out in through the covert lens is is not easy and needs some deep thought and deep resource in a resource constrained of.
[00:34:08] Now, just take a second to tell you a little bit about our forthcoming wonkier home event on political engagement. Politics is transforming rapidly as the comic crushes scripts that government, civil service and the media and universities are playing a critical role in the global fight against the virus, but are struggling to get the airtime needed for long term support of a much positive government recognition as the threat of financial disaster for some beckons. At the same time, there’s also chatter about how the government might use this opportunity to realize a long held ambition to reshape and reform a G. Against this backdrop, the daily reality of influencing is changing. Meetings are happening online. There are Slipher scripted engagements and reduced opportunities for the subtle human Krafts of influence and hustle. And with the usual political scene of Westminster drinks and Mayfair dinners on indefinite hold, the backchannel is taking place almost entirely on WhatsApp. So what one care home event Balkanize with Public First Public Policy Strategy Communications consultancy with a specialism in education. We’re going to ask our universities can cut through the noise, use new tools and engage in the shifting landscape and influence policy so the sector can not just emerge from the crisis intact, but thrive in a post covered world. So that’s one key at home. University influence in a crisis. This coming Monday, as long as you’re listening to the podcast over the weekend, check it out on Waukee dot com forward slash events.
[00:35:33] And finally, with some of the scenarios modelling major reductions in fee income, most universities are trying to save money when there’s plenty of pressure to spend more. Jonathan, what does that look like?
[00:35:44] I want to say again, another dog’s breakfast go dog’s lunch. This time we’ve had dinner. So, so. So, yeah, no. But in all seriousness, I think that there’s a there’s a number of issues here that we need to be life to. And the first there is the. That’s a sector rather than individual institutions. It seems to me that we need to understand the difference between the short term financial consequences and the mid to long term.
[00:36:12] So it goes back to my earlier comment. The demand for higher education is not going to go away. That’s an evidence based comment. We know that the demographics in the UK. And we know that demographics internationally. So the sort of fundamental proposition that we as universities are offering is going to probably strengthen over the mid term. So the question is, how do we navigate this crisis to reemerge at that point? And that’s no different to whether we were an airline industry or running cinemas or having a boutique shop selling shoes. So we are. And if you like, in the same sense there. I think the interesting question, which is sort of famously coming back to, is sort of twofold. The first is, do we have too many universities in the UK? And I don’t have a view on that. But I do know that I have heard senior politicians from both the Conservative Party and the Labor Party voiced the view that they think we, too. And therefore, I think there is a risk.
[00:37:20] That’s part of the unwritten agenda coming out of government, is to see the sector consolidate. And therefore, they may be willing to let some institutions effectively go bankrupt. And then when they go bankrupt, sort of step in and engineer some form of merger or not, whether that’s in the long term interests of the sector.
[00:37:40] You know, I think we can debate.
[00:37:43] And then the second issue, which is probably more relevant to the research intensive universities in the Russell Group, and I’m not making a special case here at all. But it goes to the way that we fund research. And it’s interesting, I was reading some work coming out of Australia yesterday, which was making exactly the same argument.
[00:38:02] And government for 30 years has encouraged universities to undertake research and has seen quite significant increases in research funding, especially to universities and Bachi, uniquely in the UK context, the universities and but that research has been built on the shoulders of international student fees because we lose money, as you well know, on that research. So I think we have to come out of this and really look at the issue of so-called full economic costs and government for UK III and the other funders have to start paying the full economic costs of research. And I think if they did that, then you would almost instantaneously for the research. Intense universities change the financial business model, which I think will liberate a lot of activity.
[00:38:55] So so what does this look like in, you know, another part of the sector?
[00:38:59] It’s an interesting question. And I’ve been listening to Jonathan and realising, you know, just thinking of us as one sector is is misleading because there are different challenges and different solutions right across the piece. A university like mine depends for its bread and butter on student recruitment. I have to say at the moment, student recruitment this year looks exactly like it did last year and the capital. So I don’t know yet. I mean, we have done some pretty radical scenario planning. My sense is that universities are still in that mindset where we realise this a financial crisis and we’re looking for someone to bail us out or we’re looking for something that can avoid pain. And I suspect that what we should be doing is looking at, for example, the response of Irish universities to the financial crash seven or eight years ago where, you know, pay was affected. The opportunities that universities had was was diminished for a significant period of time. They will survive. They’re all thriving now. But I think we might have to look at some years where universities just get by and where we do end up selling some of our assets and losing some of our portfolio in order to get through a short term dip in funding.
[00:40:07] And I think what’s missing at the moment is any rational arguments about how poor the sector is is unable to become in order that at the end of it we will recover. There’s no question if we aggregated that we have plenty of money to get through this. But of course, we’re all autonomous. But most institutions can get through if they do radical things, sell buildings, disperse assets. I’m not saying that they will. But at the moment, we’re still in that mindset of regarding that is unthinkable. And I think we have to move into the mindset of looking at everything that we’ve got that has value. I’m wondering whether that on aggregate is enough to keep us going through what’s almost certainly a V shape deafen recruitment, particularly international steen’s.
[00:40:52] But I think the crucial point of what you just said is that we’ve got to take responsibility for this as universities, as in the sector, because. He’s not going to bail us out. And I still think there is conversations going on where people think there’s going to be a bail out and there’s not going to be a bail out. So the sooner we get that into our heads, then we can move forward and start actioning and engaging with some of the ideas he was just mentioning.
[00:41:19] 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 favorite podcast directory or you’ll find the feed you need on one key dot com forward slash podcast. How do you think you’ve got what it takes to be a guest on the show? Drop us an email on team at wanky dot com and we’ll be in touch. So thanks again to our guest. See you and Jonathan. To everyone to. One key for making the show happen. And, of course, to you for listening. Until next week. Stay Wonkhe.