Marking – Weeknote #276 – 14th June 2024

I spent most of the week working from home, it is exam time for some in the house, so I was around to provide lifts to early revision sessions, or to ensure functionality in case of delayed buses. I did plan to go into the office one day, but even though it was June, the weather forecast was for heavy rain and strong winds. My reasoning for going to the office was that I had a series of later afternoon meetings, so I would then have somewhere quieter to participate in them. In the end, two of those three (and the most participative) were cancelled, or not needed.

I actually like going to work in the office, the change in space, place, and routine, makes a difference to how I feel, or even my wellbeing.

I have been working on a concept Intelligent Campus Maturity Tool. Based on the Further Education elevation tool Jisc produced, the idea is that you can use the tool to assess your progress in building your smart campus. I have already identified the key themes and sub-themes; I am now working on competency statements for those different sub-themes. I am planning to run a workshop in the autumn to test out the tool with the community.

At the beginning of the week I was marking and moderating some bids for a tender we had out on the opportunities for collective, collaborative, and inter-institutional activity.

A couple of meetings were cancelled which gave me some time back.

I am currently taking a leadership course at Jisc, and this week I completed some more work on this.

Had a volunteering day on Friday. Jisc provides staff with three volunteering days a year. I use mine to support the administration of running a Cub Pack. This involves planning the programme, badge administration, risk assessments, and communicating with other organisations.

Time back – Weeknote #275 – 7th June 2024

I spent most of the week working from home, it is exam time for some in the house, so I was around to provide lifts to early revision sessions, or to ensure functionality in case of delayed buses. I had intended to work in the office at least one day this week, but I was also expecting a call from the garage about my car, and it would have been easier to pick it up travelling from home, than from the office.

I am currently taking a leadership course at Jisc, and this week I completed some more units from the Institute of Leadership. I have extensive management and leadership experience, running teams of various sizes, complexity and geographically distributed. I have planned, designed, and delivered shared services for consortia and complex organisations. I have also managed multi-million pound budgets and projects. In addition I have delivered management and leadership training, both at Jisc, to universities, and was a Management and Business Studies lecturer back in the 1990s.

Having said all that there is still room to both learn new things and to update existing knowledge. I also want to affirm my understanding of leadership as well. The course has been useful for these things.

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Image by Monoar Rahman Rony from Pixabay

Had a couple of internal meetings this week, they were scheduled for longer than they actually took. Though it’s nice to have time back, it would be even better if we had that time back before the meeting took place. Planning meetings takes time for the person planning the meeting but can save a lot more time for those participating in that meeting. Do they even need to be in that meeting?

I have written about meetings over my Technology Stuff blog.  Back in 2021 I reflected on an article by Atlassian on making meetings better, useful and interesting.

Running effective meetings isn’t simply a matter of doing the obvious things like sharing the agenda and starting on time. While those things are important, they’re just table stakes. The real key to running a great meeting is organizing and running them with a human touch – not like some corporate management automaton.

I also wrote about how “Meetings are a waste of time”

The perspective we can solve engagement issues by having meetings, and so we need to improve the online meetings, misses the key problem, which is the lack of engagement. This is a leadership and management challenge not just about improving online meetings. People have a personal responsibility to engage with corporate communication, give them choice, make it easier, but to think you solve it by having a meeting, is a similar thinking that people read all their e-mail.

I enjoyed reading this HEPI article on future scenarios for Higher Education.

The author, Professor Sir Chris Husbands, is the former vice-chancellor at Sheffield Hallam University. He develops four plausible scenarios for the future of English higher education and looks at what they could mean for students, universities and government.

Scenario 1 considers what happens on the current funding trajectory.

Scenario 2 looks at what a higher education sector fully funded for high participation, research and innovation might look like.

Scenario 3 explores the implications of a tertiary system.

Scenario 4 considers what a more differentiated system might look like.

I have written some scenarios up as future visions as prompts for discussion. The HEPI visions are much more near-future (and probably more realistic) than my visions. However my future visions are not supposed to be accurate predictions of the future, more as discussion pieces to prompt thinking about how higher education can change.

Found this article on Wonkhe interesting on the future financial sustainability of higher education: Why I wouldn’t bet against a fee rise after the election.

It’s long been assumed that whatever the outcome of the coming general election, fees would remain stuck in the freezer for the time being. We’ve pored over Public First polling that has neatly demonstrated how unpopular raising fees would be and concluded that no political party could feasibly contemplate this. But the ground is now shifting beneath our feet and I think a modest but significant fee rise looks more likely than ever.

I think that may happen, as a last resort if there are real possibilities of universities failing, as well as declining international student recruitment, then the (next) government may need to raise fees to ensure that universities survive financially.

I continued to do some researching and then writing June Intelligent Campus newsletter. This is posted over on the Jiscmail mailing list for the Intelligent Campus.

I have been working on an Intelligent Campus Maturity Tool, this has required me to map out competency statements    that institutions would require to assess their current state of readiness in relation to smart and intelligent campus.

Wrote a section for our board report on the work I have been doing.

I planned, prepared and then cancelled my Senior Education and Student Experience group meeting. I have now been asked to attend UUK Round Table on the same date.

When it’s three o’clock in New York, it’s still 1938 in London – Weeknote #274 – 31st May 2024

Shorter week this week with the Bank Holiday. Decided to work in our London office this week and do some more field research into the Intelligent Campus.

Wrote a blog post on attendance after reading a Guardian article on the subject.

It would appear that the remote teaching during covid is continuing to have an impact on attendance at in-person teaching. Alongside the cost of living crisis, rising costs, the need to work, and interestingly a perception by students that attendance at in-person sessions was unlikely to benefit their learning and their grades.

I had to answer some clarification questions in relation to Invitation to tender we have out.

Undertook some preparation for Senior Education and Student Experience group meeting. I am probably going to repeat the session we did in March.

Continued with some leadership training I am doing.

Have been creating and writing out IC monthly newsletter for June.

Listened to the THE Podcast, specifically the interview with Mark Thompson, professor of digital economy at the University of Exeter.

In this interview, conducted at the Digital Universities UK event at Exeter, Thompson shares his concern that the sector is drifting away from its true north of research, teaching and impact (he uses Jeff Bezos’ idea of “day one”), citing statistics that less than 40 per cent of university staff are academics. He suggests reasons for this and talks about the need for leadership at institutional and government level and the prisoner’s dilemma of whole-sector transformation.

It was an interesting interview, and there is a related article.

UK universities should rip up a lot of their “back-end nonsense”, tackle managerial bloat and stop shelling out for different versions of the same technology to allow them to return to their core missions and heavily invest in academic jobs, according to an influential professor who has helped to pioneer a new approach to digital infrastructure in the public sector.

This echoes much of my work in this space. I am not sure the sector could achieve the 20% saving, but I do think there is room for savings.

Should I stay or should I go….

It would appear that the remote teaching during covid is continuing to have an impact on attendance at in-person teaching. Alongside the cost of living crisis, rising costs, the need to work, and interestingly a perception by students that attendance at in-person sessions was unlikely to benefit their learning and their grades.

Scores of current UK students shared with the Guardian how they feel about attending university lectures and tutorials.

‘I see little point’: UK university students on why attendance has plummeted

About half of the students who got in touch said they were regularly skipping classes, with many saying they were hardly attending at all. A lot of students pointed to financial difficulties forcing them to prioritise paid work over studying, a lack of enthusiasm for the format of lectures, low motivation to get up and go in, and the perception that attending classes was unlikely to improve their grades.

We have to remember that many of these students would not have been at university during the lockdowns in 2020 and 2021. They would have been at school or college. Going forward there will be a continuing stream of new students who experienced remote teaching at school who will be attending university.

Polly Toynbee in the Guardian questioned in an opinion piece on university finances,

…why sixth-formers get so much more teaching time than university students at far lower cost.

The amount of in-person contact time that students have, is so much less than they experienced at college and school, that you have to ask, with less hours to attend than their previous educational experiences, they might value it more. It would appear that they value it less.

The financial imperative for work by students was also illustrated at the Wonkhe event, The Secret Life of Students.

The latest and most powerful insights on the student condition from Wonkhe and Cibyl’s Belong student survey platform and from across the HE sector.

I did a sketch note on that session.

There was a lot of things in there, about sleep, travel time, working, and time travelling to work.

A student also presented at that event and talked about how the need for work, would often trump attendance at lectures and classes. The student also questioned the value of attendance of in-person sessions which could be accessed through recordings later, or what needed to be learnt was learnt more effectively through resources and books.

Also see the original article that inspired the Guardian survey: Lectures in question as paid work pushes attendance even lower

Lecture attendance is now so low that some academics have started to openly question the future of the teaching method.

So what should universities do in light of this insight? What is the future of university teaching and how does it need to change? Also how does the university manage student expectations so that they stop seeing in-person teaching as a choice, and isn’t the optional extra of a university education.

Finally, and something I have been reflecting on this, what is the role of digital and technology in all this?

Calling it – Weeknote #273 – 24th May 2024

On Thursday the prime minister announced that there will be a general election on the 4th July.  We can expect lots of policy ideas and manifesto commitments being pushed out over the next six weeks. Will the higher education sector be top of the list, somehow I doubt it.

I planned out some blog posts I want to write in relation to the areas I am working on. Now I just need to write them…

I spent some time preparing for a briefing I was giving at the end of the week. This was on the optimisation work I have been doing this year.

Concerns about the financial viability of higher education continues with some ex-ministers warning UK universities will go bust without higher fees or funding

Vice-chancellors and former ministers are warning that the cash crisis facing universities is so serious that the next government will have to urgently raise tuition fees or increase funding to avoid bankruptcies within two years.

Even with a general election coming soon, it is unlikely that we will see increased funding for universities.

Wonkhe reported that despite the recommendations of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) report the government is still looking to reduce the number of international students coming to the UK.

The sector’s eyes are on the Prime Minister this week as, following the conclusion of the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) that the Graduate route for international students should remain intact, there’s no indication the government plans to take the advice it asked for. All the latest signals from Number 10 suggest that Rishi Sunak is looking for ways to restrict international students further, potentially using a “best and brightest” formula to do so, despite the prospective damage to the economy and to universities, and the fundamental incoherence of the concept.

I am pretty sure that none of the international students coming to the UK arrive in small boats. Another situation where the political rhetoric doesn’t match reality.

Polly Toynbee in the Guardian notes that

But living within the incomes they can attract, universities may reconsider how they are organised: some will question why degrees need three years with such short terms, why vice-chancellors’ salaries, some higher than £500,000, are much higher than their European neighbours, why university teaching careers are so hard on beginners and why sixth-formers get so much more teaching time than university students at far lower cost.

Another perspective on why universities should be looking at their operating model, changing or optimising what they do, and becoming more efficient.

I started thinking about my objectives for next year. I say next year, our planning year runs from 1st August to 31st July, so there is a couple of months left to think about this.a

news and views on e-learning, TEL and learning stuff in general…