2014, a year of consolidation in HE?

Following on from the critical reflections concerning the perceived need for a ‘revolution’, or an impending ‘avalanche‘, in HE and the desire of various parties to put technology at the heart of its ongoing pedagogical development, its interesting to read Prof. Nigel Thrift’s (V-C at Warwick, a Russell Group member) speculations about 2014 being a ‘year of consolidation‘.

This speculation for 2014 is the latest in Thrift’s sporadic blogging for The Chronicle’s ‘Worldwise‘ series. Just as he structures journal article sections with enumerated lists of key issues, in his post Thrift anticipates four trends for the year to come:

1. Increased competition for the student experience, with an expectation (from Thrift) that students will ‘shop around’ for the best ‘value for money’ university experience.

2. Universities need to look at income and not just revenue, with, Thrift suggests, the majority of universities in the UK having to look very hard at additional income generation in order to fund continued expansion and those all important capital expenditures on shiny new buildings (hah!)

3. Size will be ever-more important. Universities need particular kinds of critical mass in order to generate both student and research income. Thrift suggests this will lead to mergers and take-overs. Something for academic staff to look forward to then…

4.The university sector will continue to fragment. In a similar categorisation to the ‘avalanche’ report, Thrift identifies a splitting of the sector between research-intensive (i.e. Russell Group) universities, the ‘mid-range’ universities attempting to decide their strategies, and the smaller, colleges that will have to increasingly compete with the private sector to provide (higher) vocational education.

Again, following from some of my previous posts here, the final paragraph also caught my eye:

Notice that I have not mentioned new technology, not once. No doubt, new technology will continue to have effects–and important effects, too. But the end of 2013 saw the MOOC bubble deflating, at least in part: MOOC hype is now being replaced by a more measured and a more careful response which is injecting the pedagogic expertise that has been lacking.

Anyway, given Thrift’s position, and his own politics, the post makes for an interesting read…

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