In these days of anticipated national decline – even fragmentation – it is good to be reminded that there things the Brits are still good at, beyond Royal celebrations, the BBC and national surveillance cameras.
One such is the UK higher education sector which consistently ranks highly in world terms and is a destination of choice for many international students. Yet there is evidence that this sector could without attention, atrophy and fragment, especially in the area of recruitment.
This was brought home to me at this weeks’ BUILA annual conference held at the University of Glamorgan, where Sociagility’s very own Niall Cook (left) was invited to present on the subject of Social Media ROI.
The opening address from guest speaker Dominic Scott of sister organisation UKCISA set the scene and posed the key question : who is in charge of making the UK THE destination of choice for international students? His own answer was : no one.
As he and other speakers observed, what is in place now is deeply fractured: British Council, UKCISA, BUILA, individual institutions and recruitment consortia. And amongst the latter, a wide variety in mission, capability and resources and, even when well set up , liable to collapse. A case in point is, ironically, the industry-respected Wales International Consortium, which has just been cashiered after three years by the principality’s Vice-Chnacellors. Partly, it seems, this is because of the University of Wales accreditation scandal of last year.
And with quality issues raised by other failures in the purely private part of the HE sector, fragmentation has reputational impact. Is there a need for a regulatory framework ?
What all these groups agree on is that the current Govt policy on visas, driven by political considerations , has created a difficult , negative framework for recruitment. They cite lack of clarity, confusing regulations and occasionally inconsistent application by the UK Border Agency, itself in some turmoil.
From an outsider’s perspective, the sector does seem to be in part its own worst enemy, riven by differing academic viewpoints, sectoral politics and hierarchy. All now accentuated by increasing competition.
But surely this is one sector where some application of the massive collective brainpower available, backed by a sensible, consistent, supportive Government policy framework could allow proper coopetition and a winning UK strategy?