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Latest news

Marketing to undergraduate applicant parents

Sep 13, 2019

The student recruitment cycle for 2020 has already started. Universities are holding their Autumn open days and schools and colleges will be encouraging their Year 13s to think about their personal statements and UCAS choices. But what about parents of these future undergraduates? What’s their role in the application journey, and what does this mean for marketing?

Earlier this year we researched the views of parents of university applicants. We wanted to understand their role in the decisions that their children were making and the points in the cycle in which they had the most influence. Our findings are based on a relatively small sample and so we aren’t pretending these insights are equally applicable to every family or every applicant. But our results gave a very clear picture of parents who want to be involved in the process.

Some of the key findings include:

Parents do want influence

Two-thirds of our parents admitted that they had tried to influence their child’s choice of university, but the majority know they failed; almost 60% said they were ‘not at all’ successful in doing so.

Parents are most involved at the start

Our parents believe that their child largely took the lead in searching for universities and courses, submitting their application and responding to offers. But parents were more likely to be involved in researching and booking open days or visits, with 40% saying they were most proactive in this area. This is probably not surprising, as open days are often used at the start of the process when the applicant is less likely to be familiar with the concept of an open day, but they may also be dependent on parents for the practicalities and finances of open day visits.

Parents are the first to think about funding

Around 60% of our parents said they took the lead in finding out about the different funding options for university. The applicants might be focused on researching courses, but the financial practicalities are apparently less of a priority for them. Despite this interest in finance, parents were the least involved when the applicant later applies for accommodation, even though there is an obvious link with finance and budgets.

Parents remain protective - and proud

When asked for their highlight of the application process, almost all our parents mentioned their child getting university offers. To them, this is seen as its own achievement. To be offered a place, whether unconditional or conditional, can feel like the main goal of the process. This is understandable; not only it is an endorsement of the child’s academic abilities, it is also the point at which control switches back to their child. However, parents are more likely to protest at anything which they consider to be ‘unfair’; this could be the exam system, the admissions process, the way their child is treated or the extent to which they believe the personal statement is taken into account.

Parents want information too

Although our parents were grateful for helpful admissions staff and honest presentations at open days, a few would have welcomed more information, tailored for them. These parents are only just beginning their journey of adjusting to being less involved in their children’s lives and, especially if they are contributing financially, still want to be included.

So what have we learnt? At the very least, universities should have communication plans in place for parents of undergraduate applicants. They have a key role to play in encouraging and guiding their child through the process, especially at the start. Secondly, they are generally more confident and critical consumers than their children, so they have high expectations for transparency and authenticity. And finally, they want to feel involved; so time spent in understanding their attitudes and behaviours is likely to bring dividends.

If you’d like an informal discussion about how we could carry out research into your applicants’ parents, or any other stakeholder group, get in touch. Rachel Killian is a Senior Consultant at Halpin, the home of experts in higher education marketing and stuent recruitment.

Developing the Board & Executive connection

Sep 04, 2019

ICSA: The Governance Institute has recently published “A View at the Top” which reviews Boardroom trends in FTSE top 100 companies comparing 1991 and 2017. It reveals some interesting changes (1991 figures are bracketed):

  • Average Board Size is 12 (11)
  • 26% (49%) of directors are executive
  • 28% (4%) of directors are female - 24% are NEDs & only 3% are executive directors
  • Average age 58 (56)
  • 49% (38%) have an accountancy/finance background
  • 25% (33%) were educated at Oxford, Cambridge or Harvard

On the basis of the above statistics there has been progress but there is still quite some way to go before we have truly diverse boards. It would be interesting to review the statistics for Higher Education.

I found the reduction of executive directors interesting – if the Board size is 11 this means there are normally just 2-3 executives – often just the CEO and the CFO. The report’s reflections on this change mirrors some of the discussions that I have had in Higher Education. The reduction in the numbers of executive directors was prompted by the Higgs report (2002), and the ICSA report questions whether this comes at a cost if the Board sees the executive team less frequently. The potential cost could be through the non-executive Board members having less:

  • in-depth knowledge of the operational details of the business,
  • ability to evaluate the executives’ capability to implement the strategy,
  • ability to evaluate the succession potential of other members of the executive team,
  • leadership development opportunities including enabling the other executives to have their ideas tested, to gain experience in the Boardroom and to understand and anticipate the Board’s concerns in the papers they write.

Writing in my last blog on the OfS challenges for HE Governance I noted that “the management team needs to be of the right quality to be trusted to manage the implementation of the University Strategy, Council decisions and the detailed operations of the University. Council needs to let them do so. However, the Executive also needs to be properly accountable for their performance to Council, justifying and maintaining Council’s confidence”.

If Councils are to do this, the management team needs to be visible to the Council:

• Each University has its own way of doing things but often there are very few members of the executive team on the Council as many of the staff posts are filled by election. The HE sector is well ahead of the corporate sector (which is only just starting to consider this) in having employees and students on its Boards. However, there is a case for reconsidering the balance between having members of the executive team on the Council and elected staff so that the number of the executive team on Council is increased.

• Having members of the executive team who are not Council members attend the Council can be very useful in many ways, provided the numbers of attendees does not become excessive and there is a clear understanding that they are not members of Council. They may attend to present papers, take it in turns to attend or a select number may regularly attend.

• Briefing Sessions and Awaydays for Council members can be an easy way to involve the executive team in presenting informative sessions on their areas of responsibility and in allowing informal interaction with Council members

• Encouraging Council members to link informally with members of the executive team, initially at induction, but also when they would like to understand issues in more detail can also be helpful, provided Council members maintain a distance and do not become advocates for specific areas.

• Involving Council members in the appointing of members of the executive team can also be useful. Some institutions hold to the management line that Council appoints the Vice-Chancellor and then it is for the Vice-Chancellor to appoint his or her team. Others have Council appointing some or all of the senior members of the executive team. Like many of these issues the right answer involves achieving a balance between involving the Council and respecting the role of the Vice-Chancellor.

• Having a mechanism for Council to evaluate the performance of the executive team and to discuss team development and succession planning.

Good interaction between Council members themselves and with the Executive will always be key to understanding the University and good decision-making.

Frank Toop is a Consulting Fellow for Halpin – the home of experts in higher education governance.

Lessons in leadership from Greta Thunberg

Aug 16, 2019

So the ‘grown ups’ are getting another lesson in leadership from Greta as she sets sail...

Here are my three top lessons in leadership from Greta:

1. Speak truth to power

Greta has shown us that radical candour is vital, that it’s ok to make your audience uncomfortable - in fact sometimes its kind to do so. She has travelled to our seats of power and has looked ‘leaders’ in the eye and told them that our house is on fire.

Greta wants us to change because she cares passionately about our future. Because she cares she tells us the truth. She lets us feel uncomfortable, in fact she wants us to be uncomfortable because the truth about the climate emergency we face is more than uncomfortable – it’s terrifying. She holds up a mirror and pushes us to look. She isn’t being ‘nice’ but she is ultimately being kind - she wants to save us.

We are all seeking feedback from others as we work. Even the most successful people I’ve worked with have sometimes asked, ‘Was that ok?’. We rarely get honest, kind feedback; we usually read between the lines and listen to our own inner critic. I was talking to someone who gives training, and they said that in every session the participants avoid giving critical feedback to fellow participants, because they are uncomfortable. But without that critique how are we to improve?

Great leaders will give us honest feedback (sometimes uncomfortably so) because they want us to succeed; they are championing us and our careers. They don’t avoid a ‘difficult’ conversation because of their own sake (to avoid discomfort) - they have the conversation for our sake (to help us grow). I am grateful to the boss who told me to “have an opinion”, to the boss who invested in voice coaching for me (“your voice lacks gravitas”), and to the boss who said, “It’s not enough to be good at what you do, you need to be known for being good at what you do.” All these feedback moments felt hard, but they helped me more than those bosses know. If they hadn’t have been honest then I would not have learnt.

2. Know your stuff and keep it simple

Greta relentlessly focuses on the facts, the evidence. She knows her stuff and has clear messages that she repeats.... and repeats... And she checks we are listening - ‘Is my mic on? Can you hear me?’.

She pushes us to focus on the facts. She is clear. She makes complex information simple for us to digest.

The best leaders are able to tell a simple story of ‘what good looks like’. They evidence their view with robust data, yet they handle that data with flair and imagination. The combination of data, evidence and story is powerful - it creates a clear vision of where we need to get to. The keys to success lie in keeping it simple and having the determination, and patience to repeat it often.

The best leaders have clear, powerful messages and they repeat them.

The best leaders have clear, powerful messages and they repeat them.

3. Walk the talk

Greta is absolutely living her values and challenging our views of what it’s ok to do. She shames the leaders who fly in jets to Davos as she climbs into a yacht to sail the Atlantic. More beautifully, she says, “I am not telling people what to do” as she heads off. No, she isn’t telling us. She is showing us. She is challenging us to change. She has the grit, determination and patience to spend two weeks sailing the Atlantic to make her point. She doesn’t ‘cop out’ and hop on a plane and then offset the emissions. She lives her message. Uncompromisingly. And interestingly this behaviour is so ‘provocative’ that grown adults with power feel the need to joke about and bully her via Twitter.

How many leaders really lead by example? How many go above and beyond to model the behaviours and values they espouse? People won’t believe or trust in someone who says one thing and then behaves in another way.

And if they don’t trust you how can you lead? How can you create psychological safety if you aren’t trustworthy?

If you can’t create psychological safety, people won’t feel safe to stretch themselves and take risks. They won’t get the best from you. Time and time again we hear that people don’t leave bad organisations, they leave bad managers. They don’t want to work with people they can’t believe in, people who don’t or won’t walk the talk.

One of the gifts of getting older is learning from younger people. It’s a joy to see young people like Greta challenging the ‘grown ups’ to do better. There is much we can learn. Most of it we may already think we know - but knowledge is nothing without action.

What have you learned from Greta?

Susie Hills is Joint CEO of Halpin, the home of experts in higher education leadership.

Why are we still uncomfortable with university marketing?

Aug 13, 2019

In the last 2 weeks, I’ve taken screenshots of around 40 university adverts for Clearing that have appeared in my Facebook feed. I’m a parent of an 18-year old, so expect to be targeted with digital adverts. Most of us will also have been exposed to radio, outdoor or even print ads in the last few weeks, alongside the hundreds of thousands of pounds that will be spent on Google to reach those who are actively searching for Clearing places.

There is still a sense though, that the higher education sector isn’t entirely comfortable with this type of marketing. It seems to me that there are three possible reasons:

  1. Because marketing is still quite ‘new’ within a university structure and doesn’t have the support of all professional and academic colleagues. According to Marketing Week's Career & Salary Survey 2017, those marketing professionals working in education are the least positive about their colleagues’ views of marketing, with 14% suggesting marketing is not understood at all. So no matter the strength of the external marketing function, there is still a job to be done in selling the ‘how and why’ of marketing to its internal customers.

  2. Because it feels like blatant self-promotion, a bit too sales-focused, pushy and crude. The Guardian’s recent article following their FOI request on marketing spend and the size of marketing teams epitomised this perfectly; we frown upon investment in something that seems to be only acting in self-interest. But our applicants are making big investments and they need to be able to identify and choose a university that is right for them. By being distinctive and authentic about what they are, what they do and how they do it, they can help applicants to make a better choice.

  3. Because, quite frankly, the standard of marketing isn’t always as good as it might be. Some of the Clearing adverts that have been shown to me are evidence of that; they show very little understanding of who I am (I’m the parent, not the applicant), what subjects might be relevant to me (e.g. automotive engineering, when I’ve most definitely not shown an interest in that anywhere online – I guarantee), and headlines that are dull, badly written and say nothing. Unfortunately, our higher education marketeers are badly paid compared to other sectors (Marketing Week’s Career & Salary Survey 2019), we do almost little to attract the best creative and digital talent into the sector and marketing budgets are often insufficient (see point 1).

So instead of criticising the wave of Clearing adverts chasing after me and other parents this week, let’s agree that if our universities are to thrive, reach new markets, compete effectively and support applicants to make one of the most important investment decisions of their life, then we need to embrace marketing and brand as being a key part in what our universities do. At the same time, let’s recognise marketing as the profession that it is within our universities, give internal marketing the importance it deserves, make strong cases to attract the best marketing and digital talent into the sector and resource it properly so that other sectors might just - one day - look to higher education to learn about marketing best practice.

Rachel Killian is a Senior Consultant for Halpin, the home of experts in higher education marketing and student recruitment

2019. The year Clearing became Cool.

Aug 13, 2019

It doesn’t seem that long ago that going into Clearing was an admission of failure. Failure for the student, because they’d missed their grades. Failure for the university because it was an implicit confession of weakness.

How things have changed.

The price of growth is a change in the balance of power. Universities which had exploited the lifting of the cap, have grown enormously, and who had never previously been in Clearing found themselves forced to dip their toes in the water. Excusing themselves by claiming that ‘only a few places were available on only a handful of courses to highly qualified applicants.’

Not anymore. The Times reported at the weekend that there were 4,614 Russell Group courses available from all their members apart from the Golden Triangle plus St Andrews. With these hyper-premium exceptions, every university in the Kingdom from Anglia Ruskin to York is touting for late business. UCAS is predicting that the numbers in Clearing 2019 will rise to around 80,000, up 13,000 on last year.

The stigma that used to surround Clearing, for students as well as universities, has all but evaporated. Students have realised that supply now exceeds demand, the balance of power has changed, and that they are more in control. Months after compiling their original short lists, and then being forced to decide between firm & insure earlier this year, they’ve had more time to think, more time to review, and more time to change their minds.

Now UCAS has made their lives even easier.

The introduction of their new online self-release system allows students to discard their original choice and enter clearing. Until now, students had to ask permission to be released from their firm choice university. Now they can do it online - no permission needed.

Several thousand have already used this facility - including several hundred who had been made unconditional offers. Sites like the Student Room will undoubtedly publicise this change well over the next cycle, meaning that more and more students and universities will be able to negotiate together over actual grades rather then predicted.

Which has to be another step towards nirvana. The end of predictive grades.

David Miller is a Consulting Fellow for Halpin - the home of experts in higher education marketing and recruitment

Charterhouse Campaign Feasibility - a case study

Aug 02, 2019

Stream: Fundraising

Service: Campaign Feasibility Study

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Our work with this Independent day and boarding School, and their well-established (and successful) Foundation Office, focused on preparations for their first major campaign. Over the course of 12 weeks our primary objective was to assess, advise and test preparations for what would be their largest ever campaign target.

The structure of a feasibility also provided a means in which the Foundation Office could seek and secure meetings with their hard-to-reach and lapsed alumni and supporters. Another key objective of our work together was to provide the Development Director and senior staff with the foundations of a strategic plan that would enable them to improve levels of engagement with alumni and parents, and ultimately to design an inclusive campaign that appeals to multiple stakeholder groups. No small feat!

Outcomes

  • Reaching new and lapsed prospects
  • Testing the campaign target
  • Securing an investment of time by the Head in donor cultivation
  • Developing a strategy to improve alumni and parent engagement
  • Proving a foundation to create an informed campaign plan

Charterhouse had this to say about working with Halpin...

"The whole process was incredibly worthwhile. The feasibility study and subsequent report has provided us with a focused framework to work from, offering an additional strategic insight to our existing work. It both validated much of our existing thinking, as well as providing incisive additional commentary into the fundraising opportunities that lie ahead.

The School’s senior leadership have bought into the outcomes, which are being built into our core strategic and operational fundraising planning.

An obvious marker of the study’s success is that I really do refer to the report an awful lot! It doesn’t just sit in a cupboard collecting dust…”

- Chris Hibbs, Director of Development

The OfS challenges for University Governance

Jul 23, 2019

A blog has just been published from the Director of Competition & Registration at OfS on “Getting to grips on grade inflation”. The key statistic in this debate, is that the proportion of first-class honours degrees awarded has increased from 16% to 29% between 2010-11 and 2017-18.

In regard to the latest increase, the Director says OfS wants “to understand, for example, whether a provider has made recent changes to the way it calculates degree calculations, or whether it can point to other evidence – such as investment in staffing, teaching, services or facilities – that would credibly account for the “unexplained” increases.

The blog then interestingly goes on, “We are also interested in the steps that governing bodies have taken to ensure that academic governance arrangements are adequate and effective”.

This follows the OfS publishing in June 2019, “Effective practice advice for governing bodies”, in respect of Access & Participation noting that, “under the Higher Education & Research Act 2017, governing bodies are responsible for overseeing the development of a provider’s access and participation plan and monitoring its performance.” This states, “It is .. essential that governing bodies are familiar with the OfS approach and guidance on access and participation and that they ensure that the provider’s plan meets expectations set out in that guidance”.

The OfS has been very active on Access & Participation and it is understandable that they would wish governing bodies to exercise direction, pressure and commitment to achieve OfS aims. However, this is not the only government strategic priority. Supplementary guidance to the OfS this year from the Secretary of State on quality included eliminating grade inflation, essay mills and unconditional offers - especially conditional unconditional offers. The Strategic Priorities for the OfS for 2019/20 already included: senior pay, freedom of expression, health & wellbeing, student protection plans, consumer rights and financial sustainability.

The challenge for HE Governing Bodies of this approach is at least twofold:

  • How to stay focused on the Institutional strategy, values, culture and general oversight while giving appropriate weight to Government priorities?
  • How governing bodies adapt to the role they are now expected to fulfil in respect of academic quality issues?

The potential risks in the OfS approach are that Councils could become more managerial and that more paperwork flows to Councils which ticks the compliance boxes but does not necessarily help the debate or address the OfS needs. In these circumstances, Councils could become diverted from exercising their overall role and focus.

Actions to address the challenge from the OfS that might be considered include:

Rethinking the paper overload at Council meetings.

This is not easy as it involves a major cultural change – we like paper as incoming lay members often note. Council members need to know enough to fulfil their role but not everything. It takes effort to write papers with an eye on the Council members reading them, but the papers could be shorter, focused on the key issues/risks/decisions but supplemented by awareness briefing sessions. Perhaps a paper addressing the University’s response to key government priorities would be valuable rather than covering each separately in detail.

Getting the balance right between management and governance.

The management team needs to be of the right quality to be trusted to manage the implementation of the University Strategy, Council decisions and the detailed operations of the University. Council needs to let them do so. However, the Executive also needs to be properly accountable for their performance to Council justifying and maintaining Council’s confidence.

Considering whether there are enough external members with academic quality experience on the Council.

Making sure there is good induction, focused briefing documentation and regular briefings/discussions for all Council members on academic quality and other issues. It is helpful that there are internal members with this experience, but external challenge is helpful. Too often Council members do not feel competent or simply feel they should stay outside these issues.

Is it time to consider the role of Senate or Academic Board?

It manages the key reputational asset of the University – the ability to award degrees? How well is it performing that function and what is Council’s evidence for that opinion? Senates are a historic construct - marginally reformed - but sit oddly in governance terms as they do not usually have external members providing insight and challenge and are usually chaired by the management - Vice-Chancellor or his/her Deputy. As such, they are often more akin to managerial committees, but it could be argued that they may neither be serving the needs of the Vice-Chancellor or giving Council the assurance it needs.

Ensuring that there is good professional support for governance and Council members.

Maintaining the continuing engagement and focus of good quality Council members requires this support. It is an investment that can be repaid, as a well-performing Council can add considerable value to a University. Is it time for more Universities to consider a governance team led by a senior professional solely tasked with this role reporting directly to the Chair of Council?

The need to respond to Government priorities and the OfS is real but the risks in so doing need to be considered and mitigated.

Frank Toop is a Consulting Fellow for Halpin – the home of experts in governance.

Can student recruitment and kindness fit together?

Jul 19, 2019

We've been talking a lot about kindness at Halpin recently. Susie has written about kindness in fundraising and Shaun's latest blog reflects on whether it is better to be kind, or right. So I've been reflecting on the role that kindness plays in student marketing and the extent to which it can still be genuine, even if the main purpose is to recruit students.

To start with, there's no doubt in my mind that university applicants need kindness. Year 13s are coping with school and exam pressure, and it's more than likely they also have a variety of relationship, financial and social pressures all showing themselves at some point too. More mature applicants will be facing all of the same pressures, but quite often with additional commitments to juggle. And everyone is facing some big decisions for which they may not feel prepared.

This means that applicants will be grateful for anything that universities can do to smooth the application process, help them to make better decisions or ease the pressure they feel. This could be reminders on deadlines, helpful hints to find funding, or exam revision tips. Equally it could be personalised responses to enquiries or a warm welcome by a student ambassador at an open day. Little things can make a big difference to applicants who can find the whole application process confusing and overwhelming.

Let’s be honest though; most of these things are ultimately done to increase student recruitment. To get noticed, to get chosen, to hit targets. Inevitably, there is a danger that being kind can tip into being a marketing gimmick if done badly.

So to make sure that being kind is done for kindness’ sake, there are three principles worth remembering:

  • Build your kindness on genuine insight and understanding. Take the time to understand your applicants before identifying what you can offer that can make life easier or better for them. Your kindness will misfire if it’s based on assumptions.
  • Have no expectation of getting something in return. If a kind act such as introducing an applicant to a current student means that the applicant decides your university isn’t right for them, then be prepared to accept that this is a good outcome for all concerned.
  • Be authentic. It’s reasonable to admit that you are being kind because your university will ultimately benefit. Applicants will see through any denial anyway and your relationship will be built on mistrust as a result.

If you have any examples of how kindness is being used in your university’s student recruitment, we’d love to hear it about it. Tweet us at @Halpin_HE and use the hashtag #teamkind.

Rachel Killian is a Senior Consultant at Halpin – the home of experts in fundraising, marketing, strategy and governance.

Taking kindness to a national level

Jul 16, 2019

I was invited to speak this month at the British Universities’ International Liaison Association (BUILA) conference in Belfast. The topic was ‘The Future of Internationalisation: re-anchoring the UK to its new place in the world’.

I shared some research undertaken by Simon Anholt (due to be keynote speaker at the European Association for International Education conference in September 2019), who works with Heads of Government and Heads of State and has helped over fifty countries to engage more productively and imaginatively with the international community.

He developed a vast worldwide database of ordinary individuals and asked them which other countries they rate highly and why. The answer was that the kinds of country we admire, the ones with the best global reputations, are ‘good’ countries, those that contribute something to the world in which we live, making it safer or better or richer or fairer. Anholt defines ‘good’ in this context as ‘the opposite of selfish’.

But does being ‘good’ make business sense?

According to Anholt’s research, the answer is yes. The argument goes something like this:

  • Governments care hugely about their country’s reputation on the world stage.
  • Research shows that ‘good/unselfish’ behaviour on the part of a country makes people respect that country and want to do business with it.
  • So it’s possible to make a case to government that the more you act unselfishly, the more you reach out, collaborate with others and contribute to the global community, the more competitive (in the sense of economically successful) you become.

This thinking led to the creation by Anholt of an annual ‘Good Country Index’ which ranks countries for their contribution to the rest of the world according to seven dimensions including World Order, Planet and Climate, Prosperity and Equality, Health and Wellbeing.

The UK performs quite well but its position appears to be slipping.

Individual behaviour as a starting point

It struck me that this national behaviour has links to individual behaviour.

As we consider what we want people in other countries to say about the UK, it may help to think about a room full of people.

Do we want to be seen as the arrogant know-it-all who may be pretty good at some stuff but wants to be the centre of attention and have everyone gravitate towards them? Or do we want to be seen as the helpful, generous, open-minded friend who is willing to listen and learn and reach out to help resolve problems? Do we want to be inward-facing and self-centred or outward-looking and interested in others?

Re-reading Shaun Horan’s post on this site Better to be kind than to be right?, some of the characteristics of kindness that he highlights are highly relevant. The concepts that resonate most are that ‘you can’t bring people with you if you are only focused on yourself’, you have to give up the need to ‘win’, and ‘if we could all get out of our own way, listen a bit more and speak a bit less, we could live in a better and richer place’.

From individual to institution

In a recent LinkedIn post, inspired by the work of Carnegie UK on ‘quantifying kindness, public engagement and place’, Susie Hills asked: ‘What would a kind university look like? How would its staff and students behave?’.

Well, I framed it in different terms in my conference presentation, but here are some examples of ‘good global citizenship’ which also have a seam of kindness (in the sense of considering others’ needs) running through them.

The University of Manchester is tackling the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (on multiple levels, locally and internationally) as part of its core institutional priority of social responsibility.

The Malawi-Liverpool Wellcome Trust’s joint PhD programme (stemming from a long-standing partnership between University of Malawi’s College of Medicine, the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, the University of Liverpool and the Wellcome Trust) helps to address health challenges relevant to Sub-Saharan Africa. It’s an example of a type of Transnational Education (TNE) that builds capacity in the host country and extends opportunities to those who are not in a position to pursue an extended period of study in the UK, using TNE as a tool for widening global access.

De Montfort University’s Square Mile India volunteering programme helps transform the lives of some of the poorest communities in Gujarat. At the same time, it provides a transformative experience for UK students, tapping into the growing desire among young people in the UK to make a social contribution.

In 2017 the University of Central Lancashire hosted medical students from the American University of the Caribbean when their facilities were destroyed by Hurricane Irma. The relationship between the two institutions has gone from strength to strength and their latest collaboration is a joint medical programme to help bring more doctors to countries and communities in need.

At Aston University, a project run by a Syrian academic has helped nearly fifty refugees from his home country to become entrepreneurs.

Meanwhile, undergraduate languages students from universities in Sheffield and Cardiff have mentored pre-GCSE pupils. Among participating schools in Sheffield, this has helped boost GCSE languages entries by 43% (following years of decline). In so doing, it’s helping to open the eyes of students from poorer backgrounds to the opportunities arising from intercultural engagement.

From institution back to nation

It is not difficult to find examples of UK HEIs using their international expertise to support and engage with local and global communities (sometimes both at the same time). Some individual institutions are starting to give these activities prominence in order to convey messages about their institutional ethos and priorities.

However, these great stories are not currently being developed into a wider sector narrative. If, as a sector, we all got behind a national campaign to highlight our institutions’ global social responsibility, could we collectively help to re-position UK HE – and by extension the UK – as an actor which strives to address global issues and prepare the next generation of leaders to contribute positively to the wider world?

The #WeAreInternational campaign did a phenomenal job in reassuring prospective international students at a time when other national rhetoric made them feel unwelcome. Could we adopt a similar approach to help dispel any perception among overseas partners and stakeholders that the UK is retreating into self-centred insularity?

How about striving to become a sector characterised by kindness: one that is described by those in other countries not just as a world-class system, but as a world-class collaborator and friend?

Dr Vicky Lewis is a Consulting Fellow for Halpin. You can find a blog adapted from her BUILA presentation on her website.

Will Spinks joins Halpin’s Consulting Fellows

Jul 11, 2019

Halpin is pleased to announce the addition of Will Spinks to its team of Consulting Fellows.

A senior-level leader in higher education, Will joined the University of Manchester as Registrar, Secretary and Chief Operating Officer in June 2011. After retiring from his full-time post in September 2017, he was appointed as an Associate Vice President acting as an advisor to the Senior Leadership Team.

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Will Spinks

Prior to joining Manchester, Will was the first Chief Operating Officer of Loughborough University. Here he was responsible for all the service functions and the commercial activities of the University. In addition, he chaired and served on the Board of wholly owned subsidiary companies and the Manufacturing Technology Centre.

Will said, "I am delighted to be joining the team of highly experienced Consulting Fellows at Halpin and look forward to working with colleagues in the sector to help them meet the challenges they face."

Joint CEO Susie Hills commented, “Attracting someone of Will’s calibre is exciting news for Halpin. Will’s addition to our team of Fellows will bring great benefit to our clients, and we are looking forward to working with him.”

Read Will’s full biography here.