We Can be Better Than This. Part 3

I keep returning to this theme, but since I have a role in academic enhancement, and specifically to look at ways of improving the attainment of individual students, with the resultant impact this should have on institutional success, then it’s really key for me.

Firstly, we now moving into the league table season (ignoring the THE World Rankings, as like most chippy northerners in million+  we don’t trouble them too much). The data is all in and is being counted and manipulated by the various compilers. Looking at some of the data through Heidi, then some of the work we did last year seems to be paying dividends. The next step really would be to be able to model all of the parameters used in the various tables, and develop some predictive tools, which will allow us to target specific areas, either academic subjects, or aspects of finance or staffing..

Secondly, we need to reinforce this message of student attainment and institutional success across our institution. I’ve given talks and presentations  on league tables and student attainment to 10 out of our 12 schools, where we look at how the input of academic practice impacts on league table performance,.I always ask where in a league table do we think we should be. The answer has never been lower than 70th. This is a huge strength we can tap into – we have a university plan that clearly states our ambition in this area, and we have huge numbers of staff who believe we can be there! We should not underestimate what a powerful engine for change this can be, if harnessed properly. To help reinforce the message, then this years Staff Fest Learning and Teaching Conference is on 1st July, and is all about student success. This is an area that everyone should be engaged in. A success for me will be if there are too many attendees for us to fit into the lecture theatre – take that as a challenge!

Thirdly, we could look again at some of the messages Gordon Tredgold proposed in his recent leadership workshop on FAST (focus, accountable, simple, transparent). Linking this to work on improving student and institutional success  means cutting through complex action plans, strategies, pilots projects etc and making a simple statement – “we want to be a top 50 university”, and then making sure our actions all relate to that, for instance:

  • focus on student success to improve degrees outcomes and help individual students to attain their goals;
  • recruit the best students possible – this might be a virtuous circle if we move up a league table
  • improve employability of our students mainly by making sure they get good degrees and ensuring our graduate attributes have a real impact
  • make sure we make favourable data returns
  • ensure we investigate and provide remedies for the outliers in the data (as always there are some)
  • develop an aspirational portfolio of undergraduate and postgraduate awards – top universities teach certain subjects
  • use portfolio perform ace measures to decide the shape of the portfolio, not just market information

We’re at an interesting time – the changing rules on student number controls, possible future changes in fee caps, consolidation of our campuses, changes in technology and estate redevelopments mean that now should be the time to have a clear focus and simple target.


After all, as Lou Reed sang, you’re going to reap just what you sow.