Survey of Vice Chancellors

Today, PA Consulting published their 6th annual survey of vice chancellors of UK universities in “Here be dragons, how universities are navigating the uncharted waters of higher education”.

We had a sneak peek of some of the content last week, both in an article in THE and also at our leadership conference, where Mike Boxall, who authored the report, was the keynote speaker.

It’s fascinating to see how the leaders of our universities perceive their environment, and also to get an understanding of how the sector as a whole sees itself.

As in previous years, VCs are confident about the strengths f their own institutions but not in the resilience of the overall system with 89% having confidence in their own institution, but only 4% being very confident in the system.

The big change noted this year by PA is in attitudes towards government – policies were criticised which on the one hand forces universities to compete in an open market while at the same time being contradicted by measures that constrained the market. Key examples cited are initial teaching training and visas for international students.

PA provides a commentary on their findings with the following key points:

  • VCs see other institutions as being vulnerable to shifting student demand, declining student markets, falling research funding and strategic inertia. It just doesn’t apply to their own insitution.
  • Many identified that future winners will be those who are proactive and innovative, while at the same time stating that on campus teaching offered the greatest opportunities for growth
  • VCs identified that their risk management systems were robust even though they had not yet been tested in anger
  • PA identified that the conservatism inherent in the university system may explain the sector’s anger towards government which has removed the previous paradigm of benign and stable certainties.

Certainly worth a read, and for those interested in strategic thinking for universities, it’s a document that should be considered in the light of other work by Mike Boxall and colleagues, as covered here.