Friday, August 29, 2014

Day 51 - Reading tea leaves

I spent this evening reading the strategy paper of the Scottish Funding Council, the Scottish Parliament's letters of guidance to the Scottish Funding Council, the policy papers of Universities Scotland, and reading some of the minutes of the (Scottish Parliament) cross-party committee on universities and colleges in an attempt to work out how our University strategy may change, and therefore how that might filter down to us mere mortals.

I'm not sure I'm any the wiser now than I was before I started to read this stuff. Trying to determine how the shape of our future provision may change on the basis of decisions as high up as I'm looking is rather like trying to see the future by reading tea leaves. There is an element of risk that is taken when interpreting or implementing a strategy. The decisions you make may be sound, or factors way beyond your control may sink your ship.

An example of that recently is the number of new students that we are taking on this year. We made the usual number of offers (finally, once the University let us) but we have converted a surprisingly low number to acceptances, which is resulting in around 75% of our usual intake. Sometimes things just happen, but my guess is that the lifting of the cap on student numbers (which doesn't seem to have filtered down to us) has meant that our near competitors, the ancient Russell Group universities, have mopped up a lot of our potential students, particularly with the launch of a new undergraduate programme. We couldn't predict this would happen, but we have been left with a significantly smaller year group than we were expecting, which gives us cause for concern for the future.

Another day I will rant on about the bizarre and contradictory relationship the media and the government seem to have towards the Russell Group universities, but I have a departmental away day at the zoo tomorrow so should get some sleep.

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