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Evaluating the impact of student number controls, choice and competition on the changing HE landscape Dr Colin McCaig and Dr Carol Taylor Sheffield Hallam.

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Presentation on theme: "Evaluating the impact of student number controls, choice and competition on the changing HE landscape Dr Colin McCaig and Dr Carol Taylor Sheffield Hallam."— Presentation transcript:

1 Evaluating the impact of student number controls, choice and competition on the changing HE landscape Dr Colin McCaig and Dr Carol Taylor Sheffield Hallam University

2 Paper Quantitative and qualitative data from Evaluating the impact of number controls, choice and competition: An analysis of the student profile and the student learning environment in the new higher education landscape Funded by HEA grant from open call

3 Student Number Controls: making a market Core and margin allocations 1.institutions could recruit as many high achieving students as they wished (85,000 taken from the core) 2.Institutions charging less than £7,500 could bid for 20,000 places taken from the core the bigger your margin (ABB+) the less you rely on the core if you rely on the core, you get squeezed from above and below... so lower your prices!

4 Mixed Methods Research Design CBHE data: survey responses, 2 interviews and additional focus group with 3 participants (April 2013) Stage 1National survey of senior managers (PVC level) in English HEIs and FE Colleges Spring 2013 (21% response rate) Stage 2Face-to-face interviews with strategic level managers (PVC, Dean or Vice Principal level) - Autumn 2013 13 individuals representing 10 institutions 3 Pre92s 3 Post92s 2 Specialist Institutions, 2 FECs (CBHE)

5 Findings: survey

6 Student numbers 38.5% anticipated a slight decrease in undergraduate numbers in coming years 23.1% no change 25.6% slight increase Pre-1992 institutions more confident of at least maintaining current profile

7 Differentiation 61.8% indicated that their institution was planning to further differentiate itself from other institutions –83% of post-92s planning to mission groups and league tables the most common vehicles for this

8 Marketing strategies 87.9% expected to use more social media and online (post-92s most likely to) 78.8% would make more use of partnerships with schools (post-92s most likely to) Strategies being used less than before: –direct marketing; TV and Radio, Newspapers and flyers

9 Planned course closures There are no planned UG course closures in STEM subjects or for subjects allied to medicine. Arts subjects are the largest target for closure followed by Humanities and then Social Sciences In total 31.8% of institutions responding to this question are anticipating consolidating their course closures in non-science subjects

10 Course rationalisation One HEI said they had had a ‘major reduction in low recruiting courses’ and another said ‘considerable rationalisation of courses across all subject areas’ took place in 2011/ 12 in anticipation of changes. Combined Honours and Joint Honours degrees were particularly vulnerable One HEI with a large Combined Honours programme were ‘slimming down’ their portfolio from 141 courses to less than 50 courses.

11 Course rationalisation: sub-degree Seven respondents indicated that sub- degree provision, such as Foundation degrees, HNDs, HNCs and part-time provision, is likely to be discontinued in all subject areas Main reasons given was that this provision has moved to their partner FE colleges.

12 Employability effect? Large proportion of institutions planning to increase WBL (58.3%) and Sandwich Courses (40%) Suggests institutions see enhancing employability opportunities as a significant factor in attracting students in a more stratified market. 40% indicated a move to increasing online learning which, at least for some HEIs, seemed to be linked to the ‘mature employer-paid part-time market’.

13 Niche provision? 71% said they would be offering more bespoke degrees with shared modules. –most likely to take place in Social Sciences (55%) –All other subject areas in the range of 35 - 40%. Suggests that Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities subjects may diminish in number as single honours degrees and Combined Honours degrees..... but that elements of them will continue in the form of ‘core’ or ‘elective’ modules contributing to a range of other named degrees.

14 Institutional responses to SNC (core and margin) Pre-1992s: centralised admissions systems, removing departments' ability to make contextual offers: Why? maintain and / or protect subject breadth (within core SNC) harder to justify broader provision in subjects where few applicants have ABB+ profiles (i.e. arts, humanities, social sciences, languages) Why? maintain / protect widening participation and other mission goals (within core SNC) pressure to expand their ABB+ margin has constrained their ability to widen participation within core

15 Institutional responses to SNC (core and margin) Post-1992s: more affected by overall allocated numbers: –closure and rationalisation of some courses –increased emphasis on recruitment and retention, league table positioning, and NSS scores –withdrawing modules that have been shown not to recruit strongly –freeing up resources for more lucrative activities (i.e. other provision, or for research)

16 Institutional responses to SNC (core and margin) Post-1992s: numbers still relatively buoyant little evidence of high grades applicants ‘trading up' to higher status institutions -- but--- all pervasive fear - felt compelled to raise their entry requirements reduce their part-time and sub-degree provision close poorly recruiting programmes

17 Institutional responses to SNC (core and margin) CBHE sector: instability - but - welcomed opportunity for growth more competition and less collaboration in college-HE institution relationships Specialist Institutions: limited room for manoeuvre within core SNC because of small overall numbers

18 Institutional responses to SNC (core and margin) CBHE - least autonomy as a sector but flexibility and agility to meet new market conditions welcomed direct HEFCE numbers and prestige that comes from HE provision however vulnerable to threat from New Alternative Providers (especially post- 2015/16)

19 Institutional responses to SNC (core and margin) Generic responses: employability increasingly seen as important across the sector emphasis on Key Information Sets (KIS) including employability outcomes as reported in the Destination of Leavers from HE (DLHE) survey has been the key driver DLHE outcomes seen as a reductive metric in league tables negatively affects the breadth of provision and the public perception of the value of higher education

20 Institutional responses to SNC (core and margin) Generic responses: retention and success important for post-1992s in response to OFFA guidelines league tables student satisfaction income

21 Marketing practices all institutions types increasing use of marketing and recruitment practices differentiation is seen as a strategic goal in itself focus on maximising high grade students (margin) more scrutiny of competitors profiles (NSS, DLHE, league tables) broadening outreach to areas of higher participation (London and SE)

22 The changing student profile of institutions All institutional types experienced greater volatility in admissions and enrolments half of all respondents reporting higher UCAS points for entry declining numbers of part-time students (since fee increase) BTEC-qualified students are increasingly clustering in post-1992 institutions (implications for transition support) no immediate impact on diversity of student body (e.g. BME, gender)

23 Learning and Teaching Most institutions undergoing portfolio review in response to choice and competition STEM, Medicine, Dentistry and Sciences least likely to be affected Combined Honours and Joint Honours degrees were particularly vulnerable to closure CBHE sector least likely to innovate

24 Learning and Teaching enhancing face-to-face learning was seen as a key priority evidence of innovative approaches to teaching and learning centrality of teaching and learning to quality of the student experience increased use of technology to: free up more time for meaningful contact between staff and students; enhance student engagement to achieve better course identity and belonging; and promote genuinely dialogic modes of teaching and learning

25 Responding to the student experience general scepticism about KIS and NSS but were key drivers of change increased investment in, and enhancement of, Student Services better and broader range of support to students institutions’ own qualitative evidence about the student experience seen as more significant than KIS data. All institutions voiced a commitment to enhancing personal tutoring and pastoral support for students as an important aspect of the student experience

26 Utilisation of space continuing shifting of resources to subjects that were expanding increasing the flexibility of spaces to enable different forms of use moving away from fixed furniture in rooms with rows of computers to moveable desks and chairs on castors with laptops and mobile devices promote more interactive delivery modes and to develop 'group working, social working, social learning, breakout groups'.

27 Interview data: key themes: strategic uses of SNC changing the institutional focus aspects of marketisation

28 SNC for pre-1992s......the flexibility through to AAB, you know, three years ago we just had a number and if we hit that number at the beginning of when the A- Levels came out and we had to stop, absolutely had to stop, we couldn’t take anyone, no matter how good they were, not ever. So I think there are benefits in what’s been introduced in terms of flexibility and it’s certainly paid off in terms of people getting into their first choice institution (Pre-1992 1)

29 Pre-1992s using SNC to preserve non-ABB subjects...small number of subject areas whether there simply is not an ABB market and the kinds of decisions that we will see in institutions about the future of those subject areas....a fairly small number of specialist subject areas... for instance archaeology, music, so it’s anything that is specialist.. [and] social work, education; not traditionally ABB and above, and often taking account of mature learners.. (Pre-1992 1)

30 Pre-1992 WP strategies.... our key target is to generate more applications from the higher achieving students……….. So with the student number control we’ve not had as much flexibility … and I think the first year of SNC probably squeezed some of those [WP] students out.... rather than allocating numbers out to departments, which is what we’ve done the previous year, they were kept more centrally to take account of WP groups, non-standard qualifications and mature students (Pre-1992 1)

31 Pre-1992 WP strategies....for 2012 entry we actually changed this [centralised allocation] policy and that was directly related to student number control, prior to 2012 entry academic schools could choose for themselves whether they wanted to make a lower offer or not. Then with student number control coming in it seemed sensible to try and, well, align the WP policy a bit more with student number control which meant in effect that academic schools shouldn’t waste lower offers if they didn’t need to..... (Pre-1992 2)

32 Pre-1992 using SNC to preserve vulnerable subjects At [this University] we don't have a central admissions programme, it's devolved. So what we basically do is, we say to them 'These are your SNCs, you manage them.' Now in terms of allocating the SNCs we obviously take account of the nature of the programmes they've got, so the SNCs are actually handled locally within the school and we just look at the macro level.... [I]t was so important that the faculties and the schools have said 'Okay, this is an area that's vulnerable, we want to retain it, we want to maintain numbers there so we clearly have to, in a sense, if we don't think we can get enough ABBs we need to use the SNC strategically. So that's how it's been done (pre-1992 3).

33 Post-1992 concerns The commitment to Widening Participation in many universities who are worried about their SNCs [is] almost disappearing because of the risks that go with students arriving, not being retained, that affecting effectively your income streams.. (Post-92 2).. I think we are starting a conversation around whether or not we would want to be offering some unconditional places to people that we feel are really highly likely to come to us and that takes the worry away for them. (Post-1992 3)

34 CBHE- changing relationships with HEIs The student number controls, it was all right battling with universities, you knew what you up against. You'd sit down in a room, you'd have a chat, you'd have an argument and you'd end up with some kind of an agreement. Now you've got this SNC thing and all of the message that came out of the number control thing which was 'Universities are going to be giving numbers to colleges which they are never ever going to get back'... this is HEFCE saying 'You haven't got these numbers anymore they are going permanently to the colleges' and I think hardened attitudes. (CBHE 1)

35 New Entrant Providers- the future? My boss how who's the VP got very upset about new entrants and I was just thinking 'Oh it doesn't matter' but I've had two phone calls from people who've got 50 HEFCE numbers, so that's two, that's 100….....they come to us...asking for advice about setting fees and charging and marketing and etc.... and one of them is starting it in Public Services, that I was sat waiting to do. So it is outrageous that they're giving them those numbers........ they've got validation agreement with Edexcel in place already.... that's probably why they've bid for them in the first place (CBHE 2)

36 Changing the institutional focus

37 Post-1992 - pressure to move 'up- market'...there is a tension within the institution, there is this trade-off about quality, quality, quality, don’t worry about the numbers, versus quality, plus worry about the numbers, if I can put it that way. WP, I think there is a pressure point there because I know that the governors are very keen on the widening participation, widening access, local community role agenda, versus the fact that of course if you look at our numbers at the moment, we exceed all of our benchmarks on widening access... So losing some of those numbers would not probably make a very big significant impact on that agenda per se, well in terms of those benchmarks anyway. (Post-1992 1)

38 Post-1992 - pressure to move 'up- market'.... it’s interesting I think as to whether trying to chase into the middle ground, which is what the university strategy is, is the most sensible strategy, or whether you get squeezed out of the squeezed middle. I think only time will tell, but if I was to look around other Post-92 universities in [this region], it seems to me to be that everyone is following the same strategy and I’m not clear that that is, although no one could disagree with the strategy in the sense that it’s not something you wouldn’t say, go for excellence, go for quality, on the other hand if 90% of your other institutions are doing that…. (Post-1992 1)

39 Post-1992 - pressure to move 'up- market'... retention’s a big issue, it’s not only the idea that [dropping out] is a terrible thing for a student in terms of life changing events, but the financial imperative is manifest. So that’s a grand challenge and the business model is absolutely simplified: recruit, retain, recruit, retain. Particularly if you are not going to be a big attracter of AAB/ABB (Post-1992 2)

40 Post-1992 - pressure to move 'up- market' So it's ranging from satisfaction through to completions through to looking at all your marks across all your modules and where modules are not performing as well they are. We go into quite a lot of analysis and get reports from the module leaders. Sometimes it's a one-off, sometimes it's a recurring problem. We've got rid of courses that are not performing, we've got rid of modules that, we refer to them as the grim reaper modules that were tripping up far too many students and damaging their chances of really getting a good degree. So we've done a lot to, I mean when I took this job up several years back we had probably, I'm not exaggerating if I said we had probably about 500 undergraduate courses, there were different combinations, we now have about 120.... [driver was to] make more time for research. A presence for research is what makes a university a university.... I have no doubt that it improves the quality of teaching, I think where you've got research active staff involved in teaching then I think there is a link with improved satisfaction (Post-1992 3)

41 Employability I don’t think it’s down to the number controls, I think that as a university we’ve been trying to ramp up what we do from an employability perspective over a number of years and that’ll continue because you know if you pay £9,000 a year, you need to be able to demonstrate what you’re going to get from it, not just from a student experience, but an employability perspective. (Pre-1992 1).... some courses are much more in a recruiting mode than they used to be, so I think they’re really just working to get across the employability message, make sure they’ve got good case studies, good stories, good data to back it up. (Pre-1992 2)

42 Employability through combined honours? A pre-1992 solution I think there is a, the 9K started people thinking much more clearly about value-added, 'what do I get out of Higher Education?', which I think are good questions to ask, and started emphasising notions of skillsets which I think we've been trying to address by saying 'Actually if you do a modern foreign language your employability could be quite significantly enhanced', particular if you do it with another subject. So if you're doing physics, biological sciences, do it with Spanish, do it with Russian, do it with Japanese, which we can offer here, that can enhance your employability as opposed to diminishing it. (Pre-1992 3)

43 Employability: post-1992 perspectives Employability however I think is really important, but I think the attention is paid in the wrong places. Raising aspirations and thinking of possibilities as a first year student is where the action should be, unfortunately in most UK universities that’s a trick that’s missed, even though the data emerging on student decision making is indicating that they’re not making decisions early enough, aspirations and possibilities are not being seeded with them early enough. (Post-1992 2) [DLHE].... it’s daft comparing institutions when the profiles are very, very different. [If] two-thirds of your provision is Education and Health for example, they’re likely to be going into jobs, if you’ve some parts of your provision which are in creative and aesthetic industries, it’s a completely different story about graduate employability, dance, physical theatre, aerial performance, these people don’t go into graduate jobs immediately, what would you call a graduate job in many of those parts of the industry? (Post-1992 2)

44 Aspects of marketisation

45 (re)branding the post-1992s I suspect that we are in a, I think we’re in a situation where we need to, probably in terms of our marketing, understand what is the real brand we’re trying to sell and who we are trying to market to and how diverse that market may be in terms of the constituents and I don’t think we’ve got to that stage yet. (Post-1992 1)

46 (re)branding the post-1992s I do see a lot of branding which is much hungrier than ever before and not just about the academic brand, the academic reputation.... I think branding could be considered almost like an algorithm of components derived in terms of.... the indicators within league table algorithms......But I do think that’s where you’re starting to see sharper consideration of brand, whereas in the past it was almost like, brand was more about, come here, we’re a little bit different, quirky. [The use of NSS data in marketing] it’s real schizophrenic behaviour, as academics we know that the data is pretty flaky in many ways and it would have to be triangulated bottom line, but that’s not how the rest of the political world of data use think or behave. So I do feel a bit sorry for places, but they are so worried about getting students that they’ll say anything almost....... With poverty sometimes there’s a diminution of ethics. Hungry people do hungry things, so it’s one of the reasons not to let people be hungry. (Post-1992 2)

47 Discourse and social control Oh they’ve been planted and seeded, it’s great politics, the management of that discourse is amazing. …. and it just infiltrates the press and infiltrates the man on the street who doesn’t really understand the issues, but can say the better universities, the top universities. [Thinks that] 'get back in your box working class' is the message that Government pumps out… I really do lament that because people’s life chances, it’s old- fashioned kind of control your masses stuff, but it’s cleverly done, if these things were publicly spoken it would be determined as fascist, but it’s operating... thank god universities are populated by bright people mostly with a decent concept of social justice; if that disappears, the universities don’t exist anymore for me.(Post-1992 2)

48 Targeting the influencers And networking strategically; we run, we do quite a lot of entertaining of strategically important people, like headmasters, college heads, so we've done a lot of dinners at the House of Lords and dinners in various venues, all part and parcel of spreading the word and getting the colleges and, we know quite a lot of the colleges anyway but the schools, heads of local schools and getting them more involved in the university. We've had a number of heads who've been involved in the graduation ceremonies.... [Outreach] you need to get to the parents I think, it's about raising their aspirations for their children and getting them thinking which seems to me to be the most important thing. (Post-1992 3)

49 Summary: conceptualising the SNC experiment making a market - did it work? changed behaviours / variations on a theme –using SNC to preserve (pre-1992s) –squeezing upwards (post-1992s) –fighting on two fronts (CBHE) future prospects- an actual open market in HE –30,000 additional places in 2014/15 –SNC abolished in 2015/16 –new providers can offer unlimited funded places from 2015/16 –supply will meet/exceed demand –tuition fees will fall at the lower end –how will Treasury maintain control of the costs......?

50 Thankyou Contact details Dr Colin McCaig Dr Carol Taylor

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