A year of change. A year of opportunity
By Dan Beynon
In the last few years we’ve been working with our university clients to build greater audience and market understanding, and deliver more engaging and effective, audience-centric content and campaigns. It’s been exciting. We’ve had a really positive impact on the performance of the institutions that we partner with.
As we move into a new decade, we’re helping institutions improve their whole customer experience – from first contact through application, enrolment and onto graduation and employment. And while continuing to deliver great campaigns, creative and content, we’re also collaborating with universities to shape impactful, institution-wide improvements that help them prepare for the new market conditions ahead.
This work is really important to us at SMRS, and to the UKHE sector too. We must continue preparing quickly for the upturn in the number of 18 year-olds across the country. These preparations must focus on providing more opportunities for people, of all ages, to learn valuable new skills and to experience and enjoy their education at home, at work, on campus or overseas.
The forthcoming rise in demand will mean that universities will need to deliver traditional undergraduate degree courses in even greater numbers. More postgraduate courses, part-time opportunities and degree apprenticeships are needed too, as well as more online degrees, short courses and specialist skills training at all levels. There’ll be the need to work hard to create an environment in which online degrees are held in higher esteem by employers. And, as a sector, we’ll need to build connections between educators and employers that go beyond requests for specific course types and are based on true partnerships.
The next decade must not be about choosing between all these options. Demand will be too great. But if we can deliver more great experiences in all these different areas, we’ll be able to provide a generation with the skills and experiences they need to meet tomorrow’s economic challenges. To do this, we can’t afford to lose any of our universities either. This’ll take imagination and innovation, collaboration in delivery, and even mergers.
We must also all keep lobbying policymakers to ensure we don’t end up with an HE funding policy that reduces fees and increases the Treasury's focus on HE. This could unintentionally limit the number of places available for young people at our great universities, in turn hampering our collective ambitions around social mobility.
There’s no question that the coming year presents a fantastic opportunity to grow the number of international students at UK Universities. Our shared challenge is to help policymakers understand that any decisions on HE funding need also to enable more young people in the UK, from all backgrounds, to attend university, not less.
Clearly, there’s a lot to talk about in our sector. The team at SMRS are looking forward to seeing you in 2020 and discussing it all. Here’s a short video showing some of the events we’ll be speaking at in the coming months. We hope to see you at some of them.