Dr Philip Hallam, Vice-Chancellor of Arden University, sets out the challenges and opportunities facing the UK higher education sector in this Q&A session – including Arden opening new study centres in Europe in 2017.
What are the key challenges for the UK HE sector from Brexit?
Philip Hallam: Brexit fears are already affecting university financial forecasts. There has been a five percent drop in UCAS applications for UK students for 2017-18 entry, compounded by a seven percent reduction in EU students. There are also concerns about government rules constraining international student recruitment.
Universities are worried about losing access to EU research funding and being excluded from EU university consortiums that provide the sector with additional funding.
What are the opportunities for the UK HE sector because of Brexit?
Philip Hallam: To offset financial concerns, more universities will consider developing online delivery programmes – although few have the capacity to be successful online without third-party assistance – in contracts. Arden University was ‘born of the internet’ and has been delivering UK higher education by distance and online means for over 26 years.
Some universities will consider expanding their Transnational Education (TNE) delivery. That means teaching students overseas by sometimes setting up their own campus and often in partnership with local education organisations.
Some institutions have already made key appointments and are discussing how they can adapt to meet future financial challenges.
PA Consulting Group’s surveyed dozens of vice-chancellors and institutional leaders for its 2016 higher education survey*. Some 70 percent and 79 percent of those surveyed were expecting seriously adverse impacts on the HE sector in terms of Brexit for EU students and visa restrictions, for example. However, these figures were 35 percent and 51 percent respectively when it came to their own institutions. This suggests that there is a ‘it will happen to others mentality’ in action as well when it comes to the impact of Brexit.
Is Brexit a risk or opportunity for Arden?Philip Hallam: Arden will seek to take advantage of opportunities that Brexit creates rather than focus on the potential negatives. As a modern, flexible and innovative institution, Arden is well placed to respond to new market needs and the uncertainties of the political climate.
For example, we are able to launch Arden University study centres across Europe and are planning to open two such centres in Dublin and Berlin in 2017.
Arden's unique mix of online and blended learning capabilities mean we can ensure students access their learning wherever they are located rather than having to travel to the UK. We also provide global access to a wide range of online degrees, masters and MBA’s.
What about students – both in the UK and from across the EU / wider world?Philip Hallam: EU funding for student loans could be withdrawn. So students will have the challenge of paying for the course. However, studying with Arden throughout the EU will remain affordable, plus the flexibility of our online model means that students can work and earn while they learn – 90% of our students are in full time work and fit studying around their lives.
For example, with blended learning at our study centres students only need to be in class for two to three full days per week - and the rest of the time they top up their learning in our fully supported online classroom so there is more time to hold down a job. Pay as you go and fees of around £6,000 a year also open up higher education with Arden.
Is it a case of adapt or die for universities in the UK?Philip Hallam: The finances of some UK universities are at risk, and they could face closures or mergers. Due to recent changes in government policy, largely the removal of caps on the numbers of students recruited by each university, these financial risks are increasing.
Only those institutions who respond sufficiently and quickly to the opportunities within a changing UK and global market will survive intact over the coming years.
The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) has highlighted concerns about potentially inadequate surpluses, declining cash levels and an increase in borrowing that will not be sustainable in the longer term unless addressed.
The HEFCE, in a report last November, expressed particular concern about institutions projected high levels of growth in the number of home, EU and international students.
Ultimately, universities that innovate to meet the market’s future needs will be the ones best placed to succeed.
*PA Consulting’s Higher Education Survey 2016 report: http://www.paconsulting.com/insights/higher-educat...
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