This week I am delighted to be attending the annual Universities UK members conference. Universities UK is the voice of UK universities, helping to maintain the world-leading strength of the UK university sector and supporting members to achieve their aims and objectives.

I am delighted to be speaking again to the vice-chancellors and other senior sector representatives, leading a session on the second day of the conference, “Solving the TEF: How Student Centricity Boosts Retention and Satisfaction.”

This conference comes at the end of a busy twelve months in UK higher education. The sector has been permanently reshaped twice over: first by the major policy progression of the Higher Education and Research Bill and most recently by Brexit.

While we are just beginning to grasp the full impact of Brexit, what is clear already is that the Bill and the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), which will be phased in over the next four years, has the potential to have a profound effect on institutions, particularly in the areas of student success.

The mock TEF conducted by the Times Higher Education shows the framework has the potential to significantly impact the relative status of all UK higher education institutions. Indeed, as the recent National Student Survey clearly illustrated of the 24 universities to score 90 or above, only six are from the Russell Group, and 15 are campus-based or medium-sized universities outside it.

What is clear is that to make real gains with the TEF, all university leaders and staff will increasingly need to be more student-centric. Capturing real-time and predictive information about all students, not just those traditionally seen as at-risk, enhances their success.

We know that when students are happy and succeeding at university they are more likely to complete their study. But, we know that despite relatively low student drop-out in England, there is a persistent minority of students who are still falling through the gaps. As the sector continues to strive to widen access, we must focus on how we make progress supporting student success to give all students, not just those at-risk, the targeted support they need.

We’ve recently supported the Social Market Foundation in an analysis of progress on improving retention rates in higher education in England. The report, Staying the Course, due to be released later this week analyses retention rates since the 2009-10 academic year. It illustrates progress with retention and correlating factors to achieve success.  

My contribution to the conference will examine the concept of student centricity: what it means for UK higher education, and how the universities who excel at it will improve retention and student satisfaction by giving them a head start with the two critical TEF metrics.

I’ll share the real-world examples and best practice from my 10 years of working between the US and UK. I’ve seen how higher education leaders have made meaningful change through student success initiatives in their institutions.

If you or a colleague are interested in our presentation at the conference or the findings of Staying the Course, please get in contact with me directly. I’d love to meet with you and learn more about how Hobsons can support you get a head start with student success.


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