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Compilation of questions from staff meetings

Funding issues - Widening Participation

Q: WP seemed to drop of the government’s agenda but has it reappeared.
A: The National Scholarship Scheme is to address this – but Universities will have to help fund it.  The other big issue for us is WP funding for students from deprived areas and we don’t know what will happen to that yet.

Student Recruitment

Q: We know there’s been a surge of applications this year to beat the fee rise, and that we expect a dip next year.  Do you think things will pick up again after that?
A: The Institute of Fiscal Studies does expect the market to contract.  What we are doing is modelling different scenarios of fees/drops in the market to see how they will affect us.  I do expect the market to recover slightly after 2012, but only slowly, and not completely.

Q: We know there is a fall in the number of school and college leavers, can we compensate for this by recruiting more mature students?
A: Our marketing activity will target every possible type of student.

Q: As students become customers, and we know the government is pushing for us to publish more information to help them choose between universities such as contact hours etc – are we preparing ourselves to provide this information?
A: Yes, we are already preparing our information for the government’s new Key Information Sets (KIS) which will include things like NSS scores, contact hours and graduate employment information.

Q:  Can we ask the Chancellor for assistance in our promotional activity?
A:  Yes, he has already offered to be involved in any way we think is helpful.

Q: The government seems to be trying to limit the number of international students who can get visas to come here, will that affect us?
A: The government has now shifted its position and seems to be saying that Universities will still be able to recruit.  Its aim is to stop bogus colleges recruiting students for English Language studies – where students then disappear.

Q: As an admissions tutors I get lots of concerned questions regarding accommodation.  Can we simplify how we deal with this?
A: We realise this is an area where we might be able to improve our customer service and we are investigating.

Q:  As more countries suffer upheavals, is there anything we can do to protect our overseas recruitment?
A:  It’s not something we can influence or predict, but by ensuring our portfolio is diverse we can avoid anything having a catastrophic affect.

Q: We are keeping an eye on our competitors – does that include FE colleges?
A: It does, and remember we have lots of students who come to us from colleges – colleges who will now probably try to keep them with them to study HE.

Q:  We know that visitors to the campus are impressed.  Is there a way of sending imagery, films of the campus, out with an offer?
A:  We will be able to do this sort of thing through the iHud system.

Q:  There is a rumour that European students won’t be able to get loans for top up courses, is this true?
A:  In fact we would rather recruit students for a full 3 year programme than a one year course as we are restricted to a set number of year one starters and so it is better to have someone starting year one and moving into year 2 and 3 than ending after one year.

Q:  Has there been any research to explore whether students will be likely to stay at home to study, or faced with such huge costs, they might feel that the extra in accommodation is negligible?
A:  It has been factored into our fees research but we have not seen anything done nationally.

Q: Do we know how EU students will react to the funding changes?
A: It will certainly make them consider their decisions carefully, and we will monitor its impact on our recruitment.

Q: Do we run the risk of losing UK students to Europe?
A: Yes, as people realise they may be able to pay less to study for a degree elsewhere.  People may also choose to go to the US or Australia for example, now that the differential in fees is much reduced.

 

Current students

Q: If we decide to close a course, will students currently on it be able to finish their programmes?
A: Yes.

 

Our estate

Q: What are the plans for the new Sports Hall?
A: The building will contain leisure facilities, student services, food outlets and sports all in one place.

Q: Can we talk about what’s happening in the Examiner building yet?
A: Not yet, we want to confirm our plans first.  Emma Hunt, the Dean of Art, Design and Architecture will set the timescale around announcing our plans.

Q: How do we ensure our estates remains up to date and of a good quality?
A: This is monitored by the estates department, but one important key to this is timetabling and efficiency of use.

 

Our Fees

Q:  Is there any clarification on when we will know what fee we will charge?
A:  Cambridge, Oxford, Imperial and Exeter have all declared that they will charge £9,000.  It seems likely that the bulk of the Russell Group Universities will also charge this and we expect them to declare around Easter.  The 1994 Group are unlikely to come under the Russell Group because this would have implications for the perception of quality.  It’s difficult to anticipate where the other “old” universities will stand e.g. Salford, Bradford, Hull.  We are concerned that a “race to the top” will occur but we want to ensure that we secure a balance between the debt burden to the student, having sufficient funding and not undermining our quality position.  In consequence we want to hold out as long as possible before formally declaring our fee.

Q:  It’s been reported that we will charge £6k, what are we doing to challenge that?
A:  In fact it was reported in the Times that we were going to charge between £5 and 6K.  This is not true.  We have contacted The Times and told them to remove this information from their web site, which they have done.

Q: If the fee is a signal of quality are you concerned that our competitors, if they charge £9k, will look ‘better’ than us.
A: It is an issue – but we don’t believe that universities need to charge £9k, and that if they do this is profiteering from students.  We are not prepared to do this, and we will make this clear when we announce our fee, so we will focus the debate around what we need to charge to break even, not to make a profit.

Q:  Has any research been undertaken with employers about their attitudes towards graduates who come from HEIS charging £9k and those charging £6.5k?
A:  There could be different attitudes.  Certainly some students have expressed concern that if their universities charge low fees this may devalue the brand value of the degrees they secure.  The fee charged will be interpreted as a quality measure.  The same issue would arise if different courses charged different fees – would the course with the lower fee be perceived as having lower quality?

Q:  What should we tell students and parents who are asking what fee would be charged?
A:  We can only say that we don’t have enough information from the government yet to be able to announce it.  We will publish details on our website in due course.

Q: What about overseas student fees – can we still ask them to pay more than home students when the home students are no longer being subsidised by the funding council?
A: We need to look at this carefully.

Q: Would you consider differential fees?
A: At the moment we are likely to charge a minimum brand fee but there may be some premium courses.

 

Postgraduates

Q: The government haven’t seemed to have consider what will happen to postgraduate study – but there are signs it is now on the agenda.  What do you think will happen?
A: It is a time-bomb.  But, the government has now realised the issue and is exploring what can be done to avoid the market disappearing as graduates with large debts may not wish to take on more debt, with no support mechanisms in place at all, to do higher level studies.

Q:  What will happen about postgraduate fees?
A:  Students who start in 2012 will have a higher debt burden when they finish their degree.  The prospect of carrying on into postgraduate study, where they won’t get a loan, may not be attractive.  It is likely that postgraduate fees will have to be lower than they are now.  The biggest postgraduate cohort is PGCE where they receive a bursary but all signals from the government are this bursary will be reduced or discontinued in the future. 

Q:  Could students get a loan if a postgraduate qualification was attached to an undergraduate qualification?
A:  Only if it was as part of a 4 year integrated programme eg MEng.  However, there was some thought that students may leave at the end of their third year with the BEng.

 

Staffing

Q: Will you be cutting the staff development budget?
A: We have always supported staff development and if requests fit with the University’s strategic aims they will continue to be supported.

Q:  Are staff at the campuses more at risk than those at the Huddersfield campus?
A:  No.  It all comes down to whether programmes are financially viable.  Staff at all three campuses are employees of the University and if cuts need to be made all would considered against the criteria.

Q: If redundancies are announced what redundancy packages will there be?
A:  It’s still too early to say what will be needed and no packages have been designed yet.

Q: In July 2011 will you be notifying groups of staff or individuals that they are at risk?  And what criteria will be used?
A: We will notify all staff on the situation and notif individuals if they might be at risk.  It’s too early to say in terms of criteria, we simply don’t know what will be needed.

Q: What will the process be for announcing redundancies?
A:  In July 2011 we will be able to identify those groups of staff who might be at risk, based on what we know at that point.  Then in January 2012, when application figures are known, we can make firm plans.  We will, of course, follow best HR practice throughout this process.

Q: Will redundancies be compulsory or voluntary?
A: We will look at redeployment opportunities and a voluntary scheme and then a compulsory scheme as a last resort.

Q: Will we put strategies in place to redeploy anyone who loses their job as part of the changes in courses?
A: We will always try to find redeployment opportunities for anyone who is under threat of redundancy

Q: What was the target for staff savings in the budget and is it being met?
A: There was no set target because that would have meant redundancies.  We have been managing it through non replacement of staff.

Q: If things get really difficult can staff be involved in negotiations rather than simply unions?
A: Under legislation we are required to consult with the recognised trade unions.  However, we would also consult directly with any individual who was affected. 

 

The changing market place

Q: Is there an opportunity for us to tap into the market for private provision?
A: It would be complicated as we would in effect be operating two brands, one the traditional Huddersfield degree and one ‘cut price’ degree.

Q: Do you see the undergraduate market moving to 2 year degrees.
A: Yes, that is what private providers will do.  We need to think carefully about what market we want to be in.

 

How we organise ourselves

Q:  Are there any modules/courses with small numbers of students that will be protected?
A:  We require every module and course to break even.

Q:  Staff qualifications – are there alternatives to a PhD, eg producing lots of publications?
A:  There is the option to take a PhD by publication.

Q:  Our researchers need excellent equipment – is there any indication that we can encourage suppliers to reduce their costs in light of our financial issues?
A:  The best model is to ask suppliers to supply equipment, which they are keen to do so that the next generation of professionals is used to their particular brand, and tends to specify it in future.

Q:  What will the role of QAA (the Quality Assurance Agency) be?
A:  We will probably see more intervention in future, and Hefce may become more involved in regulation.

Q:  Is there any chance of all VC’s banding together to speak with one voice on these changes?
A:  No.  Different types of institutions have very different goals.

Q:  We know we need to grow our research strengths, but also to focus on excellence of our teaching as that differentiates us.
A:  They are not mutually exclusive – both are important for our future success.

Q: Can we use our buildings during the summer for short courses and conference?
A: Yes, we need to try to maximise this.

Q: Do you see any opportunity for industry sponsored courses?
A: I have been exploring different options with some companies – to see if they might be willing to pay off a graduate’s loan for example. 

Q: If a course is no longer viable then could we turn it into a distance learning course?
A: It’s not likely to be viable under that model either – for example there would need to be a big investment in high quality resource to support it in the new format.

Q: What plans are in place to help improve retention?
A: Schools are best placed to know what will work for their own areas and Deans have been asked to look at what interventions are needed to make a difference.

Q: In the presentation we are in the top quartile for financial health, but in a recent list in the THE, we were ranked as medium risk.
A: The THE looked at reliance on teaching income and league table positions so it was considering different criteria. 

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