The last few years have been a challenging time for the Higher Education sector, with the introduction of £9,000 tuition fees bringing in a wave of change that has affected virtually every facet of the sector. Students' attitudes have shifted and there is now a heightened demand for greater value for money from their institutions. At the same time, recent polls indicate that the student bar is in decline as more and more students now prefer to socialise by studying over a coffee with friends, an option that is both more productive and cheaper than a night out. In an increasingly competitive graduate market, and with an eye-watering amount of debt looming, students must now make the most of their time at university in order to stand out from the crowd.
In response to this, the Government is creating the Office for Students – a new regulatory body that will emphasise the interests of students and increase choice through introducing greater competition and transparency. The Universities Minister has also floated the ideas of condensed two-year degrees and "value for money contracts" between students and their universities. Lately, the Government and media have also been scrutinising the pay of Vice-Chancellors, which is perceived by some to be difficult to justify at a time when students are spending tens of thousands of pounds on their education.
For the universities themselves, there has been a renewed focus on the student experience, with lecturers now expected to make themselves more accessible, while also facing pressure to attract more research funding – a task that is likely to become harder over the coming years as the UK breaks from the EU. Alongside this, the strategies of many central services have been overhauled. As the sector commercialises, we have seen an increase in the number of requests to include private-sector companies and/or large-scale public sector bodies in our searches, in order to introduce fresh and innovative ideas.
Berwick Partners has wide-reaching national and international networks across a variety of sectors and functions. As such, we can create a bespoke assignment team that understands our clients’ specific needs and the challenges that they face. This means that we are uniquely placed to cater for the emergent needs of the Higher Education sector during this period of change and have a strong track record of doing so.
Clare Bromley is a Researcher specialising in Higher Education