Ken Sloan, Registrar and Chief Operating Officer, held an open meeting for staff on 21 October 2015 in the Maths and Stats building where he updated colleagues on the current external and internal landscape, before giving staff a chance to take part in a walking meeting as part of our One Big Thing activity.
Ken began by thanking everyone for their tireless work on a whole range of projects – from Keeping Campus Moving to the Festival of the Imagination and all those who ensure our students have a successful start to the year. It’s a real collective and collaborative effort and everyone plays a vital role.
Ken then went on to consider the current external landscape and what this means for Warwick. He highlighted a number of areas, including:
Combined Authorities: these are a new way of devolving power, funding and decisions currently made in Whitehall to regions, so councils can work together as a group to make decisions based on local, rather than national, priorities. Coventry City Council has decided to join the proposed West Midlands Combined Authority, but Warwickshire County Council and most of the Warwickshire districts have opted out.
Competitions and Markets Authority: earlier this year, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) published advice for higher education institutions to 'help them comply with consumer law when dealing with students.' In effect, this means that anything we write, for example in our regulations or publicity materials, must be delivered exactly as it’s been written. Undertakings made verbally to students or prospective students must also comply. A CMA working group was set up at the University over the summer to consider this issue and to prepare guidance for staff. The group is working hard to ensure we are in a strong position, in anticipation of checks on compliance. More information will be shared with colleagues soon.
Funding: in preparation for the Comprehensive Spending Review, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is considering how savings can be made in the HE sector. Universities are needing to make a strong case for what they are, what they do and why they matter. The Policy Exchange recently produced a report arguing that HE should have a cut of about half a billion which should be directly transferred to further education (FE). Although no-one can argue against FE needing more funding, the skills and development of the education sector, as a whole, needs to be considered.
In/Out referendum: this is a big issue with significant amounts of our research funding, and increasingly our mobility funding, coming from the EU. If there is a referendum, it’s important that anyone engaged in HE takes a view, so student voter registration is also an important issue.
Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF): this will see the government monitoring and assessing the quality of teaching in England’s universities. How this will play out is yet to be seen but it will be a very important development for the sector. A green paper is expected shortly.
Ken highlighted that, although these are challenging times, we are continuing to thrive and flourish and highlighted the capital investment we have made and will continue to make – for example, the Warwick Business School 3B, the Teaching and Learning building, the MCCB Extension, NAIC, Cryfield residences and investment in sports development. Obviously we need to generate the surpluses through the courses we offer, our research and development activities and managing costs effectively. Our Simplify, Collaborate, Deliver (SCD) programme has helped us with that and was recently highlighted by our Audit Committee (all external membership) as an example of excellent practice. It has enabled our staff to use their capabilities, knowledge and ideas to make this place better. Obviously there is more work to be done, but initiatives such as SCD have helped our focus.
Our new VC, Professor Stuart Croft, will take up his post on 1 February 2016. Ken highlighted our gratitude to our current VC Professor Nigel Thrift for his leadership and how this has brought us to a position of strength, quality and confidence.
Ken highlighted two key points from his own announcement:
He’s going for all the right reasons. After 20 years, the timing is right. The time has come to join his partner in Australia and to start his PhD.
Warwick is at a pivotal, challenging time. There are big decisions to make over the next 6-12 months and there will be no loss of momentum.
One Big Thing
Ken finished by explaining that the rest of the meeting would be dedicated to One Big Thing activity. One Big Thing is a partnership project between Coventry University, the University of Warwick, Coventry City Council, CSW Sport and the Workplace Wellbeing Charter. On 21 October, the region was encouraged to be active and take part in 30 minutes of physical activity throughout the day, with the aim of creating a healthier and more energetic community.
Staff finished by heading off on a walk around campus with either Ken or Rosie Drinkwater, Group Finance Director. Did you take part in the walk? Let us know what you thought - share your comments below.