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Research for reputation's sake

Research for reputation's sake

It seems preposterous to me that universities would put the reputation they gain from their research above the quality of education and the university experience they provide for their students - even conducting research for reputations sake. But that’s what a report in the Telegraph suggested this week.

It’s been very evident to me in my role at Collabco that some of the UK’s leading Russell Group universities feel the reputations they’ve had for centuries will continue to carry them in an increasingly digitised world. They believe that because they receive multiple applications for one admission place, they don’t need to change a thing. Well, if it ain’t broke…

This is flawed on a number of levels. Firstly, those joining our universities demand to learn the way they lead their lives – on a smartphone, tablet, or even a wearable. They’re always on, technology helps them reduce all the friction tasks in their lives, and they want the same at university. Reluctance to provide this will undoubtedly create dissatisfaction in the student population, and when you’re paying up to £9,000 a year for the privilege, ‘customer satisfaction’ matters. Reputations are quickly broken.

Secondly, anywhere that has an Internet connection is now a seat of learning. That means that literally anyone can provide the learning tools. Even our friends Google and Facebook – whose reputations undoubtedly appeal more to our digitally savvy millennial students.

Then there’s the small matter of future employment. If you churn out students who have no understanding of technology, how to use it in the work place for efficiencies and deliver successful outcomes via it, you’re not providing a workforce fit for the 21st Century. Universities don’t just impart knowledge, they provide skills, understanding, life lessons and hopefully create rounded, educated individuals that bring something to a business. Practical skills and vocational learning is important.

It’s time the league tables that rate our HE institutions were overhauled to include what the university has to offer in terms of creating life skills, nurturing entrepreneurs, and delivering some of the softer more cognitive skills in their graduates. If they diverted some of their research budgets into technologies available to help measure theses skills, perhaps they’d build reputations for delivering the most employable graduates.

At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about isn’t it?

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