The pace of change

Welcome to the fast moving, ever-changing university sector. That’s a phrase that you wouldn’t have expected to read a few short years ago

Frances Stone, CUBO Chair, reviews the pace of change in 2014

There are continued pressures to produce more from less whilst continuing to enhance the experience for all of our customers whether they are students, staff or visitors. The competition for students continues to be tough, and the competition comes not only from inside the United Kingdom. It may be my imagination, but the recent ranking of world universities, produced by the Times Higher Education supplement, appeared to show a number of UK institutions slipping down the league tables. This is not helped by the perception from outside the UK that it is difficult to obtain the necessary visa accreditation to study here.

The competition is no less challenging for home undergraduate students. The loosening of the reins in regard to home students will take effect in the next 12 months and the benefits will not be felt by all. There will be winners and losers within the sector and indeed within individual institutions. The scenario I am painting here may seem cut throat, but it is an irony that the success of CUBO as an organisation relies on co-operation rather than conflict.

Over the last year, CUBO has seen a number of changes to the Executive. Geoff Pringle stepped down as Chair of the group and three other members of the Executive, Mel Loizou, Peter Church and Catherine Anderson have chosen to end their involvement. As the new chair I would like to pay tribute to their contributions in the past and wish all of them the best for the future.

The new Executive has already met and is working towards a strategy for the future which is based around co-operation rather than blood-letting. It is clear that there are a number of other organisations working within the sector whose work could be seen as complementary to the goals of CUBO. Already this year members of the Executive have worked collaboratively with BPF, ANUK and Sodexo and there are further organisations where we feel co-operation is possible.

Engagement and co-operation within CUBO are equally important. Actions from other bodies both inside and outside the HE sector can produce ripple effects which impact on our operations. The ill-considered UCAS Media website comparing student accommodation was a case in point. There was justifiable concern over the content and by sharing information it was possible to persuade UCAS Media to remove the misleading content. Similarly, changes to legislation can affect the areas we work in, the requirement, for example, to provide allergen information on the food we serve will have had implications for us all. The ability to share best practice in dealing with these statutory requirements is paramount.

The challenge for us in 2015 is to engage with everyone about everything, while keeping the offer current and working out what the next big thing will be. The Association of University Directors of Estates put it in more measured terms, “Universities will demand reductions in revenue expenditure, improvement in facilities, growth in commercial business and all of this to be done in a sustainable way that improves the student, staff and visitor experience whilst continuing to serve the communities in which we operate.” So we are agreed then…

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