Optimism out of the Brexit gloom

Our HE sector still has lots to look forward to finds Hannah Oakman, at this year’s HE Show at Olympia

The HE Show is always a staple event in the University Business calendar, guaranteed to provide the perfect snapshot of the state of the sector, along with an excellent speaker line-up, useful seminars and a great crowd from across our universities.

As media partner for the third year in a row, the @UB_UK team gladly went along to London’s Olympia to assess the scene. To compliment the 2016 conference agenda, this year featured a series of ‘open-air’ theatres, drawing the crowds on topics in student experience, marketing and admissions, facilities and technology and research and collaboration – essentially everything our readers are interested in.

Breaking news at this year’s event included the government announcement that European Union students applying for university places in the 2017 to 2018 academic year would still have access to student funding support; a huge relief to the academic sector.

So what were this year’s top takeaways?

Brexit is still at the forefront of minds: as Professor Dame Julia Goodfellow remarked in her opening keynote, ‘Brexit and the HE sector’: ”While the outcome was not one that the University sector had hoped for, we have accepted it and are looking to move forward.”  

Social mobility is key: there is still a huge job to be done in terms of widening access, particularly for young men into higher education. The university sector is working incredibly hard, starting in schools. In fact, around 50% of universities now sponsor a school or academy, a largely untold story.

Our universities are still huge drivers for growth: to be precise, £13bn in export earnings with a government target of £30bn by 2020.  

Higher Ed is a major part of Brand Britain: Conrad Bird, Director of the GREAT Britain campaign, urged universities to take part in the imminent ‘Study in the UK – Discover You’ campaign (below).

Admissions are a complicated business: as Delyth Chambers, Director of Student Recruitment at the University of Warwick explained: “We’re dealing with much raised expectations from prospective students and their parents – and we need to build evermore efficient systems for processing admissions.”

Keep agents and alumni on board: agents in particular often the first port of call for international students and it’s vital they have a favourable view of your HEI.

The UK DOES still have a competitive advantage: Vivienne Stern, Director, Universities UK International, (below) talked passionately about how international student satisfaction with higher education is very high – 91% among undergrads, 90% for postgrad research and 89% for postgrad taught.

The show always features a great exhibition featuring all the major suppliers to HE in the UK. From 3D Printers to catering suppliers, learning space designers and furniture to cloud systems and the flipped classroom, it was great to see such a buzz around the industry.

As ever, there was such a wealth of information and learning opportunities on offer, it was impossible to soak up everything. We’d love to hear your views on this year’s show so get in touch today! Until next year…

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