Author: Rachel Acres, Assistant Registrar, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
Professor Morley began by outlining the breadth and diversity of his role as Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost, which included responsibility for education, research, staffing, and of course, that perennial issue - car parking. His main focus was on delivering the University Strategy, and challenging the Deans (who he line-managed) to ensure all Departments had their own strategies, including a clear plan for academic staff recruitment for the next five years.
Student number planning and target setting was a core part of Professor Morley’s job, ensuring that the number of offers and conversion to places was spot on, which always made the summer a nerve-racking time. Supporting teaching and research through ensuring appropriate infrastructure is the other main tenet of the role of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost.
Professor Morley reported that the University is facing a number of external pressures which mean that our previous working assumptions may not be true in the future.
Professor Morley highlighted the five key priorities for the University, as laid out in the University Strategy 2016-21:
• Growth of research – the University would prioritise areas of investment increasingly based on returns and the ability to support other areas, e.g. allowing us to continue to offer expensive subjects such as Chemistry. Four years of fixed student fee income with rising costs meant the Senior Management needs to focus on ensuring financial stability.
• Stabilise undergraduate numbers – there is increasing competition as other institutions are offering more places, and moreover the opportunity for placements (a previously unique selling point – USP – for Bath). Changes to GCSE and A Levels may necessitate revised entry requirements and could result in a dip in applications for those programmes requiring A Level Mathematics (which is supposed to be more difficult in its new form). A demographic dip in the number of young people means less people entering Higher Education, at least for the next few years – apparently, there is a boom in primary aged children but for example, the city of Bath has 600 unfilled sixth form spaces. Opportunities for involvement in Degree Apprenticeships would be explored. The University needs to ensure its programmes are as up to date and innovative as possible, supported by effective marketing (e.g. more Open Days, more mobile friendly platforms to showcase our programmes and maintain market advantage).
• Postgraduate Growth – compared to other research intensive institutions, the University had relatively small postgraduate taught student numbers. A number of new postgraduate taught programmes had been fast-tracked through University approval procedures to recruit students for 2017/18, and Professor Morley emphasised that the institution needed to view postgraduate provision differently. Masters programmes needed to attract higher numbers of students, delivering a package of skills and cross-disciplinary learning. Providing distance-learning programmes with partners (including internationally) was being considered. Professional Services would need to be involved in supporting this growth and ensuring the development of staff to meet the new challenges facing the institution.
• Infrastructure – Professor Morley highlighted recent successful developments such as 10 West, 4 East South, Manvers Street, and noted Polden Court would be developed to provide new postgraduate accommodation in the next year
• International focus – the University needed to affirm its international influence and become more visible.
In closing, Professor Morley highlighted that there were a number of external influences, including changes to secondary level education, the need to comply with consumer legislation and Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) guidance, the introduction of the Higher Education and Research Bill and the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), and the evolving Widening Participation agenda which would all impact on University business and were being closely monitored.