Usual rambling commentary, impressions, interventions…
VC's Question Time. Chair: Peter Gallimore, former producer of BBC Today programme, with Nigel Weatherill, Liverpool John Moores, Howard Newby, Liverpool, & John Coyne, Derby.
- 24/7 support? John Coyne: critical platform for core mission. Hard to resolve: don't want shift systems. Need colleagues to appreciate the service delivery. Nigel Weatherill: need to ensure that we have resilient, quality systems to minimise downtime. Howard Newby: not what we want, but what students want. Have to operate in different timezones. Question from floor: how do you go about ensuring 24/7, instead of just hoping for it? Weatherill: comparison with 24/7 health support – need to look at new methods of service delivery, interacting with professionals from other sectors. Q from floor: outsourcing? Google/Microsoft. What wouldn't you outsource? Newby: commodity support vs. personalised service. Weatherill: educationally led institution but have to run on business principles. IT can be a differentiator – might outsource the basics, retain that which is specific to values and vision of LJMU for students. Coyne: need to put together set of best-in-class components that meet individual needs (EA perhaps?) – then make decisions about what you contract for & what you keep inside.
- Q from Tim Marshall (different subject): need to preserve but also open up information resources – open access. Newby: wholly in favour. Why should work which is publicly funded not be publicly accessible? Weatherill: also in favour; what would keep him awake at night? FOI & research data. When do the outcomes go into the public domain? Research needs opportunity to mature before enters open access. Coyne: direction is open access. Also concerned about FOI industry.
- Should IT Director be at the top table? Weatherill: at LJMU that person does sit at top table, but has wider brief – important thing is that they understand the business. Newby: senior team meetings always very large; how to configure academic & service structures. Basically, no. Coyne: should Director have early & influential strategic voice? Yes. Not necessarily helpful to talk about top table; can get Derby senior team round a stool. Consensus: need influence/access, not necessarily seat. Coyne: someone who can understand the purpose of the institution, map it to the capabilities of IT, and articulate it. Transparency of senior team activities? Weatherill: about communication. LJMU cascade approach – senior team to leadership team to staff. Needs middle-up-down management – recognition of key role of middle manager – Japanese approach. Newby: growth of less collegial, more business/competitive approach. All engaging in activities we wouldn't want competitors to have early sight of.
- Is HE a business? Coyne: stakeholders (students) are far more important than shareholders would be. Need to be business-like in efficient & effective delivery. Weatherill: educational institution that needs to be run on business principles. Driven by strategic framework. Newby: have to be business-like in terms of being efficient & effective – but also values-driven, belief in greater knowledge contributing to social progress. Need to be increasingly attentive to stakeholders – Ivory Tower is over.
- Q from Twitter: how do you get input from student body? & how important is NSS. Newby: embed NSS in more broad ranging/sensitive assessment. Days are gone when we knew what students ought to want. Weatherill: QAA Conference, Edinburgh – a lot about student engagement. Suggestion that student feedback needs to be systematised – but so much formal/informal that just happens. Coyne: unique programme representative system, annual Q&A, University held to account. Ignore the student voice at your peril – students good at holding up honesty mirror.
- Q from floor: an avalanche is coming? Newby: MOOCs – threat or opportunity? What is unique to University? Ability to award a degree – apart from that almost everything can be done by somebody else. Also – personalised service difficult to deliver in online experience. Also: what are students buying? Some, information & knowledge; some, a brand – are MOOCs strong enough. Can they address the social objectives of HE as opposed to just the economic ones. Future = blended learning, but be careful how you blend. Weatherill: what is the currency of a MOOC? HE currency: standards & accreditation. Coyne: a destructive technology or just the latest fashion that invites us to question ourselves? Newby: IT does mass bits, Socratic dialogue for rest (at least I think that's what he meant!)