As part of our University of the Future series, we spoke to leading institutions from across Europe to understand their vision for the future, and how they plan to realise these ambitions.
In this selection of interviews, we hear from our contributors about what’s on the horizon for higher education.
Tim McIntrye Batty, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Bournemouth University
How has the University of Bournemouth managed through the coronavirus pandemic?
Each university will have different priorities. For some it’s about market share, others emphasise having a global presence, or brand awareness.
I have personally always considered people and interactions to be at the heart of a successful university, hence a campus premium is a key part of our concept. This became clearer than ever during the pandemic and many in the sector are explicitly stating how important their campus experience is for students. I would hazard to say it has brought others closer to our expressed view.
The necessary shift into a new delivery space has been greatly aided by the accelerated use of tech to minimise disruption and maintain continuity in the student and staff experience. As always, such work is never finished. But many are facing the challenge with excitement, using their creativity and innovation to good effect and reflecting on how educational practices can change to make learning even better.
These are extended interviews that were conducted as part of the research for our University of the Future whitepaper. Read more from the University of the Future page series or download the whitepaper – What’s driving the vision for the University of the Future? – to explore how universities can embrace the opportunity to reimagine the university of the future.
What is your vision for the university of the future?
While the pandemic has brought the campus experience into focus, it has also highlighted how much work has to be done to move to true blended pedagogies. Our sector has much experience in the quality of its delivery, we just need to ensure it continues to be based on best practices for the benefit of everyone.
We still place immense value on the campus experience, and if you want to study at Bournemouth then you need to come to Bournemouth. There is a huge emphasis on the Campus Premium and we prioritise face to face contact and physically spending time with tutors. So, for us, technology can’t replace that, it can only improve what we’re already doing.
The key for universities is to offer students a choice. There is definitely a market for more online and distance learning and there are many reasons why learners might select this option – geography, financial constraints, combining studying with a career etc. But this isn’t the space we want to play in. We know there is still a strong desire for being on campus, if that wasn’t the case everyone would choose the Open University route.
Our vision is to continue to make that campus experience the best it can be, using technology to support and enhance it.
How are you helping students to bridge the gap between study and work?
We run a number of degree apprenticeships, in nursing and engineering for example, and these courses require close collaboration with industry. But our integration with industry beyond that is also very strong. Currently 85% of our students go on a work placement during their time with us. These vary in length, from four weeks to 30 weeks, but all have enormous value and help to equip our students with additional skills. We want them to understand the pressures of the outside world and what will be required of them in a work environment.
How are you using technology to help you to achieve your vision?
We are using technology to help us improve the student experience, particularly with regards to personalisation. The insight we can draw from analytics helps us to understand the content that our learners are engaging with. Tutors can quickly evaluate which materials are used the most, and why. It’s really important for us to understand what is and isn’t working in terms of engagement and outcomes so we can act and make changes. Students will also be able to benchmark their performance against cohorts, encouraging more peer to peer learning.
We are moving towards a model of reflective learning on the part of staff and tutors and we want the thinking to be as broad as possible. Technology can automate some of the processes that inhibit us from spending time doing that currently.
That’s why the use of analytics will continue to grow, and we’ll see an increase in the adoption of AI. This will be able to prompt some of the questions we want to ask students and make suggestions for some of those answers. This will also free up tutors to focus on maximising the quality of the time they physically spend with their students.