General Secretary OGM Report November 2005

This report is comprised of the weekly reports distributed to exec members and a review of the month and upcoming meetings.

General Secretary Report: Week Commencing 10th October.
After settling in relatively well, albeit with lots of admin and emails and phone calls I have had a busy week. I have contacted lots of organisations and all affiliates to which I have found Kent will be disaffiliating. Sheffield have invited us to a question and answer session with their Graduate Body. Wednesday I went to Glasgow to collect the presentation stand and collect promotional literature and casework from Jim. Thursday I went to the University of London School of Advanced Study Open Evening where I met several postgraduates and met the ULU President. Friday I went to Article 7 in Greenwich with Lade and Tim to discuss the website. Issues that need to be discussed are prior to the new website being created do we continue to have a members only restricted section. The website will hopefully be transferred to a new format in the first quarter of 2006 which should make it easier to update. Any ideas on things to improve the site we should all have a think about and have a discussion; though bear in mind Andrew's design and costings for the site.

General Secretary Report: Week Commencing 17th October.

After a very hectic first week I have been undertaking lots of administration and contacting affiliates and non-affiliates. On Tuesday 11th I went to Warwick where I met up with previous General Secretary Jamie Darwin and discussed the role and things to consider. I also met up with Brian Duggan (Education Officer) to discuss the NPC and Warwick's postgraduate system - I hope to collate different postgraduate representation systems throughout the year to reveal best practice. Friday 14th I met with the President of BUGS to discuss mutual issues and the NPC in Birmingham and oversaw some of the election of the new Postgraduate Officer at BUGS.

General Secretary Report: Week Commencing 24th October.

Another week and ongoing projects. Monday 17th I attended the QAA Round Table discussion on Code of Practice for Assessment of Students. The day was divided into two sessions with all of those present split into four groups, firstly to look at the codes and to make comments about interpretation and whether we agreed and the second session on specific sections of the codes. I was in the group with Gill Clarke and Wendy Stubbs which was a good opportunity for me to introduce myself.
Tuesday I was involved locally in attending a discussion between the AUT and BUGS and one of the University of Birmingham's campuses on course closures and the use of postgraduates to teach where staff had left. This was useful in meeting the local Birmingham AUT and for providing more links with the AUT.
On Friday, James Groves came down to work through what I should be doing and who I should be speaking to which was invaluable assistance in preparing for the coming months.

General Secretary Report: Week Commencing 31st October.

An interesting week and good opportunity to network. On 1st November went across to the School of Education in Birmingham re: one of the casework external examiners. This was productive though a little too close to comfort.

Thursday 3rd
Aldwych at Kings College London, which was a great way to meet lots of presidents and officers that ive been speaking with. Spoke to Katie from Southampton and Katy from Nottingham. Chatted with Rishi from LSE who will be sending their pg rep to the OGM. I discussed collaboration with Aldwych with Kat Stark so hopefully we can support some of their plans. Cambridge distributed copies of their PDP guide which provided an interesting comparison with other universities.

NSS - There was a presentation on the new NSS for the coming year. Institutions would be able to add specific questions related to their institution at the end of the survey. The presenter also explained that this would most likely continue in the future but would need to be considered as Annual/Biannual. There were also concerns on the 'opting out' of the scheme and the use of student data to conduct the survey.

Visa Charges - It was noted that Bill Rammell is particularly honest in saying the reality of the situation. He had stated to presidents in discussions that Britain was in a unique position in its 'right of appeal'. It was also discussed that lobbying would be useful as MPs were not particularly aware of all the issues. The Aldywch group would lobby their local Lords and seek joint letters between institutions and unions to lobby against.

Employability - There was a discussion on careers services and rates of employment from Russell Group institutions. Kings had a really good careers service, as did Oxbridge who produced a 359 page careers guide. There was also discussion in the AUT and its relationship with NUS and the musings of another lecturers strike.

AOB - There was a discussion on the role of grade boundaries and the use of transcripts with Nottingham having reservations on the competition for the top 5%. They also argued that extra-curricular activities should be included in transcripts.

Friday 4th
Hefce Annual Meeting. This meeting was titled 'A strategic plan for the future of higher education'. This was a great introduction into hefce and a chance to see their current thinking. I discussed the NPC and regeneration through education with David Young (Chairman of Hefce) before the meeting. This was particularly interesting as I had studied urban regeneration and one of the subsequent presentations was on 'Enhancing the contribution of HE to the economy and society'. I also spoke with Chris Hall who works on secondment from Hefce for the Universities Colleges Employers Association. He was aware of the NPC and had friends who had previously been involved in NPC.

A strategic plan for the future of higher education 2006-2011 This was the first presentation reflecting the evolution of the plan from 2003-2008 plan and would involve stakeholders in producing a new strategic plan in April 2006. There was a consideration of the context with an inclusive society with government issues of tolerance and freedom coupled with the responsibility to protect civil society. In enhancing excellence in learning and teaching there was a need to consider international standards and an increasing need to focus on the University's clients, students and the local community. A key theme of this presentation was knowledge transfer and enhancing the contribution of HE to the economy and society.

Enhancing the contribution of HE to the economy and society - this was perhaps the most interesting presentation and leads to a wider set of considerations, not least in our approach for RDAs to support postgraduate education. Increasingly with economic competition from China and India it was argued that we need to re-define sources of comparitive advantage with innovation and added value. The government had set itself target of 2.5% Research and Development of GDP by 2014 (although the EU has set itself 3% target in same period). It was noted in some sectors such as pharmaceuticals we were on a similar level to the US if not ahead and that we may need to define how we measure r&D if we are not to fail meeting this target.

In considering RDAs it was interesting to note that 'In countries such as the US there is convergence of prosperity across regions. In the UK there is divergence' (Michael Porter). There were questions raised on who should pay for what can be seen as commercial benefits.Furthermore there was a supply side push but what was this doing on demand. 80% companies had no link with the HE system. In Holland for instance vouchers were provided to purchase training and research.
There were also concerns on the tension between the benefit to UK plc or to institutions. Protecting IP would give short term gains to institution but long term difficulty for UK plc.
There was also a consideration of the tension with the ethics of engagement with business over knowledge transfer.

The final session was a question and discussion session in which the panel including the hefce chairman and chief executive were asked what the big issues for the sector were in the next ten years.

They responded that these were:
Clients - external stakeholders, students, employers, community. The focus on lifelong learning would mean we look to students over a long period as dipping in and out of education.

Institutional positioning - Universities have to identify strengths and focus on their strengths. There would be an increasing need for specific branding and marketing.

Globalisation - Have to maintain as sector and institution members of international community. UK seens as and maintained as one where lots of people want to participate. Have to look to worldwide trends and how to follow them.
Collaboration - How to collaborate with competitors.

Attending the Hefce meeting and from my regeneration perspective we are in a position through the NPC to support the increasing involvment of postgraduates in society and the value of research and education to communities.

MSC Actions

To speak to AMSU, Julian Nicholds and Kat Fletcher: I have liased with AMSU who distributed an introduction from myself to members. I am arranging to visit Julian when we are both free and my meeting with Kat has been rescheduled as she was ill.