Guest blog: leading visual effects company on importance of university links

Universities UK is currently working with the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) to examine how universities are working with employers to develop alternative and innovative pathways to high level skills. In this blog, Amy Smith from Framestore, a world leader in visual effects and the company behind the images in the Oscar-winning film Gravity, shares her thoughts on how universities are working with fast-paced creative and digital industries to meet their skills needs and how we can strengthen these partnerships.

Ten years ago, the team at Framestore identified a need to collaborate more closely with higher education institutions to help to work better with the creative sector. Our efforts have taken on many forms over the years, including providing guest lecturers, career guidance and coaching; attending events and job fairs; sitting on course advisory boards; offering internships and providing hardware. Continue reading

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Translating the potential of open data into practice

“Data is the next oil. Data is the new capital of the 21st century. Data will spur innovation and drive growth.” We’ve all heard statements like these over the last few years. And in many ways they’re true. As the volume and richness of data rapidly increases, so does the demand for insight into strategies that can be implemented to harness its full value.

Open data democratises this evolving market. Open data sets are proliferating, with over 8 million data sets available through Quandl and datacatalogs.org and nearly 20,000 through data.gov.uk. According to McKinsey, open data has a potential global value of $3 trillion. Lateral Economics estimates that open data – including open access research – could contribute $13 trillion to G20 economies cumulatively over the next five years. The assessment carried out for the 2013 Shakespeare Review estimated that the direct economic impact of public sector information in 2011 was over £7 billion.

But potential is not the same thing as reality. The challenge is to ensure that the plans drawn up by public sector bodies to release specific data sets are based on how the data can achieve a beneficial outcome, not – or, at least, not solely – based on the cost or ease of publication. Despite the best of intentions, only a relatively small proportion of open data sets now available have the latent potential to create significant economic or social impact. How can this potential be identified and translated into reality? And what does this mean for the higher education sector?

Higher education is a sector inundated with data, which has the capacity to contribute to the enhancement of both university education and research. Open data also has the potential to facilitate decision making and organisational change, provide insight into student choice and recruitment, improve teaching and learning, enhance the research process and drive growth in the local economies of which universities are a significant contributor.

As competition among higher education providers intensifies and markets are deregulated, data provides an opportunity to get ahead. In the face of competition for education and admissions, universities have to re-examine how they recruit, retain and educate their students, and ensure that the true value of their costly bricks and mortar is realised.

Demonstrating the uplift in value that universities deliver over online alternatives means providing prospective students with the information they need to make informed decisions. Publishing open data is one route to achieving this. And there are other benefits, too. Giving data back and being transparent about the way it is used and the benefits it delivers can result in greater trust in the relationships that a university establishes with its peers, with businesses and the public sector, and especially with its students.

As a result, a more solid community is established, and this may in itself play a part in providing insight into student choice. University of Southampton among one of the pioneers in open data, publishes a catalogue of open data made available by UK academic institutions. The university also has its own open data service, publishing daily lunch menus, a ‘Room Finder’, bus timetables, and an open data map of the campus.

Publishing data benefits more than just admissions and student retention. Operational efficiency, environmental impact and social responsibility all benefit from the public’s ability to access data and hold senior university officials to account.

But while there may be a justifiable clamour for the UK’s universities to open up more of their data, equally they need to use other sources of open data – both from the higher education sector and from elsewhere – to help them become more efficient and more effective in the increasingly competitive business of education.

For example, faculty heads could benchmark their courses against local or national employment needs by using business data published by Companies House and the Office for National Statistics. Admissions staff could match applicant and admissions data to detailed census data as well as data published by UCAS and HESA, to better understand the relationships affecting recruitment and retention of their students.

In practice, many such examples of the value of open data in higher education can be identified. Typically, what all have in common is that they depend on both publishing and use of open data; and on blending external open data sources with the internal institutional and administrative data collected by individual universities.

The bottom line is that by capitalising on the wealth of data now available – from internal activities as well as external sources – universities can generate valuable new insights to aid executive and operational decision-making. Through open data, university executives will be equipped to make smarter decisions. In response to their questions, they will receive clear and timely intelligence; opportunities and risks will be highlighted by insights derived from data that is well-managed, secure and accessible; and decision-making, itself, becomes more open and collaborative.

Harvey Lewis is Director of Deloitte Insight and Deloitte Analytics at Deloitte LLP.

Harvey Lewis is talking about translating the potential of open data into practice at 5pm Tuesday 15th July at Woburn House, Tavistock Square. To reserve a place or to find out more about the creating value from open data seminar series please go to http://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/Events/Pages/creatingvaluefromopendata.aspx . You can also follow the event live online through the UUK YouTube channel at http://youtu.be/G2kzjgjtvC8

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Creating value from open data

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Open data, the principle and practice of making data available for anyone to use, for any purpose, at no cost has the potential to make a major impact on the world around us. Given these prospects, the UK higher education sector is already starting to get on board. A number of universities (Southampton, Oxford, and the Open University, to name a few) have taken on the agenda, and are rapidly developing tools and practices. Sector agencies and bodies such as JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee), HESA (Higher Education Statistics Agency), the Research Councils, and the Royal Society are also working in the same direction. Continue reading

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Increased fees and higher expectations – how universities are responding

UK universities have a world-class reputation for the quality of their teaching and research. They also have very high student satisfaction levels.

Nine in 10 students in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are happy with their course, according to the 2014 HEPI-HEA Student Academic Experience Survey. Across the four parts of the UK, there is little variation, despite different finance systems.

However, the shift in England from public funding to increased fees means that students are understandably, and rightly, demanding more from their university courses. Continue reading

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Funding changes and the impact on university research – new report

Universities Week 2014 is a fantastic opportunity to showcase and celebrate the various ways in which university research makes a difference in our daily lives. It also offers an ideal platform to discuss the role of public funding in making the benefits of university research possible and widely shared across the UK economy and society. A new report published today by Universities UK aims to make a contribution to this discussion by examining recent changes in public research and postgraduate training funding and their potential implications for universities.

This is the second report in a series by Universities UK on the theme of the funding environment for universities, launched on 29 May, with the release of our report on postgraduate taught funding. Continue reading

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Postgraduate taught education: the funding challenge

Postgraduate education has received increasing attention in recent years and the limited availability of funding for students on many postgraduate taught courses has emerged as a key issue. More recently, the government has stated it will investigate options to support increasing participation in postgraduate studies and will put forward its ideas at Autumn Statement 2014. A new report published today by Universities UK looks at the issues and calls on the Government to consider the evidence presented as it analyses options to support an increase in postgraduate participation.

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EU membership and the impact on UK higher education

Following the publication this week of an open letter by university vice-chancellors in The Times newspaper, it is worth looking in more detail at how membership of the European Union impacts upon UK higher education.

In January 2014, we saw the launch of the new EU programmes for research and higher education, Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+. This was the culmination of two years of negotiating and – from the perspective of UK higher education – the outcome was excellent. Both the research and higher education budgets were protected and prioritised, even in the context of the first-ever real terms cut in the EU budget.

Yet this success comes in the context of growing uncertainty regarding the UK’s future relationship with the European Union. Continue reading

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What do employers value about Masters-level study?

Although over the last ten years there has been an overall increase in those studying for postgraduate taught (PGT) programmes (e.g. MA, MSc, etc.), more recently, we have seen a significant dip. This decline has pushed postgraduate provision up on the higher education policy agenda and significant focus is being given to important issues around supply and demand for PGT courses, and how a more sustainable funding model can be developed.

Alongside this, however, it is important that we can also understand how to sustain the impact and contribution of PGT graduates.

Graduates of PGT programmes make an important contribution to the UK economy and society. Getting the most from this contribution means that PGT students need the skills and qualities to be employable, provision that is in tune with the needs of employers, and that employers understand and recognise the benefits and opportunities that postgraduates can bring.

A new report published today – commissioned by Universities UK – from the Higher Education Careers Services Unit (HECSU) makes an important contribution in this area, and sets out to address a gap in the evidence around employer engagement with postgraduate taught provision. Continue reading

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