Always look on the bright side of life!
David Law, Editor
Hard or soft? Scrambled or sunnyside up? How do you like your eggs? And, of course, it’s not possible to make a full English Brexit without breaking eggs! A recipe for disaster? Or the dawn of an English renaissance?
Over a year has passed and we are hardly any clearer about what Brexit means for us – and in this case the ‘us’ could be you and me, and family and friends, or it could be all those who care about the future for universities in the UK, and indeed the future of Europe (which has to include Great Britain because the British Isles are also European islands).
The referendum vote in 2016 was fuelled, perhaps subconsciously for most ‘leavers’, by an inward-looking concern to restate the ‘peculiarities of the English’. Those who work in higher education, alongside those who graduated in the last 40 years, mostly voted to Remain. They saw a future of connection and co-operation.
The rejection of the EU puts me in mind of Mr John Podsnap, a character invented by Charles Dickens for Our Mutual Friend, first published in 1865.
‘We Englishmen are Very Proud of our Constitution, Sir. It Was Bestowed Upon Us By Providence. No Other Country is so Favoured as This Country.’
‘This Island was Blest, … to the Direct Exclusion of such Other Countries … And if we were all Englishmen present, I would say’, added Mr Podsnap, looking round upon his compatriots, and sounding solemnly with his theme, ‘that there is in the Englishman a combination of qualities, a modesty, an independence, a responsibility, … which one would seek in vain among the Nations of the Earth.’ (Dickens 1994 Dickens, C. 1994. Our Mutual Friend. London: David Campbell.
Is it over-stretching a political metaphor to wonder whether the militant wing of the leave campaign represented a kind of collective Podsnappery? The Englishman who, modestly, lets you know that destiny requires independence so that our responsibility for civilisation can be assured – remind you of anybody?
A year after the referendum vote we endured a general election contest, fought in the interests of ‘strong and stable’ government. Perhaps the plan was for the negotiation team to march to the greatest hits of Vera Lynn – There Always Be An England!
In the coming years we shall, no doubt, feel the impact of Brexit (and find out what it means). For the time being, let’s remember the words of Eric Idle: ‘Some things in life are bad, they can really make you mad, other things just make you swear and curse. … Don’t grumble, give a whistle! And this’ll help things turn out for the best.’
In this issue, we are publishing five articles on very different subjects, ranging from how universities engage with the internationalisation agenda to the experiences of LGBTQ students in our institutions.
Nigel Healey, now the Vice-Chancellor of Fiji National University, argues that many universities in many countries have interpreted internationalisation to mean the recruitment of ‘full cost’ fee-paying international students (‘export education’) for primarily commercial reasons. British universities, collectively, raise approximately 13% of their annual revenues from tuition fees paid by international (non-European Union) students. His article discusses, based on his own experience, what internationalisation might look like when the international learning experience is placed at the heart of the strategic plan.
Sue Shepherd, a former Marketing and Communications Director in English universities, now researches and writes on how UK universities recruit senior staff. Her paper questions how far recruitment practices, at senior levels, have changed in recent years. She finds that, despite the Pro Vice-Chancellor role becoming more managerial, those getting such jobs continue to be, overwhelmingly, career academics.
Fiona Handley, Quality Enhancement Ofﬁcer, and Ann Read, Dean of Academic Services, both of whom work at Southampton Solent University, report on a project that reviewed and changed the University’s marking scheme. The introduction of a new marking scheme successfully changed marking practices and increased transparency and consistency. This piece also reflects on the project through a perspective of change management.
Michelle Grimwood, who at the time of writing was a PhD Research Student at The University of Greenwich, writes about the experiences of LGBTQ students. She explores some of the main ﬁndings from a study and conducted in collaboration with the LGBT service provider METRO and The University of Greenwich. Among her conclusions is that universities need to ensure LGBTQ groups are publicised on the corporate website. ‘Explicit mention of an LGBTQ support group is important as potential students often look for this evidence when considering application to a university.’
Finally, Melissa Johnson Morgan and Joanne Finkelstein, University of Southern Queensland in Australia, ask ‘Why has it been necessary to remake the university in the image of the department store, supermarket or bank, and how has it been achieved without more critique?’ Their polemic, under our ‘In My View’ heading, aims to make our readers ask their own searching questions. We hope it succeeds.
As I write this editorial, our organisation, the Association of University Administrators (AUA), is promoting its next annual conference on Beyond Brexit, to be held in Manchester in March 2018. We also continue to invite submissions to a Brexit-themed issue of Perspectives that will be published next year. If you have any questions about what we are looking for, please send me an email and we will provide support and advice.
A new initiative that we are promoting, in the hope that more members of AUA can be persuaded to write for the AUA’s quarterly journal, is inTouch. We are looking for shorter articles that demonstrate engagement with professional practice. There is no requirement for a literature review or theoretical discussion. We would like to know how our colleagues are solving problems. If you are interested, please get in touch.
And, don’t forget: Always Look on the Bright Side of Life! (Once more, with feeling please, and not the slightest hint of irony: ‘if life seems quite absurd… ’).