We welcome our International Delegates | AUA Conference 2019

Nicola Owen talks about meeting our International Delegates at their welcome session, with Kathryn Fowler.


Nicola Owen
Chief Administrative Officer & Secretary
Lancaster University

The international delegates session was well attended this year, with colleagues bringing experiences from several different institutions in Nigeria, Australia and Japan. We started off with some sharing on key issues in the various issues represented, then in an ambitious attempt within the time permitted, Kathy Fowler covered the first 1000 years of Higher Education in the UK, noting the various stages of development of institutions across the four nations over 800 years, then the various stages of rapid growth during the twentieth and twenty first century. We noted how some things come around with the recent development of new specialist institutions and institutions serving the social and economic needs of their regional constituency, as well as how the most recent history has produced a fragmented landscape which means you can rarely speak about ‘UK’ HE. Nicola Owen then went on to describe the sector in the UK (or rather in most cases four nations) as it stands now, including the shape and scale of different institutions, mission groups, types of students and growth in staffing.

We then explored the complicated world of regulation – how in England, the shift to ‘market’ dynamics has been met with the introduction of a regulator ‘the Office for Students’ and the rise of accountability, transparency and the media spotlight. There were some shocked faces in the room when we discussed the public commitment by the regulator and English politicians to letting institutions fail and potentially go bankrupt (what even the state funded ones?!) as well as the complexity of the Scottish fee system (so really the other three nations are not deemed as being EU students for fees purposes – even pre-Brexit?). The more transactional nature of the student experience was noted, including the focus on employability and value for money.

What was our conclusion– it’s complicated! Delegates were then prompted to get the most out of the conference – network and find out how it feels from the point of view of delegates to be embroiled in the heavy mix that is UK HE!

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