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Exhibitor briefing

UCISA 2013 – Briefing for exhibitors

Welcome to the 2013 UCISA Annual Management Conference. We are grateful for the support you and your fellow exhibitors give UCISA and hope that you have a productive few days in Liverpool. The following briefing highlights the current issues in the sector and the challenges that the Conference delegates are facing, and is intended to help you get the most out of the event.

2012 was a turbulent year for the higher education sector. Coming into the summer it was not clear what impact the increase in fees and the changes made to introduce competition amongst English institutions at the margins would have. The process certainly threw up a number of surprises. Few had anticipated that a number of the established research intensive universities would fall so short of their target numbers. The unexpected fall in the number of students achieving AAB grades contributed to that but, although there was an increase in the number of students taking the preferred choice route, universities that expected to lose their AAB students found that they had retained the majority. This perhaps illustrates that location and course are as important to students when they are selecting which universities to apply to as reputation.

There are indications of a recovery in student numbers. Applications through UCAS have risen by 3.5% overall with applications from UK, EU and international (non-EU) students all increasing compared with 2012. The increase is not uniform across the UK; numbers applying from Wales have fallen. Similarly, although applications to institutions across the UK have increased, the percentage increase of applications to English institutions is half that of the other home nations. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some English institutions have experienced a fall in applications. Although the figures from UCAS suggest that applications from international students have increased, it may not reflect the overall trend as not all such applications are made through UCAS. The sector remains cautious about the impact of the Government’s rhetoric on immigration on international student applications.

There continues to be uncertainty about the long term impact of the new fees regime; different institutions will be affected in different ways. Our conference this year offers the chance to hear the views of three university leaders; the Vice-Chancellors of the University of Liverpool, Liverpool John Moores University and the University of Derby are taking part in a Question Time style discussion on current issues on Wednesday afternoon. I would encourage you to attend the session.

One effect of the turmoil of last summer has been a redoubling of effort being put into student recruitment. In addition, institutions are continuing to look to invest in the student experience. This investment can take many forms; the student experience is all encompassing and the projects underway are many and varied. A number of the University Showcase sessions are highlighting the impact ICT can have on the student experience and Dan Derricott is giving the student perspective on what IT departments should be delivering on Thursday morning.

The sector is continuing to assess the implications of the recommendations of the Finch report on expanding public access to research findings. The move towards making the outputs from publicly funded research more widely available has been broadened to include research data. This has the potential to place a significant demand on IT departments not just for providing storage for large volumes of data, but for managing access to that data in the long term.

There is an increasing focus on business data within the sector and recognition that there is a need to make better use of the data institutions have captured. The uncertainty over the impact of the new fees regime led to many institutions carrying out scenario planning exercises to model the likely outcomes. Data from a wide range of sources is being used to try and identify students that may be at risk of dropping out to attempt to improve retention and there is a growing interest in how learning analytics are being used in US institutions. Clearly all these require accurate timely data and institutions are continuing to invest in ways of ensuring their data are fit for purpose.

I hope that you find this briefing a useful aid to your conversations with the delegates. As part of the service we offer our Corporate Members UCISA sends email bulletins to named representatives in your company when we are alerted to changes proposed by Government agencies. For further updates on activity within the sector please check the UCISA website. A web version of this briefing has been posted on the UCISA website in the Exhibitors area of the Conference. Additionally you might be interested to know that my colleague Anna Mathews and I occasionally blog on current issues and the work that UCISA carries out – see and Finally I would like to remind you that the conference sessions are open to exhibitors and would encourage you to drop in to the sessions as they may well give you further insight on the challenges currently facing the sector.

The UCISA team and Conference Committee look forward to meeting you in Liverpool.
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