Paul Woodgates, PA higher education expert, has been interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme – arguably one of the most influential business channels in the media. Paul addresses the ‘sea change’ that is taking place across higher education as a result of the rise in student fees, which has created a highly competitive market.
Talking about the research that PA has conducted to understand the views and perspectives of higher education leaders, Paul explains: “The overwhelming message is that this year universities are finding themselves, for the first time, genuinely in a market to attract students. That’s both the home students who are paying £9,000 each – and are now a lot more fussy about what they get for their money – and the international market, which is now a much more competitive market than it has been in the past.”
When asked if the UK’s higher education sector is making the most of its international presence and reputation, Paul says: “There’s no doubt that the UK’s higher education sector punches above its weight globally due to its tremendous research powers, and also of course the fact that the teaching is in English, which is important to large parts of the world. But there is still plenty that UK universities can be doing to build on that.”
Paul is asked how media controversy over international studentships being used as ‘a back door for immigration’ has affected the UK’s higher education market. Paul explains that by including international students in immigration statistics, the government is not helping the sector, and nor is the growing global perception that the UK is less welcoming to international students than it used to be.
Commenting on how the removal of Tony Blair’s target – which aimed for 50 per cent of students to go on to higher education – will affect the sector, Paul says: “The sector has been used to constant expansion over the past 20 years, and that dynamic has gone. The competitive element between universities could drive some to extinction and our research suggests that vice chancellors are expecting that. I think equally likely, if not more likely, is that there will be rationalisation between universities , which may result in some of them getting smaller and may result in some of them becoming more specialised, as they have done in the past.”
To listen to the interview, please click here and listen from 24 minutes.