Malleable Musings

December 4, 2011

HE Global

The Chancellor’s Autumn statements last Tuesday had a couple of impacts for Higher Education.  However it wasn’t the  £200 million boost to science funding that caught my eye.  It was paragraph A 80 of the Autumn Statement Document.

Education export opportunities – The Government will launch HE Global, an online portal providing information and advice to higher education (HE) institutions on expanding abroad. It will also develop a vehicle to bring together government, the HE sector and industry expertise to package and sell education offers overseas.

My initial reaction was, “Oh great – another website.”  Then I thought about the timing.  The Autumn Statement was delivered on the first day of the EducationUK Partnership meeting, probably the leading conference for those working in UK HE international student recruitment.  From talking to colleagues who attended I don’t think HE Global was mentioned to delegates in Edinburgh.

This therefore sounded like it would be a UKTI-led initiative whose usefulness would depend on who was actually doing the work.  When I was doing international office type work I never really found the UKTI to be all that helpful.  Most of their staff didn’t really seem to understand the issues that HE institutions face when working overseas, or what they are trying to achieve.  I’d used them in the past to arrange Ambassador’s receptions and I also read their briefing notes, like these ones for Singapore (2010 and 2011).  For me these Singapore notes are particularly interesting as I’d sat through intelligence gathering meetings between UKTI consultants and Singaporean HEIs, having been invited in to the meetings by the Singaporeans.

Therefore I was gladdened to see a note on the International Unit website on Friday saying that HE Global is an initiative that they are involved with.  From the site:

The HE Global is a web portal and will give users:

  • better knowledge of foreign market opportunities,
  • clearer and coordinated services of government and partners’ services,
  • better understanding of foreign quality assurance and accrediting systems,
  • access to finance and insurances to reduce risks and
  • access to key information to help HEIs assess risks and carry out due diligence before undertaking TNE activities.

Points 2-5 certainly look interesting therefore I’ve already emailed Alex and will be watching out for the launch on 25th Jan.


May 28, 2010

Did I just describe a PLE?

I had an interesting phone call last week from someone in the COI. The COI, in case you don’t know, are the UK Government Central Office of Information (COI) – the Government’s centre of excellence for marketing and communications. They do some excellent work providing guidance on all aspects of marcomms.

Anyway, the person who rang me was carrying out a research study for The British Council. They were wanting to identify the media habits of professionals who work in the area of international education.  In particular they wanted to understand potential media which actively engage in issues related to higher education and how these were used.

So during the phone call I was read a list of media titles.  I’d heard of more or less all of the titles mentioned although there were a couple of more obscure titles (journals) where I wasn’t quite so sure.  In discussing the traditional media I explained that print-only media is more or less invisible for me.  The only thing that I receive in hard copy format that I even flick through is the COL newsletter.

So online media is really the only way I access this sort of specific news of information.  I also explained that I wasn’t that likely to visit a particular website to get my news, although I might use an online database, library or datastore if I knew what it contained.

I reflected back and thought about the professional networks that do exist.  They often provide meatspace opportunities but I recognised that very little news was ever highlighted to me offline.  Okay, I’d occasionally find out a little titbit of information in conversation with colleagues from other institutions especially at conferences but it was usually soft anecdotal stuff rather than news or hard information.

This lead to a bit of a discussion about what I thought NEWs was and an explanation from me that I was only really likely to look at NEWs if it was sent directly to me as an email newsletter or highlighted to me in another way, through an RSS feed or crowdsourced by a brand I trusted (either a corporate brand such as the chronicle or a personal brand) or if it hit a search filter of some type that I’d set up.

I also explained my reticence to paywalls and the problems I have with sites that have registration walls (e.g. the FT).

It was a quite an interesting conversation that had me reflecting quite a bit about my current media habits and how they have changed over the past few years.  Two or three years ago I would have given very different answers and even a year ago my thoughts were quite different and search seemed much more important to me.

I didn’t talk about the details of how I get my NEWs these days but whilst I was on the phone I kept thinking have I just described a Personal Learning Environment.

In terms of the details of my PLE, for the past six months or so I’ve relied on my6Sense to keep me updated.   My6Sense is an interesting iPhone app that pulls together your social and RSS feeds.   The idea is that the more that you use it the more it understands your interests and starts to surface the things that you’ll find relevant.  I usually check it a couple of times a day and so far I’ve found it to be pretty good.  Of course, I don’t really know what I’m missing however for some reason it feels better knowing I’ve flicked through a couple of pages of my6sense recommendations than seeing the thousands of items that I never got around to looking at in Google Reader.

I do also occasionally dip in to Twitter and Friendfeed.  Twitter lists, and friend lists on Friendfeed help me catch up on things that particular people have said that I might have missed and I also use Friendfeed to bookmark things to go back to read later when I have more time.

I certainly don’t feel that I’m really part of an international education network.  If an online network does exists for the people who are interested in these aspects of international education then either:

  1. I  haven’t really found it yet (although I have found lots of people who offer some really interesting points of view);  or
  2. I’m too much of a visitor and not resident enough – also read I’ve been too much of a lazy slacker and haven’t worked hard enough to become part of that network yet.

However, I do feel that I’ve got the beginnings of a personal learning environment.  It’s a learning environment that I know will definitely change over the coming years, months and days in ways that I can only dream of, but it’s still my very own PLE isn’t it?

May 14, 2009

Competitor Market Research

Filed under: Market Research — Brendan @ 2:42 pm

I had an experience the other day that made me question the logic behind appointing external market research companies.

The background is that our information centre received an email that they forwarded to me from a Business Analyst within a market research firm. The firm had been commissioned by a client an online law degree provider based in the UK to explore the feasibility of launching its online law program in Canada.

Given that I currently work for the largest university provider of UK law degrees and I’m about to move to another large distance learning provider (who in the interview task asked me to deliver a presentation about marketing a law degree) my interest was naturally peaked. At the very least I wanted to know who the additional competition would be. So I duly emailed back saying I’d be very happy to talk to them.

The phone call itself was odd, as the market research company were based in India and there was a bit of a delay on the line. I found out who the client was, their current thinking about pricing and a little about what positioning and entry strategies they were thinking about.

But I can’t work out, what if anything from the interview, that the market research firm will be able to feed back to their client (that the client doesn’t know already).  Most of the questions that they asked weren’t relevant to me as a competitor, as they were questions that needed to be directed elsewhere.

I’m amazed at how inefficient this piece of research was.  It provided very little in the way of competitor information and certainly no market understanding.  I didn’t say too much that couldn’t have been gleaned from our website.  I was honest and didn’t lead them to any false assumptions, which as a competitor I could have been tempted to do.

A different and more fruitful conversation may well have taken place if the client had contacted me / or one of my colleagues directly.