The Wilson Review – Implications for Collaborate

The Wilson Review (http://www.wilsonreview.co.uk/) into business-university collaboration has recently been published, and has already been widely commented on (e.g. the Guardian’s response). Seeing as Collaborate is specifically exploring the issue of collaboration of employers, academics and students the Wilson Review has a direct relevance to what we’re trying to achieve, and hence I’ve tried to pick out those recommendations which have most bearing on the project.

Recommendation 6, paragraph 4.6.3

The sector skills council (SSC) kitemarking of programmes is to be welcomed in that it is a system of industry recognition that informs students of the nature of the programme and brings employers closer to curriculum definition. It is for universities to decide whether to engage with SSC kitemarking or not. Where individual programmes are kitemarked by a SSC, that fact should be recognised within the Key Information Set (KIS) provided for applicants and included in the university’s promotional material. Given the three different business models adopted by the three SSCs, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) should monitor the performance of each business model in terms of recruitment, financial viability and employment outcomes. Any future SSC kitemarking should also be included in such a monitoring activity. A formal review of the effectiveness of SSC kitemarking should be undertaken by UKCES in 2015.

Relevance To Collaborate

Although the SSC work seems to be less focused on research intensive universities, they do offer a way of engaging a broad range of employers within defined sectors without having to develop individual relationships, which may be a more sustainable way of working across our institution. The possibility of kitemarking is also intriguing, and matches some of our own early ideas about some form of ‘badging’ or other marking of modules that would distinguish an authentic style of assessment from those modules without this level of employability focus. Some way of highlighting the extra attention that has been given to employability at the heart of a module does seem like an important part of our jigsaw.

Reflective recommendation 5, paragraph 4.3.2

Universities should reflect on the opportunities that are provided for students to develop employability skills through the formal learning methodologies used within the university and ensure that students are able to articulate the skills that they have developed through their learning experiences. It is for universities to ensure that their staff have the appropriate skills to support students in this process.

Relevance To Collaborate

It is encouraging to see this recommendation with the Wilson Review, as this is exactly what Collaborate is setting out to do – to marry up the formal learning that happens at the core of University teaching with the need to develop employability skills. It’s also a reminder of just how crucial it is to put in place the necessary support for staff, making sure that they have the necessary understanding of how assessment procedures can be changed to support employability needs.

Reflective recommendation 6, paragraph 4.3.3

Universities should reflect on the strategies they use to ensure that students have the opportunity to develop enterprise skills both through the formal curriculum and through optional study or practice, and reflect on the integration of enterprise education in the professional development programmes for academic staff.

Relevance To Collaborate

Again this is at the heart of Collaborate, and is a useful reminder that we need to address the issues at both strategic and professional development levels.

Reflective recommendation 21, paragraph 6.4

Large companies represent only a fraction of the opportunities available for graduate employment, yet are disproportionally popular in terms of graduate application. Universities should reflect on how students’ perceptions of employment with small and medium-sized companies could be improved.

Relevance To Collaborate

Unusually at Exeter, our students seem less inclined compared to our competitors to join larger companies, and have more preference for SMEs (The UK Graduate Careers Survey 2011). With this in mind, it maybe better for Collaborate to try to engage smaller companies locally, although this may raise some issues in terms of sustainability as it is harder to manage larg groups which consist of smaller entities.

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