Summary of discussion on higher education at Policy Centre meeting on 8 December 2023
Note of discussion on higher education at Policy Centre Jersey meeting on 8 December 2023
On 8 December 2023 the Policy Centre held a discussion meeting based around a draft paper University education on-Island. Kate Wright, Vice Chair of the Centre’s Advisory Committee, chaired the meeting.
Sir Mark Boleat, Senior Adviser to the Centre, opened the meeting by summarising the report. Comments on the paper were made by –
- Dr Michael Goldstein, former Vice Chancellor of Coventry University, who had led work on higher education in Jersey between 2004 and 2015.
- Professor Judith Still, Professor Emeritus at University of Nottingham and a Vice President of the British Academy.
- Professor Sir Paul Curran, former Vice Chancellor of City University London.
Following the presentations there was an open discussion.
30 people attended the meeting – members of the Council’s Advisory Committee and invited guests from business, the charity sector, education and the States Assembly.
Key points for the future
- There is a strong case for expanded higher education provision on-Island – to help the economy, reduce the brain drain and make higher education more accessible to Jersey people, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
- Building on existing institutions is the way forward.
- An immediate task would be to formalise collaboration between the various institutions, with appropriate branding.
- A proper campus would help but in a short term a lot can be done at little cost.
- Technology now facilitates blended learning, using academics from the UK.
- Substantial progress has been made in the last ten years, in spite of a lack of a Government policy or strategy – but a joined-up approach and support from government would help.
·Highlands College needs a fit-for-purpose campus and a funding mechanism that allows for continuity.
Summary of comments by Sir Mark Boleat
- Jersey has a low level of progression to higher education, performance at A level is well below what an affluent economy is entitled to expect and the relatively high educational standard of the workforce is largely explained by immigration.
- What is on offer in respect of higher education in the Island is more than most people realise and has expanded considerably.
- There is a strong case for expanded university-level education on-Island –
o To enhance Jersey’s competitive position.
o To increase the proportion of Jersey university students who remain in the Island.
o To expand choice for Jersey students by giving them the option of having a university-level education while living at home. This option is particularly important for students from low-income households and those with a disability or with caring responsibilities.
- The 2019 Jersey Opinions and Lifestyle Survey showed that 75% of adults thought that higher education opportunities should be increased on-Island.
- A “University of Jersey” is not a realistic short-term option. Jersey is too small to have its own university.
- A campus of a UK university is possible but it may be difficult to attract one.
- Expanding University College Jersey is the best short-term option but giving it its own strong identity.
- Proper facilities are needed for university-level education, something that looks and feels like a university. Highlands as a place is not it and may never be.
- Any option could be combined with establishing a “University Centre Jersey”, bringing together the current offerings. A “quick win” would be to do this as a website, with the option of a physical location subsequently.
Summary of comments by Dr Michael Goldstein
- My work some years ago convinced me that Jersey needs more higher education on-Island.
- Jersey can do better with what is already in place.
- Jersey needs to attract new players. It does not currently have the institutions that can deliver the variety of higher education needed.
- There needs to be better collaboration between the various providers.
- There is no strategic view of what the Island needs. Jersey is too small to have little pockets of excellence working independently. It needs those institutions to grow and to work together.
- Some things have improved significantly in the last ten years –
o On-Island degree in nursing. This is an outstanding example of what can and needs to be done. It has delivered on-Island higher education for Jersey people for Jersey’s needs.
o The Institute of Law.
o Much more trust in Highlands College; when I did my report in 2004 Highlands’s reputation among employers was low. The foundation degrees have contributed to the improvement.
o Jersey International Business School has been taken over by BPP, which simplifies things and means that BPP is potentially a more important player for on-Island degree provision.
- In policy terms nothing has changed. These developments have occurred despite the lack of response and strategy from the Government.
- What should Jersey do now –
o Take a wider view of higher education than set out in the paper.
o Management and leadership development programmes.
o Support for combining education with innovation and entrepreneurs to keep entrepreneurs on-Island.
o Ensure seamless progression from further and adult education to higher education.
o Encourage existing provision to develop and expand.
o Attract new players.
o Find a mechanism to bring together all relevant institutions in a policy/strategic organisation with a university branding, perhaps with some seed corn funding.
Summary of comments by Professor Judith Still
- Applaud the renewal of discussion about higher education in Jersey.
- Evidence-based research is needed to assess the appetite for higher education on-Island, not only for full-time school-leavers but also for mature and part-time students and professional development.
- Leaping straight to a “University of Jersey” is not practical.
- Incremental change could either be a “hands-off relationship with UK universities, simply underwriting quality, or a satellite campus of a UK university. The key point is the quality of the staff. The pool in Jersey is relatively small. A fair amount can be done by blended learning but more can be done by pulling in people from the UK.
- One advantage of Jersey is that there are many people in the finance and legal sectors in particular who could support the core teaching. Work placements are also important.
- Study of languages is important.
- Merit in consolidation of existing provision and having a really strong relationship with one UK higher education establishment to make sure that they have the necessary commitment.
Comment by Professor Sir Paul Curran
- Very supportive of the concept of building on provision on-island with validation of courses by UK universities and with a long-term aim of developing a University of Jersey.
Summary of comments by Jo Terry Marchant
- Welcome evidence-based discussion on higher education in Jersey as there is much ill-informed comment. There is currently no government strategy or policy.
- Much progress has been made and there are opportunities to do more.
- University College Jersey is offering nine degree programmes and about to bring in an accountancy and finance degree online so students on-Island can be ¾ accountancy qualified as well as having a degree.
- UCJ currently offers university-level education to 200 students as against 50 when Dr Goldstein did his work. The growth has happened in spite of the system and in a campus that is not fit for purpose.
- UCJ is vital to the economic and social wellbeing of the Island. 97% of students go into good employment in the Island. 80% of students receive student finance indicating that UCJ is taking students from lower income groups and therefore promoting social mobility. UCJ graduates stay on-Island.
- UCJ, JICAS and Institute of Law are already co-located at the Highlands campus as a result of a strategic decision to have higher education co-located in one hub – if not the right hub. The three institutions work together and talk about strategy but outside of government. We have formed a Higher Education Advisory Board; nursing is going to come into that. We want to grow on-Island research and opportunities.
- We want to explore working with more universities in addition to the five we work with now. Plymouth, one of the universities that works with UCJ, is particularly important because it believes in widening participation.
- To really grow higher education in the Island a number of things need to happen –
o Highlands is funded on a year-by-year basis so there is no certainty of continued provision. Three-year funding is needed.
o Partnership working needs to be invested in and supported, with some seed funding – about £50,000. There is no provision for this in the Government Plan. There are multiple strategies but the dots are not being joined in Government.
o Engage more international experts, which can be partly done online.
o Make use of the Higher Education Advisory Board – local people with expertise and experience.
- The brain drain could be an existential crisis. Another recent study showed that 88% of young people want to leave the Island. We have to offer options which can come from university education.
- There are plans for a new separate website for UCJ.
Comments in open discussion
- Jersey students are incentivised to study in the UK thus undermining local provision.
- Discussion in Jersey is often based on very outdated concepts of higher education. Higher education is not now based in a building but should start with a gap analysis. Technology can be leveraged massively to increase scale in a short time. A “white label” campus is needed as a first stage. It could have numerous providers.
- There has been too much emphasis on working in finance as if it is the only option.
- Students who go off-Island are less likely to come back. There is a big demand from mature students who can’t go off-island.
- Languages are very important.
- Continuity of funding is important.
- Need an audit on why people are choosing not to go to university.
- Jersey struggles to have people qualified to teach at university level.
- Finance houses and professional service firms have in-house training that includes time at UK universities.
- There is no co-ordination in government; the importance of higher education is not recognised.
- Need to go back a bit – Jersey has a highly selective secondary education system. Also, the social security system is based on households not individuals so young people cannot access support if the family is not supporting the application.
- Need to integrate academic and vocational education and to build parity of esteem.