“Just a dream and the wind to carry me” – PA Consulting HE leaders survey 2013

As in previous years the mighty post-Taylorist consulting enterprise PA Consulting have produced a survey of the views of HE Leaders (basically anyone in charge of an institution).

Swapping some deliberately falsified user-data for a copy of their full report I settled down with a good cup of coffee to peruse their yacht-bedecked and nautical-pun-filled analysis – the full, unexpurgated data not being made available.

As with other mid-2013 commentary, the once-vaunted “avalanche” of change facing HE has been downgraded – this time to a slightly rough sea, prompting a reshaking of the sector (or sectors, as one respondent with an eye on keynote gigs points out: “there is no such thing as a HE sector”) rather than widespread carnage.

There seems to be a confidence that traditional HE, in a recognisable form, will prevail. This meshes with the recent disruption downgrade, change and adaptation in education now being expected to occur within existing structures – echoed by a notable turning away from the idea of a “no frills” model of low priced (sub £6,000) education becoming dominant.


The greatest worries expressed by HE leaders
relate to the uncertain outlook for student
demand and related revenues

which is exactly what you would expect to see. The main effect of Willetts-Browne funding has been to at uncertainty and instability to a sector the used to be able to make long-term plans. Institutional management has become an increasingly short-term enterprise – I’ll leave it to the reader to decide whether this is good use of public funds.

My sources are telling me that we are looking at seeing each of the three main parties coming into the next elections with proposals to reform the HE funding method, policy-makers finally agreeing with the wonks that the current model is not and will never be sustainable. This is fairly common knowledge amongst VCs, and may have something to do with the atmosphere of becalmed stasis that permeates these survey responses.

“Well it’s not far back to sanity, at least it’s not for me
And if the wind is right you can sail away and find serenity”


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