Sunday, 20 November 2011

HE in FE - just keeps on growing...

For the last couple of weeks, I have been spending a lot of time thinking about and writing about HE in FE. I do this quite a lot anyway as I work in a Further Education College and am primarily responsible for supporting Higher Education students with their learning resource and information literaracy needs. However, a couple of weeks ago I went to a meeting where a member of senior management asked me, as a representative of the LRC, to consider the impact of more directly HEFCE funded courses on our service. For those who don't know, if a course is directly funded by HEFCE it means that the student numbers belong to the college rather than the University - the consequence of this is that it is much cheaper for the college to run the course but students don't have access to anything the validating University has to offer. Great, I thought, a request to spend some time thinking and considering rather than just being asked to help with printing enquiries!

So I did and it kept on growing! I initially wrote down my own thoughts such as the need for more University level resources, especially electronic resources, and the fact that Universities have more generous opening hours than colleges. I then opened it up firstly to my work colleagues, one of whom suggested we should have a separate HE budget, and then secondly to my professional peers via various JISCMAIL lists, CILIP's LinkedIn page and the Cofhe Lasec blog. I even asked the potential CILIP counsellors for their opinions in the ehustings. While the responses I received weren't many the ones I did receive were well thought out and detailed. The main consensus seems to be that:
  • this is going to become a massive issue as the government continues to tinker with education
  • clear communication is vital between the many layers of educational institutions so people, and in particular, students aren't misled
  • that it may all become quite fraught with competition between the various providers - see this BBC piece which clearly demonstrates how this is already happening.
Anyway, I found this all very interesting, if slightly doom-laden, and wrote up my findings for the groups I had commandeered for their opinions. This was then retweeted by the Guardian Higher Education Network which I was very surprised and pleased about.

So that should have been the end of it (apart from I am still waiting to feed back to the member of senior management) but not so. My esteemed CoFHE LASEC Chair, Helen Stein, is in contact with all the right people at CILIP and the policy team there were considering responding to the QAA consultation on the replacement of the IQER. So we told them that we thought this was a very good idea and then had a couple of days to put something together. Being not directly work-related meant I couldn't do this on work time so my evenings were a little busier that usual to say the least! Anyhow, it has gone through and everyone is happy and when the new version of the IQER is rolled out I can tell myself that I was involved in that. While I don't expect much, I do hope that we have encouraged a few of the powers that be to think a little more about the work that librarians do to support students and the challenges they face in doing so.

1 comment:

  1. Changes such as an increase of HE in FE is going to have a significant impact on information services. Whilst we may or may not be lucky enough to implement any service changes in response, we are going to increasingly have to manage the differing expecations of a number of users. We already see some levels of dissatisfaction from students who do have access to their affiliated University's resources. An increase of students who rely wholly on us to provide their HE experience will no doubt present challenges.