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25th Anniversary series: 2003 – Using scenarios to set a 7 year plan

April 1, 2015

Professor Joan Stringer arrived at Napier University as Principal in January 2003 and took the opportunity to rethink the strategic agenda. Among many aspects of this, she asked Gill Ringland and Professor Ian Jones of SAMI Consulting to help with a Central Management Team event, to outline a new agenda and develop a plan to implement it.

As part of the briefing for the event, SAMI explored the future for Scottish Higher Education for 2010. Research showed government Higher Education policy as one issue, with uncertainty over policy and levels of funding causing concern. There is increasing commercialisation of higher education worldwide. UK universities are increasingly thinking internationally, and are becoming “managed”.

Based on these background factors, the previous Scenarios for Scotland work done with St Andrews and Strathclyde Universities, a review of Napier’s competitive positioning, and interviews with senior academics, SAMI developed four scenarios for Higher Education in Scotland.

Four Scenarios

Confident collaboration portrays a world of confident alliances, Scottish universities competing globally, working together and with business, overseas students being attracted to study in Edinburgh as a world class city. Universities are less dependent of exchequer funding in this scenario.

Organic creativity is more national in outlook. Scottish universities are confident but with limited and more national ambitions. Students reduce potential debt by attending local universities, living at home. Cooperation with industry is local, and universities reach out into the community.

In Scotland Bypassed, Scottish Higher Education shows a lack of energy and coherence, consumed by petty rivalries. Universities, dependent on government funding, face uncertainty and quality is undermined through the fear of that excess capacity in Scotland will lead to closures.

We also explored a Status Quo scenario.

What happened next

The Central Management Team committed itself to a number of initiatives, as a confident national university playing to its strengths in an international world. Some of these are built on Edinburgh’s international image, others on Napier’s existing teaching and research capability, for instance its partnerships with a number of Chinese Universities.

In 2008, A phone call “you may remember you helped us with strategy five years ago: we have implemented that and wonder if you would come back & help us plan the next five years”.

By 2015, Edinburgh Napier University was able to say

“Because we offer industry-informed courses, combining theory and practice to equip our graduates for success in the global job market, we’re in the top 20 in the UK for undergraduate employability.

95.4% of our 2012/13 undergraduates and 92% of our postgraduates were in work or further study six months after graduating.

We are one of the largest higher education institutions in Scotland, with over 18,000 students from 109 countries.

We are a truly international University: our 6,384 overseas students represent 35% of our overall student population.

We have over 4,500 students studying our courses in Hong Kong, India and Singapore.”

Confident collaboration indeed!

Written by Gill Ringland.

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