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					Birkbeck Strategy – Discussion Document

27 May 2008

1.     Introduction

1.1      The purpose of this summary document is to set out a strategy for Birkbeck,
focussing on the developments and changes the College will need to take forward if
it is to respond to the ELQ funding threat and capitalise on the significant
opportunities that the changing HE policy environment is creating.

1.2   The strategy draws together developments that are already in progress; ideas
and opportunities we have identified as part of our internal ELQ discussions; and key
recommendations from Grant Thornton arising from the Strategic Review process.

2.     A viable future for the College

2.1      The fundamental purpose of the Strategic Review has been to establish the
viability of the College’s mission, providing unique part-time focussed teaching
opportunities to non-traditional students within an academic environment
characterised by research strength and excellence.

2.2      The message from the Strategic Review is that the College has the ability to
remain independent and successful broadly on those terms. Grant Thornton has
identified significant opportunities and student markets that the College is well
placed to pursue. However, the message has to be fully understood. In order to do
this, there is a clear requirement for change, both in terms of new academic
opportunities to be pursued and in terms of the organisational and management
structures that are necessary to support the main resource of the College – the
talent, expertise and commitment of its staff – in translating opportunity into
successful reality.

3.     Responding rapidly and effectively

3.1     The nature of the challenge we face should not be underestimated, nor the
need to respond rapidly and collectively to the opportunities that represent our
future viability. There are 2,500 HEFCE funded FTEs at risk in relation to the change
in ELQ funding. Without safety net funding the College would be running at an
unsustainable deficit of up to £M7 annually if it continues without change on its
current path. This equates to 150 posts.

3.2     Even before the ELQ changes, however, Birkbeck has been faced with
financial and funding challenges, internal but also external, linked to sector wide
funding issues for part-time provision. The College has recognised that both need to
be addressed to provide the scope and capacity to operate on a sustainable footing
and provide for the necessary academic and infrastructure investment to move
3.3     However, Birkbeck has faced significant funding shocks in the past and at such
points in its history has shown the resolve and strength of purpose to respond
positively, developing itself academically and reforming itself organisationally to
continue with its mission. It needs to do so again.

3.4     The College’s lobbying campaign and in particular the work of the Master
with government ministers, politicians of all parties, and other influential individuals
has created an external climate of opinion which is very supportive. The College
needs to capitalise on this support now whilst it is current, developing credible
proposals that translate good will into funding. HEFCE, for example, will support the
College but they will not simply fund the status quo. The College needs to act
decisively with this in mind.

4.       Vision and guiding principles

4.1     Change and development within the College needs to be anchored to a set of
guiding principles deriving from our mission and shared values.

        We are committed not only to teaching excellence but to the organisation
         and delivery of our teaching in ways that genuinely respond to the needs and
         circumstances of our students, creating opportunities for study that would
         not otherwise exist. Historically, this has led us to make significant change,
         hence the origin of our part-time evening teaching model. Most recently, it
         has led us to Birkbeck Stratford. This flexibility and focus on the student
         needs to underpin our future developments.

        We are committed to providing opportunities for higher education study
         from entry-level certificates to PhD supervision. This very breadth creates
         opportunities for progression and life-long learning that need to be exploited
         to the full within the College. Hand in hand with progression is the issue of
         student retention. As a leading part-time institution, the College needs to be
         at the forefront in the development of student support systems and
         processes which encourage students not only to embark on their studies but
         successfully complete them.

        We see our contribution to higher education, particularly in London, not
         only in terms of the significant direct impact of teaching and research but in
         our capacity and willingness to develop and promote innovative institutional
         partnerships. This is exemplified in Stratford and also through the Linking
         London Life Long Learning Network. The College has, and will continue, to
         capitalise on its reputation for widening participation on the one hand and its
         standing in research on the other to broker and facilitate partnerships
         between London institutions that would not otherwise come about.

        For Birkbeck, research is equally as important as its teaching mission. In the
         last Research Assessment Exercise, more than 80 per cent of the research
         was rated as being of international importance, receiving the maximum ‘best
         5*’ or 5 rankings. Having the capacity to invest in, and develop, our research
         position and sustain its long-term research competitiveness is a key
         consideration. In terms of the relationship between research and teaching,
         the vast majority of opportunities to benefit from research-led teaching are
         provided in a traditional context by institutions focussing on full-time
         provision for 18 to 21 year olds. We strongly believe such opportunities
         should not be limited by mode of study, nor by the fact that the educational
         route a student has followed has not been the conventional one.

        We must capitalise and fully exploit the potential of our research standing.
         Given our research reputation, we should be recruiting more students
         internationally to Masters programmes and to PhD study. We need to
         develop mechanisms to develop the potential of our intellectual property and
         the commercial application of our academic expertise. The College is
         distinctive in the contributions our academic staff make to wider public
         debate and culture, bringing to this the findings of their research and
         scholarship. This outward looking focus needs to continue and be promoted.

        One of the College’s obvious long-standing strengths is its experience and
         success in supporting students who are studying while working and the links
         we have developed with employers from all sectors who sponsor their
         employees to study at Birkbeck. We need to extend and develop these
         relationships, creating partnerships with business that will establish new part-
         time provision and vocational study opportunities focussed on developing the
         skills of the workforce.

         The College needs to be in a position to seize and capitalise on the
         opportunities that are now available. This is not only a matter of vision and
         commitment but of building fundamental capacity - organisational, financial
         and managerial - to realise our potential.

5.       Opportunities

5.1     In considering strategic opportunities, the focus has been on playing to
Birkbeck’s strengths of teaching expertise and delivery, research focus and
reputation. Positive discussions with both HEFCE and DIUS have confirmed our
strategic importance in the delivery of the widening participation and employer
engagement agenda in London. On this basis there is clear potential to build on
recent strategic initiatives such as Birkbeck Stratford, the Linking London LLN and
Foundation Degree expertise.

5.2    In terms of specific responses to the ELQ position, we have already been
examining course and programme developments. These include the development of
new progression routes, for example “professional masters” courses that would
support and encourage potential ELQ students in progressing to study at a higher

5.3    The broad range of opportunities Grant Thornton’s Strategic Review work
has identified is presented in Annexe A. These encompass options directly linked
to HEFCE funding, but also the development of activities that will diversify the
funding base of the College for the future. The view of Grant Thornton is that
pursuing a selected range of new opportunities, combined with a refocusing of
existing activities, does provide a sustainable path forward for the College; and one
which HEFCE will support in terms of implementation through their Strategic
Development Fund.

6.     The College’s Administration and Support Services

6.1    In supporting such new developments change is required in the College’s
administration and support services.

6.2      We need to prepare for inevitable changes to our student body and the need
to support new types of students studying in different modes. To cope effectively,
the College’s diversely located student support services need to be integrated and
co-ordinated under senior leadership. One stop shop approaches should be
implemented to manage initial contacts and queries in a way that clearly meets the
needs and expectations of our students. This model of delivery will free specialist
staff to focus more of their time on supporting students in most need and who face
the most challenging circumstances. This is also fundamental to the highest quality
of service.

6.3      The College must take further strides in capitalising on the infrastructure of
its student information systems, extending the range of services and administrative
processes it delivers flexibly on-line. It needs to invest further in the systems
capability to allow the College to manage, in a more individually tailored and
sophisticated way, the relationship and points of contact and communication it has
with enquirers, applicants and enrolled students. This will provide the technological
backbone to underpin and support broader College-wide initiatives in student
recruitment and improved retention. Staff across the College have a high degree of
commitment to our students and to their welfare. Improved systems and processes
will allow them to better co-ordinate their individual activities and maximise the time
they have available to directly help and work with students and support them in
studying successfully.

6.4     Grant Thornton have identified areas where the College’s devolved and
autonomous structures have led over time to areas of support service duplication
between Schools and the College centrally. Examples include areas of student
administration and IT infrastructure. These need to be reviewed in terms of cost
effectiveness and efficiency but also in certain cases also with regard to consideration
for long-term service continuity and resilience.

6.5     Overall, the College’s administration and support services need to continue
to develop the range and quality of their services whilst improving their cost
effectiveness. This will involve reviewing service delivery holistically in terms of
organisation, systems and processes and, in the light of this, investing to support
improvement and new service models in key areas. The College will continue to
pursue opportunities for shared service provision with the other Bloomsbury

7.     The Academic Organisation and Structure of the College
7.1     A key question for the College is the extent to which current organisational
and management structures have the capacity to deliver both significant new
developments as well as the effective day to day running of the College in a
particularly challenging period.

7.2    The College’s model of academic management, both for School and Faculty,
involves our staff taking on management duties over and above existing, and heavy,
teaching and research commitments. In this context it is hardly surprising that many
colleagues regard their management roles as, at best, a duty and, at worst, a burden.
The increase in the responsibilities of such roles and, allied to this, the growing
pressure on School-based administrative support, is a reality that urgently needs to
be addressed.

7.3     To tackle these issues, the College should move forward rapidly to adopt a
structure of no more than five large-scale Schools, focussed on coherent discipline
groupings, each led by a senior academic taking on this academic management role as
a primary responsibility. Grant Thornton, as part of their recommendations, have
indicated a possible approach to the grouping of disciplines but this needs to be the
focus of further comment and discussion within the academic community of the

7.4     A re-organisation of academic activity in this way will also allow the College
to strengthen and concentrate the school-based administrative support dedicated to
teaching and to research. This will involve change but will create an environment in
which we can retain and attract the most able academic administrators and where
they will have the opportunity to utilise their skills and expertise to the full.

7.5      Historically, Birkbeck has organised itself primarily in terms of cognate
academic disciplines but with an organisational boundary drawn in relation to level of
study for its lifelong learning activities. This has created a Faculty with a broad
discipline base overlapping that of other structures. However, the level of study
distinction that underpinned this organisational logic has become increasingly
blurred. The dynamism of the Faculty of Lifelong Learning has provided much
needed growth and this has extended to undergraduate and post-graduate provision.
Equally, the expansion of the Faculty has added new research strength to the
College, but often placed it at arm’s length from existing concentrations of

7.6    Grant Thornton have observed that the College is investing progressively
more time in secondary management strategies to address such issues: in brokering
research links, managing internal competition in relation to course development and
in promoting progression routes that should actually be developing far more
extensively and organically within the discipline areas of the College. In the post
ELQ landscape, student progression, in terms of level of study, becomes a key factor
and the College must develop structures that naturally promote and deliver it.

7.7     In organising for the future, the College’s new School structure should also
provide for the integration of its teaching and training from HE certificate level to
PhD supervision. This removes a long-standing division within the College and
integrates and mainstreams the key activities and contribution of the Faculty of
Lifelong Learning within the College. It is an integration that needs to be clearly
understood as bringing together staff and academic activities of equal value to the
College’s future. Dynamism, energy and entrepreneurial approach to course
development and teaching needs to feature across the College as a whole and the
barriers to collaboration that have held such initiative back need to be removed. For
the first time, this will create Schools that, within their discipline area, have the
capacity to deliver fully on the College’s overall mission and priorities for teaching,
research, widening participation and employer engagement.

7.8      A key task for the College will be to conduct a full portfolio review,
supported by clear student, marketing and financial information. This review will
provide the basis for the integration and consolidation of teaching and research
activities within the Schools. It will also provide an objective assessment of
programmes and activities that are no longer viable and from which the College may
need to withdraw to provide the scope to support the growth of new and existing
strategic areas on which its future will depend.

7.9     The new Schools will be clearly accountable for the delivery of the College’s
strategy in terms of student recruitment, retention, employer engagement and
widening participation and for the development of research. This accountability
needs to be supported by more explicit academic planning processes within the
College and regular progress monitoring, underpinned by improved management
information. Greater accountability will, however, go hand in hand with a reform of
the College’s resource allocation processes, establishing a devolved funding model
that will provide greater flexibility and financial autonomy to Schools.

8.     Key financial, management and resource issues

8.1    The measures and opportunities described in the strategy need to deliver
academic and financial sustainability and put the College in position where it has the
capacity to invest in its long term development. In pursuing this financial objective
the College needs not only to restore existing HEFCE income streams but also to
develop and exploit new funding.

8.2      The College’s approach to costing and pricing its activities needs to be more
sophisticated and market aware and more explicitly linked to decision making on the
activities it will pursue.

8.3    The College needs to review its fee policies and set fees for its courses that
genuinely reflect and capitalise on a strong market position, dovetailing this with
bursary support to prevent financial hardship being a barrier to study. As part of this
process it must set appropriate fees for ELQ students.

8.4    Income development and diversification must be complemented by a
concerted and College wide approach to improving cost effectiveness and managing
the cost base.

8.5     The new academic structure of the College will need to be established within
a clearly defined planning, budgeting and devolved resource allocation infrastructure.
This needs to provide the framework for accountability within which the new
Schools will function and the College’s overall objectives are delivered. Improving
management information and mechanisms for performance monitoring will also need
to be a priority in supporting the new academic management structure, particularly
in a context where major new developments need to be made to a rapid timescale.

8.6    The creation of the new academic Schools need to be underpinned by Estates
planning and development that has as a priority the bringing together and co-location
of School staff.

9.        Key risks and dependencies

9.1       Key issues are as follows:

         The scale of institutional change described in the strategy is significant and
          needs the support of Governors and key staff throughout the process.

         The implementation of the strategy will involve a complex set of major
          projects which will require the creation of clear and appropriately resourced
          project management capacity.

         Implementation plans need to allow for, and not compromise, the on-going
          day to day operation of the College.

         Although these are significant issues, "do nothing" is not an option. At the
          end of the HEFCE safety net period the College would not be viable, and not
          be in a position to sustain the Birkbeck mission.

10.       Next Steps

10.1 In terms of discussion and consultation, the key elements of this strategy will
be presented and initially discussed at the Academic Board Executive Committee
(ABExCo) on 27 May. The strategy document will be made available to all staff via
the College intranet on Tuesday. A dedicated email address
( has been established to provide staff with the means to
comment electronically.

10.2 The Master will be holding a briefing meeting for all staff on Wednesday
28th May at 12:30 in the Brunei Gallery lecture theatre and be convening
and attending other meetings with various staff groups during this week. He will be
making himself available for further such meetings over the next month.

10.3 The strategy document, together with comment and feedback provided
through the mechanisms above, will be discussed further at ABExCo on 11th June,
the Academic Board on 17th June and the Finance and General Purposes Committee
on 19th June. In the light of these discussions, Governors will consider the
College’s strategy on 3rd July and establish the way forward.
                                                                                                                                                     Annexe A
Opportunity              What does the BBK model of     Evidence of demand                 Why attractive to BBK          Next Steps
                         this opportunity look like
1. Develop new

Grow international             Particular emphasis           High levels of demand              Do not need                  Develop new PGT portfolio
student body                    on PGT - especially            from international                  HEFCE ASNs                    (SEE PORTFOLIO REVIEW
                                PGT FT/ ‘accelerated’          students for HE in UK,             No limit to numbers           BELOW)
                               PGR                            esp London                         High Fees                    Change marketing approach
                                                                                                  Research intensity           Build capacity to recruit and
                                                                                                   should attract                support for international students
Grow BBK PGT student           PGT FT/ ‘accelerated’         High levels of PGT                 All schools keen to          Develop new PGT Portfolio
body                           Focus on new                   demand in London                    develop PGT                   (SEE PORTFOLIO REVIEW
                                employer/professional         Third of all UGs relocate          Recent growth in              BELOW)
                                ly accredited                  to London                           PGT FT
                                programmes                                                        Consistent with
                                                                                                   BBK’s academic

Develop new 2 year             Trial in limited              Emerging demand for                Consistent with              BBK staff to develop pilot
accelerated FT degrees          number of areas e.g.           accelerated degrees                 BBK reputation for            projects that develop capacity to
                                law and management                                                 flexibility                   deliver
                                                                                                  Supports govt                Create clarity re nature of
                                                                                                   agenda                        provision and pricing
Develop Foundation             FDs developed in all       Evidence of particular                 Supports Govt                Need clear progression routes
Degree portfolio                academic areas             demand for FDs in: Financial            agenda                        from these FDs
                                                           Services                               All non ELQ                  Work with Linking London LLN to
                                                           Accounting, Public Service             Consistent with               establish progression routes
                                                           Management, Management                  BBK mission to               Need to sit alongside mainstream
                                                           in the Creative Industries,             educate non                   BBK provision
                                                           Sports and Leisure                      traditional learners
                                                           Business and Marketing
                                                           Computing and Business
                                                           Events Management
                                                           Legal Studies
                                                           Urban Regeneration and
                                                         Community Development
                                                         Applied Law
                                                         Forensic Archaeology
                                                         Forensic Psychology
                                                         Forensic Computing
2. Develop new

PORTFOLIO REVIEW         All future success will                                 A portfolio review allows   Before PORTFOLIO REVIEW BBK
                         depend on a full review of                              Birkbeck to evaluate        needs to develop research to
                         current offering to:                                    current provision and       underpin decisions :
                              Review the academic                               make well informed             Internal data:
                               viability and financial                           decisions about             application, offer, enrolment trends by
                               sustainability of all                             academically viable and     programme over 5 years
                               existing programmes                               financially sustainable
                              Support the                                       future portfolio.               External Data:
                               expansion of                                                                  Competitor analysis by school, pricing
                               successful existing                                                           analysis, London, regional and
                               programmes                                                                    national data on skills needs, trends
                              Develop new                                                                   and demand,
                               provision at all levels                                                           PORTFOLIO REVIEW WILL BE:
                              Develop progression                                                           a centrally lead process of cross
                               routes within schools                                                         college evaluation of existing
                              Develop progression                                                           provision. This will allow BBK to
                               routes via Linking                                                            make well informed decisions about
                               London LLL                                                                    academically viable and financially
                                                                                                             sustainable future portfolio.

Widening Participation   All academic areas to                                      Supports Govt              Grow portfolio (SEE
                         engage in UG WP                                             agenda                      PORTFOLIO REVIEW above)
                         Develop FDs and Cert HE                                    All non ELQ                Expand WP team
                         entry points across all                                    BBK well placed to         Identify and target key areas of
                         academic areas                                              deliver                     London where ‘Stratford’ model
                                                                                    WP                          of WP/ recruitment will work
                         Particular focus on                                         underdeveloped at
                         developing portfolio in                                     BBK
                         Stratford                                                  Consistent with
                                                                                     BBK mission to
                                                                                     educate non
                                                                                     traditional learners
                                                                                    Consistent with
                                                                                     Birkbeck Stratford
Employer Engagement         Tailor made provision                                   Supports Govt             Grow portfolio (SEE
                            By module at all                                         Leitch agenda              PORTFOLIO REVIEW above)
                             levels                                                  BBK well placed to
                            Cert HE                                                  deliver, building on
                                                                                      HEIF funding and
                                                                                      work of Business
                                                                                      Relations Unit

Improve Student             Create a one stop          High drop out rates         Will have a major         Review existing provision
Support services and         shop centre that will      WP students need extra       impact on retention       Consult on model student
the student experience       advise all students         support to succeed           rates                      support services across sector
                             about all issues           New sorts of students                                  Develop ideal BBK student
                            Create good                 may need new sorts of       Will ensure repeat         support provision between
                             relationships and           support                      business                   schools and central areas
                             between central and                                     Will encourage
                             school level support                                     alumni to support
                             services                                                 BBK financially and
                            Create strong online                                     in other ways
                             advice an support for
                            Set up structures to
                             ensure a good
                             overall student
Marketing support to        Support schools to                                                                 Dedicated support for each
schools                      develop clear context                                                               school
                             for decisions:                                                                     Develop data to support schools
                             markets, competitors,                                                               decision making processes
                             pricing etc
                            Work with schools to
                             ensure new provision
                             highly targeted
                            Develop
                             communications with
                             school Alumni

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