How do you know what you need to know that you don’t know yet?

VUCA – that wonderful acronym standing for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.  We could all give a good argument for how this captures conditions in the UK HE sector at the moment: Brexit, Pensions, OfS, Augar, the spending review, potential general elections, new competitors, international demand… we could go on.

In the face of all this uncertainty and amid demands from executive and governance structures for greater sustainability, the way that universities make decisions on strategy, size and shape, and long-term investment is under increasing scrutiny.

Across the populations of staff and the networks that they belong to in their local, national and international communities, there is a vast amount of information about what might be coming.  How do universities collate, curate, evaluate and integrate that information into those decision-making processes?

In collaboration with the University of Reading, SUMS is conducting a large-scale study of Horizon Scanning across the UK Higher Education sector looking to cover:

  • What do Universities understand Horizon Scanning to be? To overcome an expected diversity in definition, we are hoping to cover the wider landscape of the tools that universities use to inform long-term decision-making.
  • What information do universities use to make long-term decisions?
  • Are formal processes in place to collect data, evaluate information and integrate outputs into institutional planning processes?

We are interested in what happens at the corporate level and the involvement of governance structures within the process. We are also interested in how universities look in more detail at themes such as research, pedagogy and internationalisation and how information related to those areas is integrated up into the corporate view.

We have brought together a steering group of sector colleagues from a variety of institutions and roles to inform the project.  This group will be testing a draft of the survey in March and early April.  The survey will be available to the wider sector in May.  We will illustrate the survey with a number of in-depth case studies, gathered in June and publish a final report to participants in July.

This study is also open to non-members and to institutions outside of the UK and outputs will be shared with all participants.

If you would like to take part in this study and benefit from the outputs, please email SUMS Consultant Claire Taylor before the end of April.

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