Tuesday, August 01, 2006

UNE Strategic Planning - markets and marketing

One of the difficulties of writing as an insider/outsider is that it is easy to get things wrong, especially at a time of rapid change. So I always stand to be corrected.

In suggesting that the UNE was too inward looking, I was not suggesting that this applies to all nor in fact to the strategy planning document itself. However, I think that I would still maintain my position as a general statement.

Turning now to markets and marketing. Here the strategy paper suggests among other things that:
  • the 2002 strategic plan hoped to improve the number and balance of student enrollments, especially attracting students to the on-campus experience. Outcomes here had not been as good as hoped.
  • Demographic change, the aging population, posed a challenge for UNE and others in increasing or even maintaining student numbers.

Now mulling this over, the first question that occurred to me is just how big UNE should aim to be. This is partly a question of the economics of service delivery, but is also a strategic question.

Should the University consciously limit its size, increasing exclusivity? And would this work anyway given some of the issues raised in the discussion paper? Maybe not, but it's still a valid question.

I would, I think, have liked more information on changing student numbers, where they come from, the changes in market share. The paper does make some points here.

To begin with, of the 3,319 full time on-campus undergraduates, around 44 per cent are from the Northern Tablelands and North West, over half (the exact figure here is uncertain) are from this area plus the North Coast. It would be interesting to know where the others come from.

If we compare this with the mid sixties, the majority of full time undergraduates probably came from the same catchment, although the North Coast percentage was far higher. As may be the case now, there was a dichotomy between general courses - arts and science - where teacher training was a key driver and where the catchment was the surrounding region and the more specialist courses -especially agricultural economics, rural science and certain types of education- which drew from a far broader catchment area. As indicated before, there was a significant proportion of overseas students.

One significant difference between then and now was the presence of the Armidale Teachers College as a separate institution with several hundred enrolled training primary school teachers. These courses are now taught within the University.

This point and counterpoint between now and 1965 draws out a simple point, that the University has in fact always been several different types of institution serving different markets with somewhat different cultures determined by the markets served.

The discussion paper draws this out a little when it quotes one submission seeing three distinct enterprises at UNE, a liberal arts college, a dispersed open university and a small scale research intensive university. The discussion paper poses the question should UNE aim to bring such parts closer, or can UNE support separate product lines?

Now I am not sure that this is the right or at least the only question. I would pose some other ones. Where will the majority of UNE students come from? What does this mean for the universities role? Where will the specialist leading edges be? How do we integrate all this?

I will continue this argument in my next post.

No comments: