We have a potential new project brewing away that looks really exciting. We’ve been very lucky the last few years to be allowed to grow our student numbers from within Scotland and have had strong support and a very clear focus on significantly increasing our numbers in the past 4-5 years having grown in that time by about 70%. Its a huge achievement and has seen us focus on undergraduate programmes in the main. Now we see a shift in our strategy, as we have reached our agreed limit, and now looking at how we can grow our rest of UK (RUK) and international numbers.
We do already of course have RUK and international students but the shift is to seek to grow those numbers as significantly as we have Scottish and EU students in the past few years. The market though is of course really crowded and competitive and increasingly international.
Scotland and Scottish Universities continue to have a strong reputation for quality but high quality institutions are emerging all over the globe and international students in particular now have a huge array of choice. RUK students similarly have the established institutions but there are new and often very well funded entrants particularly around London and niche providers with a strong focus in a particular field or type of programme all over the country.
We have our own strengths particularly with niche provision however we are looking more and more at the bigger opportunity. One that we have spent a bit of time looking at is the MBA market. We already have tow successful MBA programmes though until now they have been on campus programmes which will remain a key market for us, though we think there is a market for a more flexible global programme.
It’s difficult as the market is extremely crowded and it is I think almost impossible to develop a USP in such a crowded field. The market though is not one single homogeneous market. Though overall there are large student numbers globally there will be different types of consumers that value different elements of the offer. We have been working with another University (not in the UK) to look at the market and to examine whether our combined strengths can help us come up with if not a unique product then at least a distinctive one.
I’m struck with how well we have worked together thus far and hopeful that we will get a product to market in the next 18 months to 2 years (which is not bad going with something so complex). It has me thinking about the benefits of wider collaboration. We are still a relatively new University (though we have a fair track record dating back now 20 years or so) but still a long way short of the ancients in Scotland which are hundreds of years old. In being new we have perhaps a different perspective on the opportunities and threats facing higher education institutions and perhaps a more flexible approach to genuine collaboration and partnership working to develop new products and services.
Heres hoping anyway might be an interesting and very busy next few months.