Delighted this week to have a blog from the commercial partner providing the smartcard platform and helping with data provision for Students FIRST, which I am posting on their behalf. Thanks Andy! He says:
It has all come an incredibly long way since our initial discussions surrounding the Student First project a few years back.
Since the project’s inception, we have watched the debate on student funding in the HE sector swing backward and forward and have also seen the rise and fall of numerous ideas on how best to implement the proposed funding changes
Let’s face it, with only a few months to go before these changes take effect, there is still a lot of uncertainty amongst institutions and students on what it all really means and regardless of individual points of view, what is undeniable is that during this period it is not just the face of funding that is changing.
Students are increasingly market savvy and their expectations on levels of support and likely outcomes are key factors in their final choice of institution.
In response, institutions are having to evolve and bursaries are not just being used as an aid to widening participation and improving retention but also as a way for Universities to position themselves with prospective students as the institution of choice.
Although the market place has changed, the core goals of the StudentFirst project haven’t and, if anything, the relevance of the project output is arguably more important in today’s HE climate than we anticipated several years back.
Certainly, the concept of targeting bursary funding directly at supporting students in HE as opposed to simply discounting fees is gaining traction as recently reported in the Guardian newspaper: http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/mar/16/universities-bursaries-conditions-spend-academic-material?newsfeed=true
Looking at the way the project itself has developed, while much of the focus and anticipation is geared toward the final output from the data analysis, we shouldn’t ignore some of the significant additional benefits that the programme has produced. It’s often all too easy for the commercial and institutional partners to approach the same problem from diametrically opposed positions, so being able to work far more closely together and share both information and points of view has been invaluable.
Similarly, StudentFirst has created an environment for sharing information beyond the original project parameters which will undoubtedly help shape future thinking on a number of topics including bursary use and deployment.
Roll on the results, but hopefully the output will signify more of a beginning than an end.