That WonkHE Power List

This week WonkHE (the blog and website for HE wonks) published it’s “power list”, an idea clearly not influenced at all by the Sunday Times or GQ…

Compiled by an independent panel of HE experts, the 2015 HE Power List represents the top 50 movers and shakers in English higher education. Who has the most influence in the sector? Who will be instrumental in shaping its future? For the first time, the HE Power List brings you the top 50 names that set the agenda – often behind the scenes, sometimes in full view, inside and outside of universities and across the world of politics and policy making

Well worth a read, as the panel who compiled it clearly understand our sector.

The top 3 places are held by politicians – Osborne, May and a top 10 which contains 8 politicians and 2 civil servants. Our first academic appears at 15 with the VC of Cambridge, one of 11 VCs to feature. As well as the leaders of a number of think-tanks, the heads of NUS and UCU are present, but only one university mission group is represented with Wendy Piatt coming in at number 50.

Janet Beer has commented on the diversity of the list – only 12 of the 50 are women and only 1 of the top 10.

This list clealry shows those who influence the policy that will have an effect on HE, as well as those who have stuck their heads above the parapet to be noticed for their work in supporting and developing the sector.

Just for fun though – is there another Wonky Power List we could create – those who challenge the status quo and keep us thinking about how universities might work in the future, as well as those whose products drive us in certain directions?

Here’s my starter for 10.

Stefan Collini – author of “What are Universities For?”

Evgeny Morozov – author of “To solve everything, click here” and a critic of technological solutionism

Henry Giroux – author of “Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education”

David Ruebain – head of Equality Challenge Unit

Jay Batt – head of Blackboard inc – one of the main VLEs used in the HE sector, how much does this drive the way we teach?

Tim Cook – CEO Apple, just imagine working without an iPad…..

Feel free to suggest who else might belong to such a list.






Let’s Talk About Race

Over on the Equality Challenge Unit blog, Janet Beer (VC of Liverpool and Chair of the ECU Board) writes of the need for consideration of race equality in HE.

I’ve written plenty of times in the past about the differential outcomes for students, but here Professor Beer focuses on the inequalities for staff:

…..speculating about how long it will be before minority ethnic women, or minority ethnic individuals generally, are fairly represented within our sector is different. Leaders in our higher education institutions know that racial inequalities exist, but we are not talking about them publicly. None of us wants to attract negative press, or say the wrong thing, or to be accused of being institutionally racist.

Furthermore, whilst men and women are working side by side to promote gender equality, the equivalent does not seem to be happening to the same extent with race. The combined effort of men and women, with all acknowledging the need for change, has been crucial to the advancement of gender equality. For a step change in race equality to take place, the imbalance in advantage also needs to be acknowledged and owned by all.

Professor Beer rightly acknowledges the commitment of 26 universities to sign up to the new Race Equality Charter Mark (and it’s pleasing that Staffordshire University is in this group). She also refers to new ECU research which shows that

in a survey of 1201 academics working in the UK and overseas,  BME academics are significantly more likely to consider moving overseas in the hopes of furthering their careers than white academics.The research aims to highlight the differences between ethnicities when considering a move overseas and understand why these differences occur as well as establish what higher education institutions can do to retain staff or entice them back to the UK once they have left.

The interesting linkage for me in both the lack of a  diverse demographic of senior staff as well as a tendency to seek advancement overseas, is the  impact that this might have on our students.

At our own Learning and Teaching conference in 2014 Winston Morgan clearly showed the importance of having a teaching body that provides some reflection of the student body as part of of tackling the attainment gap of undergraduate students. By having a more diverse staff profile  at all levels and in all roles of the organisation might mean that all students can see more clearly that university is for people like them.