Being a college-based higher education (CBHE) provider brings with it tensions and challenges that are not necessarily encountered by universities. Anyone who has worked within HE in FE will know that it is complex, covers a broad range of provision, includes balancing conflicting demands, and can mean working with multiple regulators and funding bodies. That is just scratching the surface.
So when Advance HE opened invitations to tender for the Collaborative Development Fund to develop the CBHE Network we jumped at the chance. This passion to be involved was then reflected in the wave of expressions of interest from Advance HE college-based members across the UK.
There are 64 individual members already signed up to the network, with 43 institutions being represented from across all four home nations, as well as the Isle of Man. At the launch meeting in March, 35 members attended and it was clear there is a shared vision about the collaborative opportunities for the network. It was great to share our experiences and the hopes members had for the network. There was a real sense of collaboration and a willingness to work together to create a HE culture, devise solutions, and deliver on areas of priority for CBHE. Initial agreed themes moving forward include:
- developing HE ethos (culturally and physically) and creating an HE community within FE contexts
- collaboration opportunities for CPD, research and scholarly activity, and sharing best practice
- support for Fellowship and Senior Fellowship
- marketing of the CBHE distinctiveness, graduate attributes, and currency of skills
- collective campaigns
- regulatory bodies and changes, and learning from other bodies such as HEFCW / SFC / the Higher Education Division within the Department for the Economy in NI / Department of Education, Sport and Culture in IoM
- emerging themes.
Just to name a few! It was so exciting to see the network kick off with such a productive discussion and an identification of familiar challenges as well as areas from which to learn from each other. The network has already demonstrated its potential as a collaborative space for developing HE culture and practice. The six-weekly meetings, supported by an Advance HE Connect online space for ongoing discussions, will generate a co-created space for leaders of CBHE across the UK to come together for discussion and development in areas of focus that really matter and to provide solutions to address these shared challenges. This will be consolidated with a practical guide of ‘what works’ for CBHE.
Janet Faulkner, Dean of University Centre Leeds, said: “We welcome the opportunity to work and collaborate with other members to draw on their expertise and build stronger links and representation with the wider HE community.
“This is an opportunity for HE providers to share best practice, and devise solutions to meet the specific challenges that the sector faces, as well as implement solutions and new models that will benefit the industry in the future.”
Advance HE’s commitment to providing enhanced support for CBHE members, including funding to support the development of this network, has been welcomed. The vision of the network is echoed by Advance HE and they have offered this opportunity to address key challenges that are specific to CBHE.
It has also provided a valuable opportunity to maximise the voice of CBHE providers, something often lacking in other forums. Being able to share practice, opportunities and challenges has opened dialogue and offer new insights to the wider sector.