Portfolio choice

Tough times call for tough decisions, but as Bucks has proven, this needn’t have negative implications.


Contributed by Professor Ruth Farwell, June 2011.

Over the last four years, Buckinghamshire New University has been through a period of significant change under the leadership of its Vice Chancellor, Professor Ruth Farwell. The University gained full university status in 2007, has embarked upon a major campus re-development programme, and made significant changes to its course portfolio.

According to Prof Farwell, who is also Chair of GuildHE and a member of the HEFCE board: “In today’s economic uncertainty, and operating within arguably the most challenging period that the higher education sector has ever known, universities must become business-minded in order to survive. Strategic planning is essential and institutions must often undergo a process of review, evaluation and change, to identify their positioning in the market. Being clear about the kind of university that they are and how they want to enhance that role, is the route ultimately to achieving distinctiveness.

“At Bucks we have faced the challenges head-on, recognising the need to become more efficient and to be clear what we offer that is different from our competitors. We understand and therefore benefit from our distinctive character.”

Tough times call for tough decisions, but as Bucks has proven, this needn’t have negative implications. The University has identified niche areas in which it can claim particular expertise by building on its traditional history of providing vocational and professional training. By focusing on its core purpose and the complex web of experience and partnerships it has built up over years, it has been able to distil its course offering from 230 courses to around 100. This leaner, more efficient course portfolio is now more clearly identifiable as a distinctively ‘Bucks’ offering.

Prof Farwell adds: “The University sees its prime purpose as to prepare students well for work and their professions. To achieve this, we have adopted a pro-active strategy of developing relationships with industry and business across our course portfolio, which enables our students to benefit from invaluable industry experience and help increase their employability prospects after graduation.”

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Professor Ruth Farwell, Vice Chancellor, Buckinghamshire New University.

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Topics: Establishing your distinctiveness.