VCs' views on distinctiveness strategies

Survey reveals VCs' awareness that there is more work to do in the sector on identifying and communicating distinctiveness.


This research was conducted between May-June 2011, by Tricia Scott, former researcher for the Distinct Project .

Distinctiveness does appear to be firmly on the agenda of HEIs, according to a recent survey of 131 VCs in England, with many VCs agreeing it is essential for their university to be seen as distinctive. Interestingly though, there appears to be some disconnect between the belief in their distinctiveness, and the ability to identify the factors which differentiate the institution.

How do universities currently differentiate themselves?

Responses suggest that over half of HEIs are seeking to differentiate themselves on the basis of the student experience. While this may be possible, there is always a risk where a majority of organisations in a sector seek to compete on the same territory, that there is less scope for most of them to succeed.

In contrast, organisational culture – the second most common aspect on which institutions are seeking to differentiate themselves – is potentially a more complex concept, with greater scope for institutions to be able to differentiate themselves.

Space to think: how can we support VCs?

In their response to questions about how they have acquired the skills and behaviours needed to lead an HEI, there was evidence of a heavy reliance among VCs on learning from working experience and a preference for this over formal and informal training methods. Given this, there is a need to ensure that VCs have space and time (and perhaps facilitation) to reflect on and learn from their experiences. Get in touch if you have ideas for how this could work and we'll share them with LFHE and the sector.

Topics: Leadership.