Friday, 5 December 2014

Leadership, not only Management - Visit to Coventry University, UK

Coventry University has gone through a massive change during the past 6-7 years from a recruiting university seeking for students into a university that is especially chosen by the students. The university received the title University of the Year for Student Experience, 2015. The title Modern University of the year was given to it two times in a row for 2014 and 2015. These acknowledgements were given by The Times and The Sunday Times based on national League Tables for university rankings in the UK.

A group of us from TAMK were able to peek into what lies behind this success. What we found was strategic leadership and consistent work throughout the university. The committed leadership team had a vision of Coventry University being on top of the ranking lists for teaching and learning. It was not only about setting the goal. Money was invested in modern learning environments, in students services, teachers were supported in developing activity led learning, and the campus was developed into a truly multicultural one.

We had an opportunity to interview students from Qatar, Oman, Saudi-Arabia and three students from different parts of England. What especially impressed me was what the students said about their university. Their message was the same as the message we heard from the leadership: Coventry University  is an excellent place to study because of excellent teaching (“teachers are helping students to learn”), excellent student support, good facilities and the multicultural university community.

The student numbers have increased and now there are some 6 000 tuition paying ( 9 000 pounds per year) international students studying at Coventry University together with some 20 000 British students. This has created a surplus of income that makes the further strategic development of the university possible.

As Coventry is now the top university for student experience it needs to look into developing its research activities to move up the League Tables. Again the university has set a stretching goal and is aligning the leadership and management processes for reaching this goal. There is no wishful thinking. There are clear plans and procedures to follow this new chosen path. Money is invested, support is given to staff. Based on what we saw, heard and experienced, I am certain Coventry University will, again, be a different university in  five years known for its excellent student experience AS WELL AS it´s world class research.

Text: Aura Loikkanen,  Director, Higher Education Services

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