Goldsmiths assays its future prospects

University of London college targets graduate employability and research cash

May 2, 2013

Goldsmiths, University of London has set out plans to increase its research income, improve the student experience and play a larger role in the capital’s cultural life.

In a strategic plan published this week, the college outlines how it intends to prosper in the new system of £9,000 tuition fees, in which few of its arts and social science courses will attract direct state subsidies.

While its focus on improving student satisfaction scores, graduate employability and financial surpluses will be familiar to most university staff, the desire to create a “louder and prouder Goldsmiths” by trumpeting student and staff achievements is a more novel component of its long-term vision.

“Reputation is something that needs to be celebrated,” asserted Pat Loughrey, a former BBC executive who became warden of Goldsmiths in 2010.

“There is a tendency among academics to shy away from the public platform, but if you have serious views on a subject, we want to make sure they are showcased,” he added.

To this end, Goldsmiths has organised public events and academic conferences aimed at communicating its academic heritage, radical roots and outreach work.

Professor Loughrey is also keen to champion the economic impact of Goldsmiths graduates entering the creative industries and to address critics of so-called “soft subjects”.

“We are at the centre of preparing the next generation of graduates who will lead creative industries that will have an enormous impact on our economy - but they are not celebrated or supported by government as they might be,” he said.

Professor Loughrey also suggested that a key measurement of graduate employability - whether someone is in work six months after graduation - should better reflect the career trajectories of Goldsmiths alumni.

“If we were training dentists or surgeons, you could understand why this approach works,” he said. “But our graduates aren’t going [straight] into pensionable employment…They are joining dynamic start-ups, performance groups and doing freelance, creative jobs.”

Nonetheless, Goldsmiths’ strategic vision prioritises employability, targeting 3 per cent annual growth in the proportion of graduates in employment about three and a half years after graduation. In 2011, the figure for the college was 85 per cent, with 74 per cent in graduate-level jobs.

Targets for improving research income and impact are just as ambitious, with Goldsmiths aiming for a 5 per cent increase in funding per year until 2018. It also hopes to be in the top quartile overall in next year’s research excellence framework, as it was in the 2008 exercise, and within the top five for at least two units of assessment.

Meanwhile, Professor Loughrey, controller of BBC Northern Ireland during the 1990s before heading regional operations from London, said he is settling into the rather different rhythms of academia.

“In journalism, 48 hours is considered long-term planning,” he reflected. “Here it can take two or three years to effect a big change, but those things are built to last.”

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