Higher entry tariffs to show Greenwich means 'quality'

V-c set to boost research strength and speak 'the right language' to students. Jack Grove reports

March 1, 2012

The University of Greenwich, one of the biggest recipients of widening-participation funding in the past, is raising its undergraduate entry requirements in a bid to consolidate its reputation as a "quality institution".

David Maguire, Greenwich's vice-chancellor, outlined the changes to be unveiled in the university's strategic review in July.

While the university has won plaudits for its high standards of teaching, Professor Maguire told Times Higher Education that he is "committed to developing further the university's research capabilities" by appointing 13 to 14 professors and 50 PhD students by autumn 2013.

The recruitment drive mirrors moves by other institutions, including City University London and the universities of Leicester and Hull, to fill a substantial number of academic posts in the hope of boosting performance when the new research excellence framework comes into force in 2014.

Professor Maguire, a former chief scientist at Esri, the California-based geographic information and software giant, who took over at Greenwich in October, is also keen to attract stronger students by setting tougher grade offers.

"We have raised the average offer from 205 tariff points [the equivalent of just over CCD at A level] to 286 points [BBC], and we want to raise it to 300 [BBB]," he said.

The third element of his strategy is to improve the teaching and research levels of existing staff.

"I want to establish a comprehensive development framework so staff know where they are, including a clear appraisal and reward structure," Professor Maguire said.

"We are going to give [teaching] greater prominence within the institution. We will be increasing the formal teaching accreditation of staff and developing a clear path to promote excellence."

Despite pressures on post-1992 institutions to drop their average fees to below £7,500 a year, Professor Maguire said he stands by Greenwich's decision to set most of its course fees at £8,300, with the average post-waiver charge expected to be about £7,650.

"Our strategy is to be a quality institution, and we felt it was important to have those revenues," he said.

With undergraduate applications for 2012 down by just 5 per cent against an average 10 per cent drop across London, he added, the emphasis on quality was paying off.

"I think we used the right language to speak to applicants. People coming to Greenwich are here to get a good honours degree and a graduate-level job."

Professor Maguire added that the university is likely to "shrink a little" from its current size (about 28,000 home students and 40,000 overall), but remains committed to preserving activity at its three campuses in Eltham, Medway and the magnificent but costly 18th-century Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich.

Despite his background in business, Professor Maguire was keen to stamp out talk of "students as consumers" - which he said is "not an appropriate metaphor".

If universities are to treat students like customers, then they should look to companies such as KPMG, Microsoft or his old firm Esri, he added.

"Like universities, these companies are committed to solving substantial and challenging problems that will provide customers with long-term benefits," he said.

jack.grove@tsleducation.com.

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