How does any institution or organisation which has seen rapid growth over a relatively short space of time continue to be innovative, relevant and successful?
In his inaugural professorial lecture, Gary Campbell, of the University of the Highlands and Islands looked at the huge opportunities but also the challenges facing UHI.
With a campus as large as Belgium the University of the Highlands and Islands has seen incredible growth with its flexible approach to learning. It is the biggest user of video conferencing in Europe and its skill in delivering courses using online learning came to the fore during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown. Traditional universities had to adapt very quickly to try to do anything comparable.
UHI has 13 colleges and research facilities in over 70 local learning centres catering for a range of learners at all stages of their learning.
It has dared to be different commented Gary Campbell with a unique organisation. Its focus on its students and innovation is what sets it apart.
‘Innovation is the creativity and courage and desire to do something different, to overcome issues to provide for students, ‘said Gary Campbell and ‘it is genuinely one of UHI’s most striking features.’
In this fascinating lecture, Gary Campbell, also addresses where he feels UHI needs to change if it is to continue to be successful and to provide a balanced curriculum which is still innovative. He said that staff are spread thin because of the large number of modules and programs they are expected to deliver. This means that :
‘the evolution of our curriculum has almost ground to a halt.’
I’m sure many involved at all levels of the educational sector will be able to identify with that statement. Gary Campbell said that due to this that there is a ‘lack of head space for innovation. ‘
He suggested that what is needed is a reduction in the number of units and modules so that staff have time to re-engage with innovation and their support for students. In order to this Trust was needed – at all levels. And the ability to deal with uncertainty.
That is always tricky for people to deal with – trust in the midst of the uncertainty brought about by change.
‘Waiting for the exact outcome before making any changes is a recipe for disaster,’ he said.
Change is inevitable and the UHI like everywhere else will have to adapt especially if it wants to retain its leading role in creativity and innovation.
UHI delivers education opportunities across a wide and diverse geographical area but also to a range of people at all stages of learning. It has been extremely successful at doing this and it’s always very difficult when in a position of relative stability to look ahead and make the changes necessary in order to continue to evolve.
This lecture is a must watch, not just for staff and students at UHI but for those in educational settings at all levels.