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The annual Big Conversation series from AUDE provides members the opportunity to discuss, debate and exchange views on the hottest topics in higher education. On Thursday 12 January 2017, AUDE held its inaugural event on Brexit for the HE sector at the London School of Economics.
Over 70 delegates attended, a mix of AUDE members, suppliers and industry experts from the sector. Hosted by Simon Fanshawe, delegates were welcomed and the day kicked off with Professor Sir Ian Diamond taking us through the key events in higher education over the decades. He talked through how in the face of challenge must always come change and estates can respond through innovation and providing world class facilities.
In plenary two we heard from three institutions who spoke about how they are managing their university in a Brexit environment; gauging the response from their communications, operations and finance departments. Peter Aitchison, director of communications and public affairs at University Glasgow, advised to keep calm, manage and risks and look for wins, commenting that HE is a vital driver of the economy. Andrew Burgess, deputy chief operating officer at Loughborough University asked us to consider the influence HE and estates have over the situation we now find ourselves in, pointing out we should utilise our network to listen and consider how we move forward whilst avoiding complacency. Andrew McConnell OBE, finance directors at University of Huddersfield and Stephen Willis, chief finance officer, University of Hull guided us through the numbers and TAX/VAT particularly on how to understand your surplus levels (or profit, depending on who your audience is!) To continue with estate expansion and the importance of knowing where you are on the financial security index when panning your Brexit strategy. Overall the speakers gave a positive and pragmatic view of the opportunities for HE and estates.
Plenary three was presented by Sir Simon Hughes, Sarah Seed of Mills & Reeve and Ant Bagshaw from Wonkhe. Once again, plenty was covered on the opportunities Brexit presents but more emphasis was made on the need for universities to seek out the new forms of funding and improve their lobbying. The onus is on universities to talk of their success outside of the sector as well as within, to offer their resources to local communities and to maintain the collegiality we have in the face of increased competition.
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