Educational institutions can develop mutually beneficial relationships with a range of bodies outside the sector, particularly within the local community and can include schools and colleges, local employers, and public and voluntary bodies.
These relationships can be made at various points in the student lifecycle; for example helping learners to make a connection with the institution at an early stage, improving the chances of student enrolment, as well as having an impact after graduation as students move forward into further learning or employment. These external relationships fall under the term ‘business and community engagement (BCE)’, which is:
…the third mission, after teaching and research, and is the locus for institutional enterprise and innovation agendas. BCE is an umbrella term encompassing four strategic areas, closely linked because they share the same challenges: knowledge exchange ; employer engagement; public engagement; lifelong learning.
Examples of government support are the Higher Education Innovation Fund and Research Councils’ knowledge exchange funding. BCE is an emerging profession; organisations describe, organise and support BCE activities in different ways, however the management of partnerships and the delivery of services to externals are common challenges for all.
Jisc and the Association for University Research and Industry Links (AURIL)
Institutions work with a wide range of partners and customers, from businesses, both SME and large corporate organisations, to the public sector. Increasingly the lines between these different partners are blurred as policies change and drive for lifelong learning, workforce development and a global ‘knowledge’ economy, particularly in the new economic and demographic constraints.
Mitchell and Race, 2012
Expanding alumni engagement can have significant impact on relationships with local, or even national, employers and professional bodies. This presents opportunities for partnership and collaboration, resulting in a positive impact on the curriculum as students are offered real world viewpoints and the curriculum is related to current professional practice.
Employers benefit from the opportunity to feed into curriculum development, articulate employability skill requirements, and also gain access to newly qualified employees:
One of the major enhancements proposed by the project was the student catalogue (in earlier documentation described as the employability catalogue) which when implemented will provide prospective employers, Kent’s Careers and Employability Service and others with a facility for identifying candidates from amongst Kent’s students and alumni with a particular skill set, qualification or experience.
Coppin and Lyons, 2012
Strong formal agreements may be needed to manage partnerships outside the sector to ensure that institutional strategic aims are retained and supported and effective BCE should be part of an institution’s core strategy. This is particularly true when working with external technology providers to improve the student relationship, for example introducing smartcard bursaries as at the University of East London offered commercial companies the opportunity to understand the tertiary education sector and to forge new relationships across the sectors.
Similarly, at the University of Nottingham,
…to meet the recommendations of the Wilson Review, there is a continuing need to ensure that opportunities for student placement are maximised across a full range of employers, including SMEs, microbusinesses, social enterprises and the third sector. The university is investigating CRM processes to support this, and the Centre for International ePortfolio Development (CIePD) is working with business engagement innovation services, community partnerships, and the Nottingham Research Councils UK (RCUK) public engagement with research Catalysts project to develop new methods of engagement with different types of employers.
Winfield et al, 2012
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is one way to manage these relationships, with CRM systems being extended to include employer engagement during the student lifecycle. CRM for BCE can be seen as bridging the gap between the student, the institution, and the community (employers, public sector and community organisations). The diagram below shows how these strategic partnerships can be supported:
Government policy has brought the tertiary education sector and industry closer together and can be seen as a major driver for institutional change. Building these external relationships can help institutions offer a competitive edge. In the same way as student lifecycle relationship management, CRM encourages the institution to place the needs of the customer at the heart of everything it undertakes. It requires senior management buy-in and a focus on the organisational culture and processes before a technological solution can be considered.
An online CRM good practice handbook has been developed by the University of Huddersfield and Teesside University, which guides institutions through the development of strategic BCE CRM processes and provides advice and guidance on data management and change management. Engagement with organisations outside of the institution may be ad hoc rather than strategic, so:
…the key is to raise awareness of BCE, put a strategy in place and develop enabling skills and opportunities without losing this ‘informal engagement’. It’s important to identify interactions which can become strategic partnerships – managed corporately and consistently – or project partnerships, or more informal interactions; the process and resource needed for each are different.
How to approach business and community relationship management
- Raise awareness of BCE and put strategies in place
- Develop strong formal agreements for managing partnerships outside the sector to ensure that institutional strategic aims are retained and supported
- Use CRM approaches and technologies to manage these relationships.
Online promotion of research expertise
These materials are the outputs from a year-long study carried out for Jisc by Rightscom Ltd, analysing how Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are using digital channels such as websites to communicate information about their expertise to different stakeholders, including businesses, government agencies, policymakers, community organisations and charities.
The study included a wide-ranging survey of current practice and as well as an extensive analytical report giving many examples, the outputs include a guide to effective use of digital channels aimed at business and community engagement and knowledge transfer specialists.
This downloadable self-assessment tool, in the form of an Excel spreadsheet, was developed by Jisc infoNet from the outputs of the project. It is designed to help institutions identify if their use of online channels in communicating information about the expertise of researchers within their organisation meets the needs of both business and wider communities, as well as the researchers themselves. It covers all the major topics needed to assess current provision and to identify gaps and areas for improvement.
NB. When you open the download, please activate macros in order to use the self-assessment tool.
Further outputs from the project
Project final report (PDF)
This is the final report for the project, covering the main findings and giving examples of the different approaches used at a wide range of institutions.
Briefing paper for Business and Community Engagement (BCE) specialists (PDF)
This guide is designed to help institutions plan their use of online channels to communicate information about the expertise of researchers within their institution so that it meets the needs of business and community users as well as the researchers themselves.
Project dissemination event
There are three presentations from the project’s dissemination event – Beyond Speed Dating – held at the Artworkers’ Guild, 6 April 2011.
- An overview of the report
- An introduction to the self-assessment tool
- How to influence stakeholder for influencing senior management and researchers