Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Have you repaid your student debt?

The UK General Election in 2019 showed that the biggest divide between voters was not political party, nor was it North vs. South.  It was age.

Courtesy of

There was much hype about the power of the student vote - would term have ended?  where would the young people vote - at home or at University?  In the end it made little difference to the national picture as the privileged Baby Boomers (and wanabee Boomers from Gen. X) outnumbered the later generations in the appropriate places.

But, student debt and the promise to end it, remove loans for fees and return to the "Good old days" of Higher Education that Boomers enjoyed was offered to tempt voters, however infeasible the plan.

Central to this discussion is, of course, the creeping sense that everything is able to be reduced to a monetary amount.  That "the graduate premium" is a realistic aim or even an expectation once the degree has been paid for.

Let me offer a Baby Boomer view:

Yes, we got our Higher Education for no direct cost to ourselves.
Yes, we even got maintenance grants that did not need to be repaid
Yes, we were refused these boons if we did not achieve very good A level grades
Yes, we still held onto the understanding that our "graduate premium" jobs would offer more tax back to the government than we had cost it.
Yes, we were aware that opportunities to offer intangible benefits to society, through using our graduate skills in voluntary posts throughout our lives.

So, I have repaid my student fees many times over - in cash and in kind and will continue to contribute as my generous pension is taxed as I receive it.

Thursday, 30 January 2020

Mission to Mongolia

I'm not sure that I could think of a more inhospitable place in which to develop online learning than Mongolia.  Its not the ultra low winter temperatures, the tiny and scattered population but a mixture of poor funding, slow internet and a legacy of soviet style bureaucracy that combine to make Mongolia an unlikely digital star.

And yet the enthusiasm and drive is there amongst academics and technicians to learn all they can about good quality online education - which is what too me to this frozen place last year.

If enthusiasm is enough then Mongolia will succeed but in terms of development of technological infrastructure and pedagogic know-how there is a long road ahead.

My advice is for Mongolian academics, administrators and technologists to stay inside, in the warm, in partnership with external universities and learn from others until the skills and confidence grow to step out.

Monday, 20 January 2020


Avid daytime TV viewers will recall a fleetingly popular show hosted by political lightweight Robert Kilroy-Silk.  It was called SHARE or SHAFT and gave contestants a choice of sharing and keeping prizes or risking them to get a bigger prize by "shafting" co-contestants.

CC by NC

Informed readers will realise that this is a transparent use of the Game theory "Prisoners Dilemma" where the best outcome is co-operation, rather than competition.  It is a game repeated and lost by so many who believe that they must compete to be successful.

Any economist will tell you, however, that competition is risky.  It can be an "all or nothing" game - all in the pursuit of profit and wealth.

Co-operation, however, can create even more wealth, shared wealth...and a wealth of benefits that money cannot buy.

So, next time you feel like you are in competition with someone or something - ask yourself - "Am I really?"

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

But, we've always done it that way...

As a graduate entrant to a major bank, many, many years ago I was told by my first Manager not to ask "why?" but to just get things done quickly.

Was I always disobedient?  My Mum says not, but I failed, magnificently, to follow the Manager's orders on this occasion.
Asking why we did things in a particular way often generated the response:

"But, we have always done it like that..."

Today, that phrase is still a provocation.

Everything can be done differently - and some of those different ways can be:

  •  More Efficient
  • Cheaper
  • Quicker
  • or simply better for achieving our goals.
    (but not always)
The £1,000 prize was awarded for an innovative submission to the Staff suggestion scheme.  It changed bank practice in taking second mortgages over domestic property in a small way and saved annual fees of up to £20,000 p.a. (est.) but after about 15 - 20 years was redundant as technology, outsourcing, business models and centralisation had found even better solutions.

So, ask yourself - why are you still doing things the way you do?

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Great Expectations of University

Charles Dickens is forever associated with Misery, Bankruptcy, Debt, Hypocrisy, Poverty, Legal delay, Unrequited Love and, as my title suggests, the hope of better things to come.

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA
A pity then, that Dickens did not write about University life.  It was not part of his personal history, of course.

But what if he had?

Would the themes  be familiar to him?  Misery, Bankruptcy, Debt, Hypocrisy, Poverty, Legal delay, Unrequited Love, and, as my title suggests, the hope of better things to come?

Happy Christmas to both of my readers.

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Practice what you teach

Business Schools have long been teaching about globalisation and technological and business model disruption - the sort of thing that has consigned the shopping experience to history.  But how many have applied that teaching to their own practice?

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash
Yes, it was a great adventure in the 1960s to go shopping with Mum, to visit the various separate emporiums (emporia?) in our local town, where she was greeted as a valued customer and known personally by staff members  (actually my Auntie Edna worked in one of the shops too).  The traditional skills of the shopkeeper were in choosing the right selection of products for the market and locality they served.  Human memory, careful record keeping and building relationships with families and generations ensured repeat business.  But it could not be scaled up and the corporate learning was slow.

Don't get me wrong.  The AI capabilities of firms like Amazon, their prodigious memory and their relationship with us via the data we freely give them, make them appear like traditional shopkeepers - except, of course, they can scale up and they can, and do, learn very rapidly.

So, the Amazon Business School?  built on the capabilities of digital technology, delivering bespoke education, flexibly and in a variety of ways.  What could possibly go wrong?

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Get a GRIP on your teaching

I have spent a productive summer working with a GRIP role play simulation.  The concept of role play for teaching purposes is not new but to combine it with an internet based business scenario and timely interventions from news bulletins and video calls from managers is.

The simulation is the work of GRIP (Gamified Roleplay for Innovation Policy from of Rotterdam) and is based on a fictitious Dutch company in need of urgent turnaround negotiations.

I worked with the game designers to ensure that the game could be delivered to an English speaking student audience - terminology may be different but the management problems and stakeholder perspectives are universal.  I then used the simulation as an introduction to a final year undergraduate module in Corporate Reconstruction and Turnaround.

So why not simply run out the lectures in the same way you have been doing for years Keith?

Because students HEAR and they (might) remember, they DO and they understand.