Board of Governors' Blog September 2019

This blog is an informal report to the community of the College to highlight the key items discussed at the Board – formal Board minutes will be posted on the website in due course.

Author: Monisha Shah, Chair of the Board of Governors

October 2019


The Board of Governors met on 13 September 2019.

The Board formally thanked student Governor Andrew Exeter for his outstanding service to the Board for two years. We also recorded our gratitude to Governor, Mike McCart, who stepped down from the Board after 8 years of committed service to the College and its various committees.

The Board welcomed the newly appointed President of the Students’ Union, our new student Governor, Matthew Condon, to the Board.  We were delighted to hear his plans for the new academic year. All the executive positions on the Students’ Union have been filled and arrangements were in place to deliver an exciting Freshers’ Week.  We were particularly interested in the charity work that students can participate in, focusing on environmental issues inside and outside the College.  The College is looking to appoint a member of staff to support Students’ Union activities and hope to make an announcement shortly.

We welcomed the news that the College has created a central alumni database and can now communicate with over 7,000 of its former graduates. A vibrant alumni community is important to the College for many reasons, from advocacy and advice, to supporting new graduates in the industry and fund-raising for the College. They inspire us with their successes as they progress on their individual professional journeys.

The Board received management accounts for the end of the 2018/19 year which indicated that the College would break-even a year earlier than planned.  Having projected a deficit budget, albeit a marginal one, it is good to know that the changes made in the last year have started to make a measurable impact on costs, thanks to the unwavering focus and commitment of the Principal, the Director of Finance, and all the teams that support them, including the Board and its committees.

A significant proportion of the College income is determined by student numbers. Student recruitment is therefore a key performance indicator, given its critical importance to the financial performance and sustainability of the College. This area has been a primary focus for the Board in terms of its focus and strategy, with several key objectives being identified in order to improve the recruitment of students, while also paying close attention to the student experience.

The Board was updated on recruitment for the academic year 2019-20; early indications show that the changes put in place by the College is starting to making a difference, for example, nearly 100 students have been enrolled to the undergraduate Design, Management and Technical Arts (DMTA) programmes. The Board looks forward to receiving final student numbers at the November Board meeting.

To ensure we have sufficient space for our future needs, plans are in place to develop new performance spaces on the campus. The College is in the process of securing planning permissions from the Council and will report progress to the next Board meeting in November.

On other regulatory issues, the Board received an update from the Principal on the Access and Participation Plan which was submitted to the Office for Students (regulator) on 1 August 2019.  While the plan is a formal requirement of registration with the Office for Students, access and participation is fundamental to the values and future strategy of the College; it has contributed to making us among the most inclusive of all conservatoires in the UK. The formal plan is presently going through the process with the OfS and the Principal will be meeting with Chris Millward (Director for Fair Access and Participation at the OfS) to discuss the College plan in due course.

The Board also received a detailed report on the National Student Survey from the Vice Principal; it was very good to note that the College maintained its overall satisfaction score at 88%, significantly above the institutional benchmark overall satisfaction score of 80%. The Board acknowledged the hard work and commitment to all the academic and professional staff, and the Students’ Union teams, who collaborate to make this a wonderful learning and teaching environment. Thank you to all of you who make this possible.

The NSS also highlighted areas that require attention, crucially, assessment/feedback and organisation/management. So while we were delighted to see so many favourable outcomes, we will be working closely with senior management ensure that these issues are addressed robustly. 

The Board received a paper on the College preparations for the United Kingdom’s probable exit from the European Union. We have followed the Universities UK recommendations relating to higher education institutions’ preparations for a ‘no-deal’ Brexit.  At the heart of this work are the needs of our students and staff. The Principal is putting in place arrangements whereby students and staff can be advised of where to get support and information.  This is a difficult time but we want to ensure that colleagues have as much support as possible during this period of uncertainty.

Finally, Governors are keen to gain a deeper understanding of the working of the College, and to shadow staff to get a better insight into what it is like to work here. We are grateful to Andrew Walker who has offered to co-ordinate this activity.   

This is a short report of what was a very productive meeting; I hope colleagues find this useful. As you know, I am at the College often. Please do stop and chat when you see me; all feedback is useful and company over coffee at the Bru Bar is always welcome!

Monisha Shah
Chair of the Board of Governors