The World 100 worked with four UK universities (Bristol, Leicester, Oxford Brookes and Edge Hill) on a project funded by the British Government’s Higher Education Funding Council to develop best practice in internal communications for higher education. The outcome was the HEliX (higher education: leading internal communications) framework – a series of 32 indicators for measuring and benchmarking. The indicators developed for British universities for HEliX were also thought to be important for world-class international universities.

As part of the 2010/11 research project, the World 100 adapted the framework’s ‘health check’ into an online survey tool. We invited universities ranked in the World Top 200 to undertake this survey about internal communications and staff engagement in higher education. The questions follow the first management stage of the methodology HEliX (known also as Health Check), and worked by asking respondents to rate their internal communications performance against 35 good practice indicators. Each indicator has evidence points to help the respondent decide the extent to which the indicator is met by his or her institution.

Most respondents of the online survey tool were in very senior roles, mainly directors of communications or marketing funcitions, and top universities from eleven countries are represented – Australia, Denmark, Malaysia, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and USA.

Roughly two thirds of the indicators for good internal communications were judged to be well executed (good or outstanding in these universities), but a third were well below standard (judged to be absent or just developing). The indicator given the highest importance score in the research is one where performance was actually rated very poor.

HEliX indicators cover:

  • University goals, ambitions and character - well-articulated vision, consistent ambitions and priorities and an amplified character
  • Leadership - visibility of the senior executive team and the communication it has with staff
  • Strategy, accountability and evaluation - robustness of the corporate strategy and reviewing and resourcing staff communications
  • News and message dissemination - accessibility of channels and swiftness and innovation of messaging
  • Information sharing - access to necessary policies and plans, forming of committees and effective communication systems
  • Campus space and collegiality - the university being easy to navigate, conductive to networking and amplifies the University's identity with an inclusive culture
  • Crisis, safety and security - crisis preparation, operational emergency communication channels and the dissemination of security/safety information
  • The employee journey - timely and effective inductions and training with appraisal systems in place

A few key findings

Despite strong outward facing communications, universities struggle with leadership and strategy

The final version of the report from the research, Internal Communications and Staff Engagement in World-class Universities, was published in February 2011. Members of the W100 Network can access the report from the news and resources page, and members directly involved in the research can also download their individual reports here.

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