When the future is so uncertain, how do you prepare?
With funding under review, a new government regulator championing ‘value for money’, and the ramifications of Brexit still to be fully realised, the only thing that is certain in the university sector is change.
While the UK remains an HE world-leader, in an increasingly global marketplace the best of the rest are catching up, especially the Far East.
Against this backdrop of uncertainty and competition, research commissioned by the Guardian, at the end of 2017, suggests the sector is spilt, stating: ‘…while some universities expected to continue to thrive, others felt they were “one policy change away from throwing in the towel”’.
So, where do you stand? Are you seizing the ‘opportunity’ and proactively planning for change and transformation? Or are you hunkering down to ride out the storm?
Trendspotting: What we do know
There is consensus among sector analysts that to remain competitive, the university of the future will need to be more commercially astute, agile and efficient. As such, progressive organisations are learning lessons from the business world and re-designing their operating models accordingly. Whilst by no means exhaustive, the key challenges that are emerging, for 2018, include:
- Brexit: Most are agreed that lucrative income from overseas students will drop off, this year. Some of this will be due to the increase in global competition, some as a result of Brexit. Bringing in over £20bn in fees, last year, it is a big pot to play for. As the student market continues to grow, globally, it presents opportunity and challenge in equal measure.
- Research contract agreements with large corporates: With EU funding for research drying up commercial collaborations with private-sector organisations will become increasingly common.
- Digital transformation: The goal? A single, digital campus in the Cloud. As well as offering administrative and operational efficiency savings, cutting-edge tech also offers new, flexible forms of education delivery that will be a big draw for millennial students – the spectre of debt means part-time learning whilst earning is becoming an increasingly attractive proposition.
- Global reach: Tech is also at the heart of an increasingly competitive, global HE marketplace.
- GDPR: A current issue for every organisation, and the flip-side of the push towards digital, HEIs need to ensure best-practice now to mitigate potential legal liability in the future.
- Value for money: When you’re in for at least £50K, students are questioning the ROI. With the Office for Students set up to ensure they receive a good deal, HEIs will need to invest in the student experience to remain competitive. Longer-term strategic planning, financial control, risk-assessment and the preparation for potential regulatory compliance will all be instrumental in keeping the sector’s CFOs awake at night.
- Fresh talent: The future will be shaped by those universities with the best, commercially astute talent, particularly in the arenas of finance, HR, change management and game-changing tech. Recent controversy around pay might make attracting the best business minds easier said than done, however, which is why progressive organisations are turning to specialist consultancies for help with talent attraction.