Universities Challenged

04/12/2012 14:53 GMT | Updated 02/02/2013 10:12 GMT

The impact of recent policy changes is now being felt across the UK Higher Education sector. Universities are having to face up to the demands of new challenges:

•Attracting and retaining students who are better informed and more concerned about the value-for-money of their educational choices than ever before.

• Differentiating themselves in an increasingly competitive environment.

•Generating a financial surplus to reinvest in the student experience and ensure future financial sustainability, which probably means both cutting costs and finding new sources of income.

•Preparing for the 2014 REF assessment, the outcome of which is expected to increase the funding gap between research-intensives and more teaching-focused universities.

•Building resilience and readiness for further changes, the nature of which is currently unknown.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and there have been some exciting new developments in the sector in response to these challenges. They have included some mergers and acquisitions activity, creative ideas about shared services and other back office efficiency approaches, and a move towards much deeper and more multi-faceted partnerships between universities and other organisations (private, public or third sector.)

Different parts of the HE sector face their own challenges and opportunities. Defining the strategy and vision for the future requires clarity about where the institution is positioned in the sector, with whom it is competing, and what the opportunities are for growth.

The key to success is developing a strategy that builds on the institution's strengths and then delivering the strategy effectively.

The current situation demands both ambition and focus: a real challenge for university leadership teams, who need to inspire and engage both academic and non-academic staff with a clear vision of the future which has the student experience at its heart - while being honest about the need to make tough choices including the cutting of certain programmes or initiatives.

Many Higher Education institutions struggle to implement their strategy because they don't have the right capabilities in place, or cannot marshal them effectively within the boundaries of their existing organisation and governance structure.

In a recent Maxxim survey of Higher Education institutions 85% of respondents said they had been involved in change programmes. Over 90% cited leadership alignment, clear lines of accountability or culture change as the biggest challenges in delivering successful change.

Maxxim Consulting have written a full white paper examining the options and imperatives for UK universities in response to the current pressures on the sector. Please find the full white paper at the link below.