How education institutions can keep control of their finances despite changing times
Posted by Andrew Garner
Finance systems are one of the core systems at every university. Modern finance systems allow institutions to provide standard cross-system tools which allow for collaboration between staff and increases transparency and accuracy of reporting across the organisation.
However, the deployment we’ve seen over the last couple of years have remained fairly static. Why is this, when the business of money in HE has changed so much in the last decade?
Today’s financial environment is hardly recognisable from when many of these systems were deployed. The world of student funding has changed, the technology available to staff and students has changed, and the requirements from HEFCE and other governing bodies have changed and continue to do so at a rapid pace.
As TechMarketView has pointed out, times are definitely changing. In the last decade, there has been a clear “shift away from government funding towards tuition fees, students are increasingly behaving like consumers, the removal of restrictions on the number of students a university can offer a placement, and the introduction of the Teaching Excellence Framework (which attempts to tie funding of higher education with the quality of student outcomes) are all acting to drive competition in an increasingly commercial and global university market”. This means universities have to have complete control of their finances at all times.
Users of parts of institutions’ finance systems now want the self-service elements which we expect in our everyday lives; students and parents want to see the balance they owe, the correct invoice and payment plans, and the expectation of these self-service elements only grows with each new cohort.
The requirements within the institutions themselves are also increasing. There is a stronger need to plan based on accurate financial forecasts, so access to this data and the ability to manipulate it to test various scenarios are a critical part of a modern university finance system. And as REF submissions are due and the TEF is coming, cost control has become an everyday reality.
The move to easier management of accounts payable, procurement and debt management functions need to become part of “business as usual”, and institutions therefore need to have the right information available at the right time, in order to keep up with changing regulations and policies.