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Higher education is under threat, but how are next-generation institutions responding?

Posted by  Austin Laird

Global demand for higher education is growing along with digital expectations from students and regulators, but many academic institutions are falling short of the mark. Unit4’s product director for higher education, Austin Laird, looks at the winning strategies some leading colleges and universities are putting in place to overcome the challenges of today’s higher education climate.

On paper, universities and colleges should be looking forward to a bright future. A global study by RMIT University predicts that demand for higher education will triple through to 2040.

But this increased demand is accompanied by some industry megatrends: it brings the need for a more commercial focus, a greater dedication to accountability and transparency, and the increased demand for seamless digital interactions.

Unfortunately, right now, most institutions lack the infrastructure to create this digitally driven culture and meet the new demands.

Three strategic responses

Next-generation institutions, meanwhile, have found three ways to innovate beyond these challenges. They are serving students as customers, supporting them throughout their entire journey and better managing people, finances and data.

1. Driven by the need to compete and increase enrollments, next-generation institutions are reinventing how they attract and admit more best-fit students for available courses, while updating their academic offerings to attract non-traditional students.

2. The best universities and colleges are digitally upgrading the way students interact with them from recruitment past graduation, even identifying and intervening with at-risk students. These institutions can do this because they have the tools that give them the visibility of student activities so they stay on track toward degree completion and employment.

3. These forward-looking institutions are also better managing human capital to reduce turnover of highly skilled staff. Financial decisions are more reliable because they are informed by software that provides accurate, up-do-date data and real-time business intelligence. And they are more able to demonstrate success and compliance through reporting on key indicators and metrics to stakeholders and regulators.

An opportunity, not a challenge

It’s an interesting time for the higher education sector, as student and regulator expectations force institutions to look not only at the ways they teach and communicate, but also at the way their organizations, as businesses, are run. Old processes and technology aren’t fit for purpose in this new world.

Rather than fearing change, however, next-generation colleges and universities view rising demands as an opportunity to innovate. They know that with the right vision and the right technology partner they can find an ERP solution that works with their budget and delivers a rapid return on investment to put a solid, scalable foundation in place for a digitally driven, adaptable future.

Digital expectation is a key higher education megatrend. To read more about megatrends and learn how to respond to them by embracing the right technology, download the industry brochure: NEW GAME NEW RULES — The stark reality of a disrupted market and how next-generation institutions are reacting.

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Austin Laird

Austin has been a part of the higher education industry for over 20 years, in a wide range of roles from a university registrar assistant to product manager and industry technology strategist. Prior to Unit4, he held multiple pre-sales, product and leadership roles at Oracle, including Global Director, Education & Research Technology. Austin joined Unit4’s Higher Education team in 2018 as product director for Unit4 Student Management.