The perfect storm for higher education – what should be done?
It is probable that one of the large accountancy firms would not be seen by some in the higher education community as the obvious source of sympathetic advice. Still, it may be useful to consider some of the findings recently published by Deloitte about the risks and pressures facing global higher education. The report suggests that universities are facing a perfect storm, caused by the coming together of reduced budgets, difficulties in recruiting staff and students and growing competition. One could add to this the acceleration of bureaucratic regulation, public hostility towards the academic profession, and scepticism about quality and standards.
Against this backdrop, Deloitte asked education specialists from the firm’s offices in seven countries to make recommendations that might lead to a revival of the fortunes of higher education. Some of the resulting suggestions are not ground-breaking. For example, the report recommends that universities should ‘explore new revenue opportunities’, which is undoubtedly good advice but hardly new. But there are some comments which may be useful, such as the recommendation that universities need to learn to pursue strategic priorities rather than just behave opportunistically, or that universities should look at ways of improving environmental performance both as a strategic goal and as a contribution towards cutting costs.
But where the report is probably most useful is in its emphasis on the need for higher education institutions to get better at adapting to changing circumstances quickly and finding ways of making these changes work to their advantage. It is also good that this major accounting firm is showing interest in and support for global higher education. In these rather troubling times, universities need supporters.
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