As a result of recent changes, universities in the UK and Australia must ‘self-disrupt’ in order to remain competitive. Increased international student intakes, shifting revenue streams, a continuing drive for efficiency, and new models of research, teaching and learning, mean that there are significant opportunities and challenges to be addressed. ‘New’ universities can be particularly exposed to the impacts of change, given their sometimes more fragile positioning and resource base. However, their ability to react quickly and flexibly can also be an advantage as they compete with more established institutions.
Nous facilitated a discussion forum for Vice Chancellors and leaders from both UK and Australian ‘new’ universities, to share their experience and knowledge of emerging higher education models. This article summarises the main themes discussed at the forum.
A rapidly changing operating environment is disruptive in any sector. In higher education, there are some additional challenges to be overcome, due to the unique nature of the sector:
Global connectivity is opening up new opportunities for universities as well as their students. The discussion at the Nous event touched on the following trends:
Increasingly, higher education institutions are required to fulfil the roles of both a publicly orientated institution and an effective commercial entity. This demands that universities simultaneously work to two agendas, which are often in tension. These competing agendas manifest in a number of different ways including:
The rapidly changing higher education environment creates distinctive challenges for new universities. Often lacking the brand or funding resources of Russell Group or Group of Eight institutions, it is critical that new universities understand the need for competitive differentiation and embrace models which are precisely attuned to contemporary student requirements.
Better performing universities appear to make strategic decisions quickly, ensure their academic and business models are tightly aligned, and position their institutions more assertively. Through ongoing strengthening and superb customer experience, universities can effectively build their independence and immunity to short term government changes, thereby improving their likelihood of future success.
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