the post-pandemic UK university system is refocusing on local social and economic needs rather than national rankings and policies

PA Consulting Releases Results of 11th Higher Education Executives Survey

LONDON, December 9, 2021 / PRNewswire / – Vice Chancellors (VCs) are leading radical change in the higher education sector by focusing their universities’ future identity and income streams on the social and economic needs of their local community, according to the latest research from PA Consulting (PA), consulting that brings ingenuity to life. Contrary to historical priorities, 60% of VCs rated recruiting under-represented and / or local student groups as their first or second strategic priority and 45% prioritized supporting local leveling projects. Only 13% gave priority to recruiting the most academically gifted students.

PA’s survey reveals a dramatic shift in the outlook for universities, becoming less focused on national policies and more focused on local needs.

The main findings include:

  • Upmarket projects are becoming a strategic lever. There is a greater institutional commitment to issues such as sustainability and social mobility. Emphasis on local engagement and participation in local upgrading projects becomes a strategic driver: 60% of VCs placed recruiting local and under-represented student groups as their first or second strategic priority , 45% giving the same priority to engagement with economic and commercial developments. Less than 10% make “master of advanced and international research developments” their top priority.

  • More flexible learning opportunities and pathways for young people. Universities are also taking the lead in opening up more flexible learning opportunities and pathways for young people and adults: 35% have already entered into strategic partnership agreements with FE colleges and local employment programs, and 28% are planning similar measures.

  • Innovative services and delivery partnerships. Rectors compensate for the prospect of lower tuition fees by planning for revenue growth based on innovative services and delivery partnerships: 33% seek growth of more than 25% from online sources, more than half seek growth of up to 25% in private education. private services and private R&D services.

  • A new cohort of leaders is emerging. Against the backdrop of an industry looking to expand its business flows, a striking feature of this year’s survey is the number of new VCs in post and others on the verge of retirement; we estimate that up to a third of universities have or will soon have new VCs in the two years since our previous survey.

Ian matthias, Head of Higher Education at PA Consulting, says: “An image is emerging of vice-chancellors and institutions differentiating their missions and strategies to be more relevant and responsive to changing social and economic needs.

“Vice Chancellors are building on the unexpected capacity for rapid innovation, adaptability and agency that universities have discovered thanks to COVID-19. This will secure their future, provide better results for students, and further strengthen the bonds between universities and the people they serve.

Mike boxall, expert in higher education at PA Consulting, says: “The movement towards direct engagement with local and regional economic and social ecosystems opens up the prospect of a very different higher education sector. This will be more relevant, more open and more valuable in the face of rapidly changing societal needs. He brings new challenges with him, but we see Vice-Chancellors making the bold decisions needed to ensure that their university can make a sustainable living in what will be a radically transformed industry. “

Download a copy of ‘A Differentiated Future: PA’s 2021 Survey of UK Higher Education Heads’

Notes to editor

About the report

Our survey took place in 2021 via an online questionnaire sent to heads of UK universities and other higher education institutions, supplemented by additional written comments and in-depth telephone interviews. Our conclusions are supported by more than 40 responses.
Note: In this report, the reference to “universities” and “institutions” covers all recognized higher education institutions (HEIs); and “vice-chancellors” encompasses the diversity of titles among school heads.

About PA

We believe in the power of ingenuity to build a positive human future in a technology driven world.

As strategies, technologies and innovation collide, we create opportunity out of complexity.
Our diverse teams of experts combine innovative thinking and revolutionary use of technology to progress further, faster. Our clients adapt and transform, and together we achieve lasting results.

Consulting firm in innovation and transformation, we are more than 3,300 specialists in the fields of consumption and manufacturing, defense and security, energy and utilities, financial services, government, health and life sciences, and transportation. Our people are strategists, innovators, designers, consultants, digital experts, scientists, engineers and technologists. We operate worldwide from offices across the UK, US, Netherlands and Nordic.

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