Ted Edmondson explores the evolving roles of technology in the Higher Education sector
Technology is really important to the HE sector for many reasons. For example, students expect a more mobile and smartphone app-based approach to how they both learn and live at university. But technology also gives universities significant competitive advantages in the way they manage their data and conduct their processes. Increasingly, technology is allowing universities to cut costs out of their operations which is very important in the current fiscal climate.
What could happen if universities don’t embrace technology?
If universities don’t embrace technology, they could go the same way as some major organisations in the past who have failed to do so and who subsequently lost market share in what they thought was a completely defensible, definable market.
Customer relationship management is rising up the agenda, with the aim of improving the student experience whilst simultaneously furthering academic excellence. This means that universities are starting to look at how they can manage their student data more efficiently. So, instead of data silos, universities are trying to manage this information as a data flow. For example, from the first time a student enquires about an institution, universities capture a little bit of information. As students join and move through the university, the information bubble is gradually inflated.
Tracking that data through a student’s university experience gives institutions a much more refined view of how they can manage their students and academic programmes. And it doesn’t end with students graduating. We are now seeing universities analysing this data with a view to targeting specific alumni for donations, resulting in saving significant marketing spend. It’s a real win-win situation.
How will technology play a part in the future of universities?
In the future, we’re likely to see a move towards mobile and tablet devices for student learning. In terms of university operations, we’re likely to see predictive analytics for student data and I think we’re going to move to a lot of automation of processes, so there will be much less paper.
My top piece of advice to universities is to look at the way they currently operate. Are there any inefficiencies brought about by processes that are out of date? Are students complaining about technology in surveys?
Universities should look at not only the technology itself but more importantly the processes in place. Often the problem is deeper than merely technology and, if they want to fix it, they must firstly fix how processes are managed. We help universities to look at those processes and the technology that sits on top of them to make them work more efficiently.
Our deep expertise in both external and internal audit in the HE sector brings a very thorough understanding of the sector itself. Working with academics is a different experience to working with others in the public sector and, indeed, the private sector. We have significant experience of managing universities’ change programmes and accompanying academics through them, so helping to ensure that programmes are more successful than they otherwise would be.
This article represents the views of the author only, and does not necessarily represent the views or professional advice of KPMG in the UK.