PA Consulting Group’s (PA) report from our fifth annual survey1 of the leaders of higher education (HE) institutions and providers in the UK investigates how higher education leaders foresee the disruptions impacting the higher education system, and how they are responding to them. In particular, it explores the growing importance of student experiences in providers’ strategies, and how this is reshaping patterns of higher learning.
This year’s survey report records the beginnings of a sea-change in the strategic priorities of leaders across the higher education system. In place of their historical obsession with the outlook for Government policy and funding, leaders appear to have switched their focus to the competitive battle for fee-paying students and the imperative to offer attractive and rewarding learning experiences. This imperative is driven by the effective demise of grant funding for teaching, coupled with slowing and potentially falling student numbers and increased competition from alternative routes to higher learning.
Sector leaders are unimpressed by predictions that online alternatives will sweep away
conventional providers of higher education, expressing confidence in the resilience of the
established system to embrace and adapt to new ways of working. Nonetheless, our
respondents are united in expecting the emergence of a very different HE system, characterised by a diversity of tailored and student-centred learning experiences delivered through a patchwork of provider partnerships, collaborations and alliances.
Our survey reveals a widespread expectation that not all current providers will survive this
disruption, with predictions of institutional failures. There are however few signs of this
actually happening. The more likely outcome, in our view, is a radical restructuring of
relationships and ventures within and between providers, rather than a widespread shake-out of higher education institutions.
To find out how PA can help your institution thrive in the future, please contact us now.
1 We received responses from more than one-third of leaders across all types of HE provision and all parts of the UK. Many respondents took the trouble to add personal observations to their responses, and we have quoted some of these anonymously where they were typical of a number of comments.