UKHE – What next? 2009, road to recovery.

What an interesting year for UK Higher Education 2008 has been.  I guess that 12 months ago few of us would have predicted how the turbulent economic climate would effect the HE sector and perhaps we have only yet to see the start of the troubled times ahead.  Thinking back on 2008, here are just a few milestones, in no particular order:

  • New Times Higher Education League Table
    • seems to spell woe to the UK but showed some winners too.
  • Salary increase to HE staff
    • normally a time to celebrate but many are commenting on the financial burden  this brings.
  • RAE results
    • Hot off the press and full of praise for UK research which perhaps seems at odds with the Times Higher Ranking.  Some great winners here such as Queen Mary and Leeds but some worries too.
  • Student Numbers
    • A healthy round of recruitment academic year 08/09 and congratulations to all for recruiting so many.  Question, how many are still there? What does the future hold?
  • Minister change
    • David Lammy is now well established in DIUS and farewell to Bill Rammell who’s now at the foreign office.
  • Shared Services
    • HEFCE and AHUA get behind the concept of Shared Services and supports a 2 day conference in Loughborough where Tony Hey provided the keynote.

imageThis is just a selection of the events during 2008 but give a flavour of what possibly lies ahead, change, uncertainty and competition.  What is certain in 2009 is that universities will have two overriding objectives, these namely saving money and to innovate their way out of a global downturn.  Two opposite ends of a spectrum, one end pointing at efficiencies and productivity and the other looking at new opportunities for increasing revenue and enhancing reputation.  Both objectives are equally important to survival and require.  Reflecting on the key university priorities research excellence, student experience, employer engagement and business agility then the only sure way to meet these is by innovating now.  Failure to make efficiencies will lead to a lack of resources for innovation and failure to innovate will be disastrous.

The smart thing to do is to combine efficiency with innovation.  Over the next few months I’ll be posting stories of how universities are making prudent investments in technology to maximise return, such as how Imperial College is using Live Meeting to increase student numbers without sacrificing their experience, how the University of Northampton uses cloud services to provide better tools to students and how Cambridge University uses Microsoft’s HPC to “make users more productive”.  My colleagues over in the US are also coming out with some great stories about how our technology is helping universities differentiate and prosper.

Another certainty for 2009 is that Microsoft and its partners will deliver solutions that will help universities meet their efficiency requirements and provide the opportunity for innovation.

The challenge will become how a university meets its corporate objectives whilst facing a global downturn and those that achieve this will be tomorrow’s stars.  Innovation is now more necessary than before and just as technology has created opportunities and successfully transformed numerous business now is time for Higher Education.

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