Released 07/06/2012

COMMENT Higher education expert Demetra Katsifli explains why in this age of austerity, operational efficiency is top of the agenda for universities and colleges


Demetra Katsifli, expert in higher education services

It’s very easy to be despondent right now, given the austerity measures being imposed on businesses of all sizes and across all sectors. Employees are being made redundant, streamlining and general cost-cutting all seem par for the course and for those working in higher education this is all happening during a crucial and transitional period.

As universities and colleges become increasingly competitive and endeavour to deliver the best student experience possible, operational efficiency is now top of the agenda.

Yet, putting the doom and gloom to one side for a second, often when academic institutions are under increased pressure to reduce costs, they can be at their most efficient, simply by having to make the most of existing technology investments and work smarter to improve their business processes.

This is why the recent report from the Universities UK group on ‘Efficiency and effectiveness in higher education’ really struck a chord. UK universities are facing the rigours of a new funding system, whilst having to demonstrate real value for money to its students and funding bodies.

The report found that universities deploying innovative approaches to efficiency were not only able to make savings but also enhance the efficiency of their operations. This applies to key processes, including course portfolio rationalisation, the management of all course-related processes from pre-validation to delivery and monitoring/managing the delivery of a university’s strategic plan.

Ensuring that universities and colleges maximise the efficiency of their systems sounds straightforward on paper, yet such is the complexity of each academic institution, colleges and universities need help from their technology providers to unlock the potential of their investments.

The key to success is to understand the workflow processes, including human systems, how these processes work and how they need to change. This is an evolutionary approach, rather than a revolutionary one and should be designed to show universities how to improve things piece-by-piece. Once this has been completed, the other end of the scale is about improving the integration of the systems which run these processes and dealing with the complexities of the architecture.

Universities are now dealing with a student journey, from the second they enquire, through to graduation and beyond. Managing the information and processes behind this journey effectively is crucial to not only keeping costs to a minimum but also improving operational efficiency across the institution.

Demetra Katsifli is the director of services at Ellucian, a global leader in education services, technologies and expertise

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Paul Champion

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