University Partners Must Be Part of the Change As Institutions Reopen
As universities realign their strategic priorities following a devastating two years for the sector, unique opportunities present themselves for agile, collaborative and forward-thinking business and service partners.
“Leading vendors will ditch the transactional methods of yesterday and strongly position themselves with institutions by aligning values, interests and knowledge to develop long term models of success.”
Over the past few weeks, we have heard from institutional experts across the globe as they consider the future of university campuses, the lingering impacts of COVID on education delivery modes, staff and student engagement and an increasingly agile workforce. Whilst there are many ideas floating around, the general consensus appears to be that the digital world was already transforming all of these aspects, and COVID simply accelerated the speed of change into what is now becoming a ‘new normal’.
International border openings and welcoming back international students is much needed for our sector, however it will not be the overnight panacea that many may expect to protect the financial security of institutions – we have already lost two student cohort years to lockdowns, and it will likely take double that time to return to the same population levels, if we do at all! Significant staff losses were recorded across Australia and New Zealand over the past two years as institutions sought to realign their strategic priorities, reshape their organisational structures to suit, and recast directions to ensure they remain internationally competitive and financially stable. The hope is that these newly founded directions align with the minds of our teams to avoid an anticipated ‘Great Resignation’ of 2022- which would further set back our institutions and sector.
All of these challenges though provide unique opportunities for service providers, vendors and business partners, and the approach that they take with institutions. Leading vendors will ditch the transactional methods of yesterday and strongly position themselves with institutions by aligning values, interests and knowledge to develop long term models of success. Leaders will recognise that institutions who have suffered a ‘brain-drain’ throughout the pandemic offer prospects for new ways of managing estates, and that expertise in asset management will be more valuable than attempting to offer generalist advice over all property needs. COVID has taught us all to become adaptable, agile and resilient, and our future agreements will recognise and reflect an increasing ability to call on this malleability as required.
Partnership arrangements will see a growing willingness of business and service providers to support educational offerings through provision of work integrated learning opportunities for students and continuing professional development opportunities for those already within a field of expertise. Partner subject matter experts sharing knowledge with institutions delivering non-award short courses and microcredential pathways to higher education awards, will enable career changes and a broader reach into tomorrow’s leaders – both people and organisations. These connections will reward participants and their organisations by engaging with the brains trust of the future, and increased returns.
And for campuses to return to the successful hive of activity, where ideas are generated, shared and introduced to change the world, will require successful integrations of industry and community within institutional campus borders. Visionary institutions are also enjoying success through alternate estate ownership models, building for and with Governments and communities at the heart of the areas they serve. Space is already being consolidated across many institutions as university demand for space decreases, digital pedagogy reshapes learning, and non-core assets are divested. This strategic reprioritisation opens doors for partners within the community, industry and Government to collocate within our institutions. Collaborative approaches will drive new ideas, new partnerships, and new economic growth, repeating successes that Universities the world over have created and enjoyed for more than 1000 years.
So as the state and international borders reopen, and communities are welcomed back to our campuses, I would encourage the leaders of all business partners who want to be a part of the change and to build successful long term partnerships with the higher education institutions in their communities – take a look at their strategic priorities, see how they align with yours, and be selective in choosing the partners you wish to couple with for delivering ongoing success.