The Top 3 Things Universities Must Do to Thrive in 2021

Universities must learn to fully embrace being online, the opportunities afforded by research commercialisation, and administrative flexibility to succeed.

Higher education in Australia is changing rapidly. As every student of biology knows, rapid change compels equally quick adaptation. The following are the top three things that universities must do in order to thrive in 2021:

1. Embrace being online. For months we’ve been hearing “when things return to normal”, and “when face-to-face work resumes permanently”, stopgap language to buttress administrators working to uncertain timelines. But the past year’s unprecedented degree of online access has proven a gift to students in rural settings and to parts of the disabled community. There are economic incentives, too: students are increasingly seeking education that they can do from home. Institutions must not now abandon in their infancy what useful innovations the pandemic has birthed.

2. Research commercialisation will soon be vital. Given the loss of international student enrolments that previously funded much of Australia’s research, many are looking to industry to bridge the funding gap. Diverse funding sources will improve resilience for future challenges, and universities should embrace them to promote their own long-term success. The recent ATSE symposium on the topic comes as the government is scoping its University Research Commercialisation Scheme to increase profit, inspiring new business and creating more jobs. The time to embrace industry contributions is now. It will be an indispensable source of funding in the near future.

3. Encode flexibility in administrative operations. Siloed data, ineffective integrations, excessive manual interventions, poorly documented processes reliant on the expertise of one person, laborious workarounds—if any of these sound familiar, that’s because they’re extremely common across Australian universities. All of them have a cost.

Superficially insignificant administrative concerns build up over time, until either the financial burden or the cascade of small errors interferes with business. For example, not all institutions were adequately prepared when they had to submit their foreign arrangements for assessment under the new Foreign Arrangements Scheme. There’s no doubt that more of them could have been.

Internal systems that are clean, streamlined and well-integrated can do a lot to lower costs, decrease unnecessary manual labour, and foster savings in your bottom line.

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