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Blog: Technology tackles tighter university budgets and student forecasting

Financial modelling and budgetary control will be vital if universities are to grow, provide a great student experience and keep top-class staff.

By Graham James, 4 April 2014 - 2013 saw UK universities facing some of their biggest challenges yet: delivering better student experiences whilst operating under much tighter budget controls, changing government policy and challenging employee relations. Financial modelling and budgetary control will be vital if universities are to grow, provide a great student experience and keep top-class staff. Although almost 500,000 students entered higher education last year, applications fell by over 60,000, with more and more recent school leavers opting to enter the workforce as an apprentice rather than as a graduate with significant debt. 

With changes to student number caps as well UK visa changes causing volatility in international student recruitment, many universities are reviewing their recruitment plans to ensure that they can maintain their financial performance and ranking. 

Current times are also difficult for employee relations. Recent polls have suggested that around 30% of university staff would quit if they had the confidence. With employees regularly striking over pay and conditions, workforce planning is fast becoming a critical component in annual planning rounds, scenario models and contingency plans.

So where does technology fit in, and how can it really help universities address the challenges so they can compete as effectively as they can?

Education technology provider CACI is supporting universities such as Kingston, De Montfort, Greenwich and Aston to align student and financial plans, model scenarios and implement financial reporting improvements to make better decisions and improve collaboration.

Kingston University, for example, has implemented the SAP Budgeting, Planning and Consolidation tool, along with a new resource allocation model, which allows for an “income follows the student” methodology. Deans can now see their income and expenditure based on the clear make-up of the student population. 

Martin Potter, Finance Director at Kingston University, says:

“The model will enable greater transparency, supporting discussions such as investment in academic priorities, and is an essential step to better decision making.”

Greenwich University is also using CACI’s technology to its advantage by improving data management and reporting techniques across the university to assist with student application forecasting and reporting. 

Change is always inevitable, but with the right technology in place, universities are embracing the challenges ahead.