FUNDING HAS BEEN FROZEN - WHAT WILL THIS MEAN TO TRANSFORMATION AND CHANGE WITHIN THE EDUCATION SECTOR?
At the end of 2017, the federal government announced there will be a $2.2 billion cut from university budgets. The reduction is to be primarily through a two-year freeze for teaching and learning in Commonwealth grants funding. This means that funding will be capped at 2017 levels and an estimated 10,000 university places will go unfunded this year.
As expected this is a concern for the whole Education sector, and potential undergraduate students and university staff will be feeling a sense of nerves as to the ongoing security of their positions. However, with every dark cloud there is always a silver lining and this could present opportunities for those who are looking to be part of business transformation and change programs of work. This is because universities will have to develop new solutions of how to manage their resources ‘cut’ and streamline certain processes, with a potential focus on re-engineering the current ways of working.
Universities will now have to be more strategic in their approach. This will mean allocating and the right resources to drive business & process improvement, transformation and change. Under the new regime this will be more crucial than ever.
I manage the Education portfolio here at Project Resource Partners and partner with several leading universities across business transformation, within project services, analytics and change. Through the conversations I am having with my network it is clear there could be a significant benefit in having specialised project based resources who are focused on transforming current processes. This is in order to save costs, and in some cases to find new ways to generate revenue. In the past year there has been a focus in universities on identifying the duplication of processes and working out how they can operate in a different manner to ultimately streamline processes to ultimately provide savings.
Consequently, transformation and change resources have been faced with challenges, including some level of resistance to change. Often there is a stigma attached that my job could be at risk from the work that is being conducted. Those carrying out the transformations know this is not the case, and ‘organisational restructures’ have never been part of the agenda. However, with the announcement to freeze funding, there is no question this challenge will be presented again and will carry the worry of pending ‘organisational changes’.
With the announcement, the strategy within the sector appears to be that critical and revenue generating projects or programs of work will continue. Anything that falls outside of this will either be put on hold or closed. Obviously, this is far from ideal for any tertiary education organisation as with the increased competition between universities, coupled with the emergence of RTO’s, online learning platforms and vocational learning, the need to keep delivering a transforming learning experience for students is greater than ever.
Ultimately for all universities across Australia this will mean some form of transformation or change process will have to take place to manage the ‘funding freeze’ in 2018 and into 2019. As discussed this could present opportunities to project personnel who have delivered process improvement projects and programs that have led to cost savings in an industry that is at the heartbeat of the nation. The route which each university takes will be ever evolving as they seek to deliver the changes needed to cope with the ‘cuts’ skilled transformation and change resources will be vital so the process is as effective and smooth as possible.
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