6 min read

The Future of Higher Education Boards

By Lucy Palmer on 22/11/21 10:07

Covid-19 has had a transformative effect on every industry in the world but this impact has not been evenly distributed. Every sector operates in a different way, and so the challenges created by the pandemic are unique.

The role of the Board in university governance has always held its own place. Unlike other sectors, universities have to provide a comprehensive education service while balancing public and private concerns.

The pandemic has directly impacted universities’ ability to provide this service. They have been forced to adopt hybrid models of education which allow remote and in-person teaching. Students’ academic experience has been impacted.

As a result, it is an interesting time for the future of higher education. Universities will have to adapt in order to survive. We’ve looked into five factors that will shape higher education governance in the next decade.

1. Student Enrolment

Navigating trends in the higher education sector is a complex business. One concern that is central to university governance is, of course, enrolment. Prospective students are influenced by numerous factors which university governing Boards need to anticipate into the future.

Covid-19 will influence higher education enrolment . Students have voiced dissatisfaction at having to pay for university accommodation, only to spend the year learning through Zoom.

Other factors that have influenced enrolment involve anxiety at moving away from family and uncertainty over the future. This is particularly significant for international students who may struggle to see the value in moving 1000s of miles for remote learning.

However, this is not just related to the pandemic. In the UK, it is also impossible to talk about enrolment without talking about Brexit. The fall in applications from EU students will have a decisive impact on the future of higher education.

In fact, though the total number of admissions has fallen, the number of UK home students has risen. This shows there is still a demand for higher education.

University Boards will have to adapt quickly to these changes. These changes may involve adaptations to the admissions process, internal functions or external relations. Good public image is always important, but it will play a more significant factor in future.

One thing is for sure: enrolment will take up more and more time on the meeting agenda.

2. Evolution of Roles and Responsibilities

Colleges and universities are often resistant to change. They have so many different expectations to balance and may fall back on a historic approach. After all, if it isn’t broken why fix it?

The pandemic has given us a clear answer to this question. Sometimes, we don’t realise structures are weak until they are challenged. Traditional governance models that may have worked in the past are simply not durable in the new economic climate.

As a result, in the coming years, we are likely to see an evolution in the roles of the Board. Many directors have a clearer idea of the governance needs of their organisation. They will be able to take what they have learned and apply it in a practical move forward.

Of course, the core functions of the university Board will remain the same. Strategy, governance and performance will always be at the centre of administrative practices.

However, the way in which these goals are achieved may evolve. Board size as well as its authority may evolve. The move towards decentralisation is likely to continue as companies overhaul their governance structures.

3. Accessibility and Diversity

Before the pandemic, accessibility was not necessarily seen as a universal concern. Those who could work in-person did so without thinking of those who could not.

However, one positive of the past 18 months is that many have reassessed the importance of accessibility. University Board members have seen how everyone can be impacted by circumstances that do not allow them to travel.

This shift in the perception of accessibility is likely to have long-term ramifications for higher education institutions. Everyone can see the value in adjusting Board and administrative functions to be more inclusive.

For one, many universities have now seen the value of online communication. From the classroom to the Boardroom, the ability to deliver education programmes has been simplified by technology.

Of course, meeting in-person has benefits. For some Boards, accessibility can mean providing an office-space for staff who are not able to consistently work-from-home. As a result, the necessity of hybrid meetings will increase as the school year progresses.

Accessibility has always been important, it is only now that we are recognising how crucial it is to effective project delivery. There is no point in having a skilled, experienced team if they cannot all contribute evenly.

4. Technological Innovation

Perhaps the most significant takeaway here is that university Boards have been forced to recognise the importance of flexibility. In future, successful Boards will be the ones that can adapt to sudden change.

The higher education sector is one which is steeped in history and tradition. Universities take pride in what they do and as a result want to go about it the right way. This resistance to change is understandable but it is only sustainable in moderation.

As a result, innovative business models will be crucial to the development of the industry. In particular, software that facilitates dynamic collaboration will allow university Boards to prosper in this new era.

This is where Convene can help you! A Board Portal is an all-in-one solution designed to streamline your meeting processes. From building your agenda to creating meeting minutes, our software facilitates all of your hybrid, remote, or in-person business needs.

Convene is designed to protect top-level documents and maintain full GDPR compliance. The software is already trusted by over 300 academic institutions, including the University of Warwick and LSE. Our comprehensive features include:

Our software now also comes as an integration with Microsoft Teams, which provides the benefits of both Teams and a Board Portal. 

We look forward to translating our knowledge and experience into more straightforward board meetings for your organisation. Learn how Convene’s comprehensive solution can streamline your meeting processes by booking a free trial today.

Lucy Palmer

Written by Lucy Palmer

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