Digital Transformation, TEQSA announcements, and Performance-Based Funding

Posted: 15/10/2019

Are you wondering where the Higher Education sector is heading and what you need to be considering in the years ahead?

Sector Trends

Here are the trends we’ve seen forming in the last quarter during our work with Australian universities and education providers – and the big announcements that are set to create more changes across the sector.

Digital Transformation – the mistake universities keep making

As a result of the efficiency drive throughout the sector, digital transformation is on the rise. While this is a positive and necessary step for Higher Education providers, there is one costly mistake that universities keep making with their digital transformation – not mapping and streamlining business processes first.

Many universities are implementing new (and high cost) Enterprise Management Systems, without first addressing the root cause of many of their problems.

An institution will not experience the full benefits of automation and digital transformation unless areas have mapped and then reengineered their processes. Trying to change your processes and workflows to suit a new system solution does not work; in fact, it is the fastest way to a problematic implementation, disillusioned staff and declining staff support and buy-in, all leading to systemisation of an existing bad process.

This is much more difficult to improve, and the alternative is by far superior – review your business processes first, plan the system requirements before you build and implement the new system.

If you are planning to innovate your operations or services, be sure to discuss business process improvement with us first. We can help you build a great Implementation Plan, incorporating appropriate change and communications strategies to ensure a successful deployment.

TEQSA standards breaches – are you at risk?

Many projects are being undertaken to ensure universities and other providers are meeting the TEQSA standards. During these projects, it is not uncommon for us to find universities in breach of one or more of the standards with senior leadership often unaware of these breaches.

This is often due to issues being buried deep within complex processes that are changed so much over time that they no longer meet the standards, despite staff working diligently to meet a business requirements.

These are some of the common breaches we’re uncovered in our process improvement work:

  • Admissions processes, particularly in relation to all students receiving an equal opportunity to apply for a course with more open and transparent processes. We’re finding many universities are now paying more attention to this function with TEQSA’s attention turned to this admissions process
  • The management of credit and RPL is often inconsistent and the information provided to students is not clear or accurately recorded in a central database or system
  • Academic and corporate governance arrangements are often misunderstood with some approval steps missing in order to achieve a faster result
  • Management of international student applications is a serious concern and the recent ABC Four Corner’s report highlighted this issue, particularly in relation to student’s English language skills
  • Approval flows which are so complex that some steps are skipped inadvertently
  • Out of date Governance reviews and ESOS audits (for SAA)
  • Student communications breaching CRICOS standard

One of the most efficient and effective ways to determine if you have a problem is to undertake business process mapping activities with cross functional teams. It is during these workshops that the risks and issues can be identified, and improvements made.

Are you concerned about your processes? Do you think you may have some high-risk processes? Call us now on 1800 870 677 for your Business Process Health Check.

Sector Outlook

There have been two significant announcements this last quarter that will have a significant impact on the sector over the coming years. These include Performance Based Funding and TEQSA increased costs.

Performance-Based Funding

Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan’s $80-million pledge for performance-based university funding has been met with mixed opinions. In his own words, the funding will “incentivise universities to focus on their core business: producing job-ready graduates with the skills to succeed in the modern economy.”

Performance funding will be allocated based on four key factors.  The universities that achieve these annually will be able to receive cumulative funding increases, up to a capped 7.5% of the Commonwealth Grant Scheme.

These four performance-based KPIs include:

  1. Graduate outcomes – measured by overall graduate employment rate.
  2. Student success – measured by the dropout rates of domestic first-year students.
  3. Student experience – measured by student satisfaction with teaching quality.
  4. Equity group participation – measured by the participation rate of Indigenous students, low socio-economic and rural students.

It’s easy to look at these performance measures and increasing funding cuts with ‘doom and gloom’ and consider them a negative impact on the sector. But the truth is most universities are already measuring these KPIs in one form or another. There has been extensive work undertaken by most institutions to address these KPIs for high quality student outcomes. New senior positions have been created in many universities (like PVC Students or PVC Student Engagement) to enable a portfolio approach to managing student success.

However, these measures will have more focus; business areas within the university will be responsible for driving and enabling activities to support increased KPIs. This will hold universities truly accountable with an expectation of positive outcomes for students and financial incentives for institutions.

At the recent TEMC conference, participants were given a fantastic speech by ‘Who gives a Crap’ CEO Simon Griffiths, speaking about their innovative approach to problem solving. His ‘fail fast and fail smart’ approach to trying new things is inspiring, and very much aligns with our DVE approach to this pressure on the sector – it’s worth reading their story!

The best approach to these changes is to see them as an opportunity to grow, innovate, look within to try and incremental changes, and re-align your strategy with some achievable targets. At DVE, we love a challenge, and can help you find ways to do more with less, and work toward your growth targets.

Higher Education Provider costs for registrations and re-registrations set to rise

TEQSA recently announced changes to their cost-recovery model for registration and accreditation. As a result, registration and accreditation fees are set to rise dramatically for Higher Education providers.

Being the hot topic that it is, we’ve written about this separately. You can read more about it in our article TEQSA and ASQA to move to full cost-recovery model.