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Written by Ed Chapman
on July 25, 2018

Higher and tertiary education institutions in countless locations around the world are currently struggling through a weighty budget crisis. Governments are reducing their investment in education and many universities have already seen certain areas of their funding completely frozen, reducing the spending power that these institutions possess. Countries worldwide are experiencing cuts to higher education funding in an aggravating pattern that has been occurring over the last few years

This alarming trend in the educational sector begs the question: as the finance director/CFO of your university, how can you reduce administrative costs and do your best to overcome these rapidly shrinking budgets?

 

1. Work towards being financially transparent

Financial visibility is key to any business success, and especially important for those who depend on external funding, like higher education institutions. To receive this funding, directors need to explain where their resources will be allocated.

Technology and cloud-based solutions help CFOs and finance directors get a clearer picture and better control of where money goes, something that is critical in today’s education industry.

 

2. Smart purchasing

We all know that squandering money is never a good idea, especially when it comes to running a business. Taking care of the different expenses of a university is a big job and unnecessary spending is a prevalent risk.

Being affected by a government’s “funding freeze” policies does not mean that tertiary educational institutions will stop spending. Business continues as usual and expenses come naturally. But as the trims occur, universities need to find a way to make their budget work and, before cutting courses or activities, institutions need to realise that they can save a great deal of money by smart procurement processes.

 

3. Make data driven decisions

How many times have you found yourself on the hunt for meaningful, useful data only to become frustrated because there are great quantities of numbers with no purpose? Today in the tertiary education sector, the stakes are too high to accommodate administrative tasks that work without a comprehensive, data-driven picture of all its processes - with extremely narrow margins.

How do you improve institutional effectiveness without a way of basing your decisions on data that is truly accurate? How do you produce quality research, campus internationalisation, and achieve excellency in learning and teaching when the most basic analytics are often incomplete or missing entirely? The ability of an institution to improve is questioned without the ability to produce proper data.

 

4. Change to automated business processes

It is no secret that higher education depends on government certification and funding, meaning the ability to predict and manage compliance concerns needs to be streamlined to avoid future issues. Automated processes are an effective solution to this.


Many universities still operate with fragmented legacy systems filled to the brim with countless spreadsheets and needless manual processes that are part of the daily tasks of staff. The impact of these old-fashioned processes is significant; many Higher Education Institutions agreed that this is where most staff hours are wasted, and chance of error is heightened due to outdated infrastructure. At the end of the day, if your processes are delayed, the services that students receive will also be delayed.

 

5. Select IT that grows with you

Today, no business can operate without technology, but the challenge lies in which software fits the best with your institution. There are countless options and prices in the market and it is very easy to either go with the cheapest (that usually will not meet the requirements of educational institutions) or the most expensive (that will not let you “own” it) options. If either the former or the latter is chosen, the university often ends up paying more money than it should for the required technology in the long run.

As “funding freezes” are the new norm and nothing can be done (for the moment) to stop them, technology can help take the necessary steps to battle the challenges that financial directors face when reducing administrative costs to keep universities on top of their finances.

Struggling to find administration software that works for you can be frustrating and scary due to the initial investment that it may carry. Yet, as proven, universities will not be able to sustain a successful and growing institution without technology that reduces costs and streamlines operations. In the long run, those initial costs are worth it.

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