How universities’ IT leaders can reduce spend and transform with technology 

As universities feel the financial impact of COVID-19, Brexit, a global recession and spiralling pension deficits, IT managers have a crucial role to play in optimising expenditure and streamlining resources. We look at the many funding challenges facing further education and explain how technology and a strategic approach to cloud and data management can re-shape budgets and operational efficiency for universities.

The funding crisis

Further education institutions in the UK are facing an unprecedented funding crisis. While the UK Government has stepped up to offer increased financial support to help universities weather the impact of COVID-19, operational deficits remain high.

Falls in revenue from accommodation, catering and conferences over the past 12 months alone are estimated to be as much as £1.4 billion. Further impacting finances, the number of international students is expected to fall by as much as 35% as coronavirus limits travel and Brexit makes UK institutions a less attractive proposition.

Rising costs and ageing infrastructure

While revenue is falling, other costs are increasing – or at the very least remaining expensively static. Even with limited staff and students on campus, the large estates and technology within the campus buildings need to be maintained.

Money is still being ploughed into research, including vital work around COVID-19 testing and vaccinations. And IT infrastructure has become increasingly important (and expensive) as educational institutions have mobilised to facilitate the remote learning environment.

The impact of legacy systems and expensive technology

IT decision makers, CIOs and COOs are facing further challenges brought about by the infrastructure they have had to work with. In many cases, legacy on-premise hardware, applications and servers have struggled to cope with the demand of increased remote users while maintaining data security. Over the past 12 months, 80% of higher education institutions have reported data breaches of their systems.

Not only that, the complexity of commercial models with traditional technology providers has led to expensive vendor lock-in that often hasn’t offered the flexibility universities have needed. In this environment, as learning and research have been forced into remote operations, traditional operating models and legacy environments have undoubtedly stifled the innovation for which the UK’s higher education sector has historically been so renowned.

At the same time, legacy technology and infrastructure come with functional limitations, which lead to limited capabilities at expensive costs, that ultimately impact the efficiency and innovation strategy of further education establishments.

Challenges with universities’ IT

As education providers move towards a more hybrid model, operational efficiency and cost effectiveness are going to be vital, and it’s becoming clear that traditional, inflexible funding and operational models are no longer meeting the demands of IT decision makers, who are expected to manage multiple projects across varied locations and continuously transform with technology.

The three key challenges of universities’ IT in the digital economy are:

  • Tech and digital innovation – managing the increasing complexity of support and resources needed to innovate teaching and learning experience
  • Funding and shifting budgets – making sure that higher education remains affordable; reducing complexity of IT infrastructure management
  • Investing in cybersecurity – reducing disruption and closing the gaps attackers can exploit; ransomware can have a significant financial impact on universities.

Asking for the resources to build on and improve infrastructure is perhaps one CapEx demand too many at the moment. As universities head into the new normal in the months and years ahead, IT decision makers are looking for ways to ensure transformation, budget predictability and business continuity.

How further education  IT leaders can transform with technology

Technology partnerships and a robust transformation strategy can help universities effectively digitise the academic experience. The importance placed upon choosing the right solution provider will be heightened to crucial levels. Universities will need to choose a solution provider who enables the journey and can manage the associated risks as well as helping decision makers map key goals while modernising their infrastructure.

So what should you be looking to solve in order to optimise your IT budget, drive reductions in costs and improve IT capabilities?

Consolidate technology silos – choose single end-to-end technology partners that can help you achieve:

  • Reduced management and maintenance costs
  • Fast delivery and deployment of new software and applications
  • Integration and cost-effectiveness across business operations

Minimise waste and increase efficiency – commit to flexible commercial models that can fulfil:

  • Budget predictability through provision as OpEx rather than CapEx
  • Pay-as-you-use for enhanced flexibility
  • No vendor lock-in

Increase technology capability at reduced spend – enable key wins that come with increased technology capabilities:

  • Enhanced data security and analytics, better infrastructure to respond to security risks
  • Ability to scale quickly and securely
  • Simplified IT environments and streamlined processes

Leveraging the power of technology to achieve the above milestones can be a complex exercise, but one that could ultimately lead to over 50% reduction in your IT costs.
By reviewing costs and funding challenges with the end goal of improving efficiency and capability higher education leaders can also futureproof their technology and digital infrastructure.

Operating in the global context. Ensuring continuity of teaching, learning and research operations

The digitalisation of education is no longer merely a trend: it’s a way of ensuring universities remain relevant, efficient, attractive and competitive. Developing a modern infrastructure that harnesses the power of cloud technology is arguably the best, most cost-effective way for universities to remain at the forefront of the industry while boosting productivity, reducing costs and optimising processes.

The variety and scope of multi-cloud and data backup solutions offer untold cost and operational benefits for universities and other higher education institutions, and all decision makers should be looking to harness at least some of them if they are to take back control of their budgets and remain relevant in an increasingly digitalised and competitive world.

To find out how our cloud infrastructure and data backup solutions can help drive cost optimisation at your institution, get in touch with our team today.

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