Universities are incredible places. They create and preserve knowledge, and educate lots of the front-line workers that are saving lives. They produce people who are making our lives worth living in lockdown by providing us with everything from counselling to entertainment.
But they face challenges - the myriad difficulties of Covid, the still-awaited outcomes of Augar, what the future TEF will look like, pensions, student wellbeing, equality and diversity, governance, as well as somehow continuing to deliver that great teaching and research when people can’t come to campus. Universities are huge organisations, and these times have underlined the necessity for rapid but sustainable change.
You don’t have to achieve all of this on your own as an organisation. Universities have often felt that they need to do everything themselves, but actually there are good reasons to call in outside help – at the right time and for the right projects.
There are three key reasons to bring in consultants who really understand the sector and what you need as an organisation:
Experience/expertise: that project you are trying to run (such as introducing new policies and procedures for student safeguarding, or restructuring professional services), has been done by others before. If you don’t have expertise at the right level in house, you can temporarily buy it in to work with your team, and get a result you are confident in over a shorter space of time than would otherwise be possible.
Capacity: Maybe you do have the expertise in-house, but there is simply too much to do to give it time. Perhaps it’s an assessment of a programme you are running, such as mental health provision, or managing a very large change project whilst also trying to deliver the day job. Bringing in professional managers who know how to get things done in a University can save you months of work, thus saving funds in the process. A stitch in time…
Objectivity: Maybe something hasn’t gone the way you wanted, a big project hasn’t delivered, a department doesn’t seem to be delivering results, and you (or your Council) need to know why. Bringing in an outside view, rather than trying to delve through the evidence yourself, is an excellent way to use consultancy. They of course bring perspectives from working with other organisations too, both inside and outside the sector.
Many of our “Strategy” projects focus on performance. Sometimes that is where an area isn’t working and the Leadership Team want to know why, but sometimes we are called in to work with those who are already excellent, and want to be even better.
Our Fellows include some well-known and respected minds on Higher Education, and also those who can give senior perspectives from the third sector, from health and from industry. We have already carried out over 90 change projects in HE – we would love to speak to you about how we could help.
Shaun Horan is Joint CEO of Halpin, the home of experts in higher education.