Funding higher education: Joining up is key to managing change

5 November 2020 | Saska Nel

Unless you live in a cave, you won’t have escaped the magnitude of the external challenges currently facing higher education funding.


There have been well-documented warnings of the threat to the existence of many UK universities from the impact of Covid-19 and Brexit. A recent study from the Institute for Fiscal Studies has suggested that thirteen universities might very soon face insolvency without a government bailout.

Of course, over the last 20 years, the higher education sector has already seen a large number of changes. With a big jump in students attending universities as well as a shift in the way courses are funded, pushing the onus onto the student.

Challenges faced in the crisis

Yes, lockdown for higher education institutions has had an immediate, sector-changing effect. With fewer international student enrolments, reduced income from student accommodation and facilities, and losses on long-term investments. This is on top of the challenges the higher education sector was already facing. Including pension scheme deficits to preparing for Brexit, and a reduction in grants and partnerships as well as European students.

Now, the sector faces the kind of changes where poor financial management can lead to institutional downfall, there is a need for a robust yet flexible financial performance management system. Imminent and future planning has suddenly become critical to survival. From mitigation planning for Covid-19 to analysing how the EU funding hole is plugged. From strategies for finding other funding sources for research staff to planning for changes to international partnerships and its consequences.

A joined up approach

What’s paramount is that the office of finance joins up the impact of both internal and external factors. Then you will understand how each together affects an organisation’s finances as a whole. Establishing a single source of truth across departments, locations, and faculties for a cohesive and diverse growth strategy going forward. In detail, that means integrating structured and unstructured data from across campus for a joined up view of the entire institution. Then you can clearly assess, as a whole, the impact these individual factors have on university finances. Helping you better prepare and navigate through them.

Meet the challenges + accurately plan initiatives & long-term objectives = return on investment

What happens now ultimately leads into what can be done in the future. By making the right, evidence-based calculations, your insights can help set future objectives and create new initiatives and strategies for growth. For example:

  • Making a decision to modernise campus capital expenditure. While this might have quite a bit of upfront cost, over 10-15 years, you’ll see more enrolments and increased surplus.
  • Considering revenue diversification. This will become more important. Review how you use reputation, research and other partnerships to redefine your offerings.
  • Optimising virtual learning. As online education grows, Higher Education institutions might find opportunities to use content. Increasing and widening audiences, with learning changing from short-term to life-long.

By providing a flexible approach and rich modelling capability you can enable the development of multi-year and long-range plans. These are fully integrated with operational budgets and forecasts. Joining up budgeting and forecasting, student number planning and tuition fee forecasting, reporting and analytics, commitment tracking and planning for staff, research grants and capital.

Never has there been a more critical time to focus on robust but flexible financial planning solutions. While the financial landscape shifts rapidly, with solutions such as Axiom, you can be fully equipped for managing change. From planning for grants and project tracking to working out which initiatives will give you the best return on investments with the cash you have to invest now.

With over 50 universities worldwide currently using Axiom’s software, we help Higher Education institutions manage their financial position to ensure long-term success.

To find out how we can help you become more financially agile, get in touch by calling +44 (0)1932 548 465, or email us at

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To find out how our innovative EPM software can take the pain out of your financial data management and processing, get in touch today by calling +44 (0)1932 548 465, or email us at for an initial consultation.