Pressures from Covid-19 on higher education finance teams

29 October 2020 | Saska Nel

In this, the worst pandemic for over a century, the financial pressure placed by Covid-19 on finance teams in the higher education sector is unprecedented.


While every sector has been affected by Covid-19, higher education is dealing with the fall-out from multiple angles.

At incredibly short notice, we’ve seen higher education institutions across the UK tackling a variety of issues. Clearing and cleaning campuses. Handling large volumes of staff working remotely. And providing immediate on-line teaching for students while planning admissions for the next cohort.

The pressures on finance in higher education

Naturally, the burden on finance professionals weighs heavily. Boards are increasingly asking for improved visibility into the longer-term financial trajectory of their institutions. Plus, we must recognise that there are potentially devastating outcomes if planning and decision-making aren’t done right. That’s why it’s paramount for organisations to prioritise how they will adapt and react to the changes that are impacting the education market.

The office of finance is integral to empowering these decisions.

Handling the pressures from Covid-19

In this ever-changing landscape, what are the current external pressures, and more importantly what can you do about them?

For the academic year 2020/2021, higher education institutions have to resolve a wide number of issues, not least including:

  • The effects of Covid-19 on student enrolment
  • Funding for research projects post-Brexit
  • Pension deficits and their future impact on universities
  • The uncertainty of government funding

If higher education institutions are to ride out the current difficulties it’s critical to understand the challenges that lie ahead. It’s also vital to plan for all the eventualities and outcomes. Whether it’s admissions, or capital investment planning, to tuition planning and budgeting.

Start planning different scenarios

With accurate forecast and budget data (financial and non-financial), and analysing different scenarios, you can assess how best to act on current and future challenges. And you’ll be able to see the impact they have on income and expenditure, as well as access to cash. For instance, consider:

  1. How the current Covid-19 crisis affects enrolment.
  2. The impact of a decrease in the number of international students. Also likely impacted in the near future by Brexit.
  3. Tighter spending controls and cost-cutting exercises. Plus, vitally, how these can be done whilst still providing the highest level of service to both students and staff.
  4. How to ultimately ensure the university continues to run in surplus and with sufficient cash.

Fit for now and fit for the future

Yes, the pressure might truly be on to help lead your organisation through this crisis and understand how its impact will affect your future finances. By linking operational drivers to financial results, you can be confident in empowering accurate, agile decision making and planning for your organisation.

Financial Performance Management Platforms

With a single, unified financial performance management platform, such as Axiom, you can manage a changing landscape and mitigate any impact.

Use the Axiom platform for:

  • Scenario planning: have a plan for every eventuality.
  • Agile planning: adapt quickly to the changing landscape and market conditions.
  • Applying responsibility: empowering the budget holders and making them accountable.
  • Cash management: track cash flow into the future.
  • Risk mitigation: provide accurate information to manage and reduce any future risk.

The current crisis continues to reshape our societal and economic outlook in unexpected and disruptive ways. By raising fundamental questions for success and knowing your data, you’ll continue to make informed decisions and ensure agility in your planning. Helping to strategise as effectively as possible in these uncertain times and turning each challenge into an opportunity.

To find out more about how we can help you become more financially agile, please 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.