Universities and college campuses are known for their thriving hubs of creativity and new thinking. They are areas where students live, study and share new ideas in closely knit groups.
But the COVID-19 outbreak has turned this traditional university culture on its head. In recent months higher education institutions have had to adapt to survive, switching overnight to online digital courses, tutoring and assessment, while tackling funding shortages.
Recent research by London Economics for the University and College Union estimates that universities will be hit by a £2.6 billion shortfall in the next academic year, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic’s impact.
Even though higher education was one of the first sectors to embrace digital learning, in fact leading the way when it came to creating new online courses for remote students, it still faces wider challenges behind the scenes. These include keeping administrative employees, such as finance, human resource and course co-ordination teams connected and working from home.
COVID-19 has been hugely challenging for academic institutions, as they have had to adapt to new ways of teaching, while innovating and developing new income streams. The reduction in revenue, resulting from lockdown, is also putting pressure on departments to deliver cost savings.
But, the crisis has also shown that there is a massive opportunity to break out of old habits and take advantage of digital transformation, creating new approaches to learning and the running of educational institutions.
By embracing digital transformation many higher education institutions are already realising they can improve how they operate, while delivering much needed budget reductions.
TechnologyOne is a leading digital transformation specialist helping higher education institutions across the UK, Australia and New Zealand improve how they operate, using its OneEducation ERP solution.
As the company’s technology is preconfigured and delivered remotely using Software as a Service (SaaS), universities are able to reduce implementation times and costs, reduce risk, and migrate much faster to new digital services.
The London School of Economics (LSE) is another academic institution leading the way when it comes to cloud-based SaaS technology.
Digitally transforming The London School of Economics
Until recently LSE, with its 12,000 students and 4,000 employees, had multiple legacy financial and business management systems, which were hard to use and costly to maintain.
“It was a very complex, manual and paper-based environment,” says LSE’s Assistant Director of Finance and Head of Financial Systems, Keith Adams. “We had separate software for various processes, connected by many integrations that needed regular, time-consuming maintenance to ensure data could pass between them.”So, LSE decided to switch to a more flexible, integrated cloud-based solution which simplified processes and offered a better experience for both employees and students.
“We wanted to reduce the time spent completing transactional tasks—allowing time to focus on core research, teaching and professional service activities. We also wanted to enhance the way in which students view and pay their fees.”
“Our objective was to transition to a modern, responsive, and user-friendly financial system,” Adams says. “We wanted to reduce the time spent completing transactional tasks—allowing time to focus on core research, teaching and professional service activities. We also wanted to enhance the way in which students view and pay their fees.”
“Moving to an enterprise SaaS solution has allowed us to operate more efficiently and achieve consistent business processes and workflows across functions,” says Adams.
“We’ve modernised manual procurement processes by introducing online catalogues; punch-outs to key suppliers; made online expense management available so staff can use it on-the-go; and enabled all staff to work remotely.”
The new online portal has also introduced new digital self-services for students, making it easier for them to pay their fees. Before that, LSE was managing all of its students’ residential and tuition-related fees, accounts and associated interactions separately.
“Students now have a combined, single fee account which they can access via one screen. As a result, we’ve had a large uptake of students using the portal compared to our previous solution,” says Adams.
“As we continue to make more functionality available within the system we expect this will keep making life better for our staff, improving the value of team members’ jobs so they can focus on higher-value activities.
“We’re not the biggest university, but we are international—so we need 24/7 uptime and support.
“It’s important for us to keep up-to-date with the latest upgrades. TechnologyOne takes care of the IT maintenance and upgrade process for us, allowing the university to focus on its core business.
“There’s a lot of talk about how remote working will be more popular once COVID-19 is over—and we’re already ahead of the game,” he said.
To read more on the full story on how London School of Economics has transformed services by moving to software-as-a-service, visit TechnologyOne