The higher education industry is undergoing massive disruption because of the global pandemic. This crisis has institutions facing enrollment uncertainty and is severely affecting multiple other revenue sources beyond tuition, including parking, dining, on-campus shops, and athletic events. Now more than ever, campus leaders need immediate insight into human resources, financial, and student information to enable swift decision-making based on real-time data.
I talked with Kerrie Campbell, chief information officer at Flinders University, about how her institution was able to ensure business continuity and adapt quickly to change when they had to close their campus. Flinders, located in Adelaide, Australia, had an enrollment of more than 20,000 Australian students and 5,000 international students in 2019. Campbell also gave some insight into what the future of higher education will look like in the years ahead. Read below to learn more.
How has the higher education industry changed due to recent events?
The higher education sector—not only in Australia, but all around the world—has been severely affected. We have seen losses across the sector that are significant due to the drop of international student numbers and border restrictions. The sector has had to move to new modes of delivery and the world has adjusted to new ways of working.
I think the pandemic has not only presented massive challenges to the higher education sector but has really had a severe effect on the Australian economy. The strength of the sector in the future will hinge on how we react now and, fortunately for Flinders, we are fortunate to be in a good position.
How was Flinders University able to pivot its operating model to ensure business continuity? What new processes and policies did it implement to accommodate remote work for students and faculty?
At Flinders University, we had gone through a restructure of our professional and academic areas, which has set Flinders up to be able to positively navigate through the coming years.
We also invested a large amount of time, resources, and capital into creating an agile culture not just in IT, but across the university over the last three years. This was crucial when we were confronted with this unprecedented disruption to our operations, as it meant that we possessed the agile mindset and had empowered our staff to be able to cope with the state of flux the pandemic created. We also had amazing staff that absolutely went above and beyond and were real superheroes during this time, as they were completely focused on student outcomes.
We fully support flexible work arrangements, so we already had policies in place that enabled remote work. We did have to make sure the entire workforce was ready to work from home, and that included running people through policies and processes, some of whom had never worked from home before, to ensure they had an understanding of what was needed. We then focused on ensuring connectivity, capacity, and physical hardware.