Flexibility is key in uncertain climate

February 11, 2005

As the fees market takes hold, universities and colleges must balance three aims: maximising additional fee income, expenditure on student support packages and investment in the quality of the student experience.

Just under half of the institutions in the survey have not undertaken specific market research to underpin decisions. Thus, many institutions' position on fees and student support may be tactical rather than strategic.

Tactical positions require the flexibility to change quickly; it remains to be seen whether this is possible within the timeframe of an access agreement.

A significant number of institutions plan to spend a substantial proportion of additional fee income on student support. Whether this is sustainable remains to be seen.

There are financial pressures for institutions on the horizon, not least the implementation of the new single-spine pay and the ongoing need for investment in infrastructure. A number of institutions are beginning to invest in improving the quality of the student experience to give them a competitive edge.

Those that are adopting a more cautious low-spend approach to bursaries also face risks. Institutions that recruit significantly through clearing, for example, cannot count on wooing students.

Those institutions that place their faith in the power of their brand for recruitment may see inroads made into their market by others who have developed attractive scholarship schemes for high-performing students.

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