The silent borrowing by universities has steadily risen to over £10 billion since the financial crash of 2008, as institutions struggle to stay afloat in an industry awash with options for students. Despite temporary improvement in university finances, the increase in annual tuition fees alongside the removal of a cap on student numbers, and the vast choice of over 120 higher education institutions for students to choose from, has resulted in trouble for new and established universities alike.
Multiple concerns have combined to form significant issues. The removal of the student numbers cap caused more substantial issues, as certain universities are inundated with new applicants and others fall out of favour. Demand is more thinly spread, as cost steadily increases. The uncertain future of the UK's status with the EU is likely to trigger a fall in funding and possible uncertainty for international applicants after 2020, further damaging the delicate situation of the higher education debt crisis. It is vital that higher education institutes re-evaluate their spending to minimise any impact from borrowing.
One less apparent place to cut costs is through careful management of communications output. A concern from the debt crisis is the impact on the faith of prospective students in the status of universities. For instance, if there is a risk of bankruptcy, students will be less likely to apply. To maintain a positive public image, interacting consistently and quickly with the target audience is crucial, especially when regarding young people as active users of social media. Being proactive in social media engagement, whether in times of crisis, for maintaining public image, or on a day-to-day basis, will encourage students to engage with higher education institutes and make them feel supported.
An effective cost-cutting measure is short-term expense for long-term saving. The impact of cloud technology on expenditure cannot be understated. The lack of expensive and inconvenient hardware reduces maintenance costs, whilst easing the strain on in-house IT staff and raising productivity as a result. Communicating becomes easier for staff and increases customer satisfaction, when service seems effortless and personalised. When recalling the importance of public image, carefully managing direct interactions with prospective students will maintain a good reputation.
Overseas students are a significant portion of yearly enrolments, and appealing to this target audience can bring in an unprecedented financial benefit to both higher education institutions and the economy alike. Communicating with these prospective students effectively and consistently has the potential to bring new opportunities for both prospective applicants and the institute itself.
Short-term investments could bring universities the long-term financial stability they need, bringing in new opportunities and stability for both staff and students. The importance of communicating in a volatile countrywide landscape is important, to provide potential applicants with the reassurance they need to trust the higher education sector again.