“The task is now to minimise the damage and maximise all of the opportunities that might arise.”

These were the words of Universities and Science Minister, Jo Johnson in the wake of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. It’s a view that many UK universities might now subscribe to, because when the government activates Article 50 – starting a two year-period in which Britain will negotiate its exit from the EU – it will trigger two years of uncertainty. And let’s face it, no one likes uncertainty…

Planning for uncertainty

What will Brexit really mean for the future of UK’s Universities, though? In particular for the important area of research? The reality is, no one really knows. What we do know is that the Higher Education research funding could be one the most susceptible to Brexit-enforced changes.

But that doesn’t mean that you can’t plan for every eventuality. As Johnson rightly points out, disruptive events usually present huge opportunities for those that are ready to grab them.

Planning for uncertainty is difficult, though. You need a holistic view of your data. You need to be agile, fast and accurate to exploit opportunities. You need the right information at your finger tips, and you need it at the right time.

The question of research is particularly pressing given that UK universities have received 16.7% of the EU’s research funding in recent year – which amounts to around £1.2bn a year. But it’s not just the funds that come from the EU that are vital, it’s the ability to collaborate with a network of the best minds from across Europe. Most of the UK’s research grants from the European Union FP7 (2007-2013) and Horizon 2020 (2014-2020) programmes were in partnership with international collaborators led by EU countries – and it’s already been suggested that EU researchers may be deterred from bidding for multi-year funding alongside UK universities, given the uncertainties around Brexit.

With greater uncertainty comes a greater focus on flexibility – being able to ask questions of the future and to look at the potential consequences of your actions becomes ever more important.  At times of great change, being able to look beyond the ‘what is’ to focus on the ‘what if’ gives universities the agility to model and plan for multiple possible futures – and the opportunity the respond quickly to opportunities.

Research funding, collaboration, the pool of talent and student numbers could all be disrupted when the UK leaves the EU. To react proactively to these changes, universities must have the agility to be adaptive when faced with change. Accurate student number planning, workload modelling, and staff planning all work towards predicting vital income streams and need to be factored alongside research funding plans to ensure every opportunity is successfully harnessed.

Finding the right balance between learning, teaching and research can be a challenge for many Universities at the best of times. Having an accurate Research Funding Plan linked to Staff and Post Graduate Workload Plans is, therefore, of the upmost importance. And if you’re still reliant on complex spreadsheets for your planning, you will know only too well how time consuming and labour intensive this can be.

In times of change it becomes even more important to create the right environment and improve planning across the entire organisation. Using IBM’s Cognos TM1, Planning Analytics and BI platforms, Barrachd’s university planning solutions allow universities to look ahead to meet their long-term ambitions, address immediate priorities, and take advantage of every opportunity.

Posted in analytics, Planning Analytics On July 9, 2016 By