7 key steps universities can consider to ensure successful student services transformation

Budget constraints, changing student expectations and efficiency demands are causing many higher education institutions across Australia to consider new models of operations.

And at the centre of transformation is student services. The past couple of years has many universities focusing on ways to transform their support and student service functions in order to demonstrate accountability, transparency and value in a changing market.

But transformation is no easy journey – it requires a change in culture, processes and technology. What’s more, many universities are still in the early stages of services transformation, and are grappling with how to best select the most appropriate operating model that is best suited to enable them to deliver student centric services.

With this in mind, ahead of Student Services Transformation 2017, we have compiled a list of 7 key steps any organisation should consider to ensure effective and successful student services transformation.  Read on below to learn how some of the leading universities across Australia are approaching student services design and how you learn from their experiences to date.

  1. Establish a clear vision

Before embarking on services transformation it is important to set a clear vision on what you want to achieve. For many universities, existing administrative support services can be disjointed and duplicated. Consider what type of model you can set up where information can be sourced simply, centrally and at different levels of the organisation.

University of Canterbury is achieving this by not only establishing a clear vision for transformation early on, but later supporting this vision with principals of delivery and constant evaluation and feedback from students and staff.

  1. Build and evaluate the business case

As a higher education business leader you understand that a business case draws its strength from having a compelling narrative, responding to key drivers and demonstrating significant value to the entire institute and not just one or two areas of the university.

When building an effective business case for services transformation, you need to be able to define the “as is” environment and the future “to be” to showcase clear objectives to what you want to achieve.

For Monash University, building the case for change through effective stakeholder engagement throughout their Scheduling Services Improvement Initiative has been central to driving enhanced student experience, cost efficiencies and optimised resource utilisation.

  1. Keep the student as the centerpiece of your strategy

As the higher education sector continues to adapt and transform to keep up with student demands, it’s important to become more ‘customer-centric’ and design your services around the student experience.

This can stretch from teaching and learning, to digital touch points to student support services. Western Sydney University is one university who is keeping student needs and wants front of mind when designing services, by placing a big emphasis on integrating digital and new technologies in their strategy.

  1. Embrace new tech

Digital natives are demanding access to services anywhere and at anytime. In the past, University student services models have not been equipped to handle such requirements. What’s more, budget limitation, increased demands and process constraints can make it difficult to decide which direction to take.

Following in the footsteps of La Trobe University, it’s important to consider how new technologies might be able to help you deliver services more efficiently and effectively. For La Trobe, this has involved transitioning their student management function to the cloud in order to move beyond a traditional services model to one that is now equipped to handle customers of the 21st Century.

  1. Keep it simple

Even though most universities can give a long list of their student support services, it doesn’t necessarily mean all the services are actively functioning and benefiting the students effectively.

Remember to design your services in a way that makes it simple and easy for students to engage with you. A great example of this is the Australian National University’s recent transformation using the vision No Additional Resources, No Assistance for IT applications, with a key focus on moving from a reactive to a proactive service delivery model.

  1. Predictive data is your friend

With various student touch points now available throughout many universities, predictive data and effective allocation of resources can be used to transform the student experience.

While it is important to be student centric in the delivery of support services, don’t forget to be aware of the power of capturing student data and using that data as a guideline for connecting support.

Over the past 12 months Swinburne University of Technology has not only been focusing on using student insights to drive service improvements, but also to optimise resource allocation for improved return on investment.

  1. Engage stakeholders throughout the entire journey

A communication plan during a transformation project is crucial. Stakeholders involved, as well as those who will be affected by changes, need to be informed of timing and methodology throughout the entire process.

For Murdoch University, engaging stakeholders throughout the entire transformation journey has made it easier to implement changes, assess progress and evaluate outcomes. What’s more, stakeholders engaged in the process are usually more open and transparent, making it easier to seek input and collaboration from other parties.

Interested in learning more?

Join Murdoch University, Swinburne University, ANU, La Trobe, Monash and the University of Canturbury at Student Services Transformation 2017.

For more information visit http://studentservices.iqpc.com.au or call +61 2 9229 1000 or email enquire@iqpc.com.au

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10 things to consider when launching shared services in higher education

At University Transformation 2015 day one, there was a lot of discussion in the room about best practice in shared services. In the final session of the day, attendees were asked to brainstorm key strategies that resonated with them when it came to planning or implementing shared services.

They were asked by conference chair Joanne Austin, Faculty General Manager Business and Law at Swinburne University: what do you have to think about when launching shared services? What are the major pain points, and, how do you overcome them?

Below is a summary of the discussion, highlighting 10 key things to consider when launching shared services in higher education:

1. Culture and people

University transformation involves moving people from different functions into a new service or team. And the reality is, there are some people who will come into a shared service and it won’t be right from them. It’s important to be clear from the very beginning to define shared services and how people can fit into it. It is equally important to give people the opportunity to move on if they don’t fit – one bad apple can spoil the barrel.

2. Avoid the ‘big bang’ approach

Transformation is not a quick-fix journey. It can seem like a reasonable option to take a ‘big bang’ approach to transformation, but change needs to be incremental and happen over time for it to be most effective. Make sure you road map what you want to achieve out of your transformation before you begin.

3. Break down silos

Transformation, in any sector, requires change. For the higher education sector, this involves moving people from different functions or faculties into on centralised service. This means it is important to look at processes and functions end-to-end. Do not change processes within departments – best practice would be to talk to people who are on the ground, listen to what your people are saying and make the change from the ground up.

4. Be agile

If a new process is not working, move on. Give it a chance, try to be innovative but be prepared to move on quickly if it fails. Listen, learn and adapt.

5. Change leadership

Without effective leadership, it is hard to determine a future view of what an shared service should be. Transformation requires a change leader who knows the vision and has the skills to move things fast, but at an incremental level. The world around us is evolving and organisations have to move quickly to keep up. If you have the right leadership, it will help with moving ahead with your shared service or vision. It will also make it easier to communicate that vision throughout the organisation.

6. Bring people along with you

Bring people along with you – talk to people, find out their ideas. Bring your people along the journey: work together with them to avoid an ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality. Emails or town hall meetings are not enough. Talk to people and find out what they know.

7. Measure as you go

Some of the changes getting made during transformation are done with the absence of data – which makes it hard to know: is the change for the better? Sometimes you have the feel for it, but sometimes you don’t. Where possible, collate and collect data as you go to track your progress. This will also make the second phase of your journey a lot easier. Monitor everything as you go along and shift things when they are not working.

8. Understand the business at all its different levels

Transformation requires a consideration at how the business functions at all levels. Sometimes, one function might think they do know the business at different levels and will try to impose their own ideas on how things should be run – but this will not work. You need to understand change and how the business works from a holistic business level.

9. Scalability

Consider the impact of scalability – can you scale up your shared service? Consider that as you go. Plan for the future.

10. Location

Where are you going to locate your staff? Do you locate them in a central area? Or where the client is? Be smart in your provision for shared services so internal customers can find what they need easily.

If you found this post interesting, check out SSON’s upcoming Planning and Launching for Shared Services Conference, taking place in Sydney, in February 2016.

For more information click here or email enquire@iqpc.com.au

Moving Finance up the value curve at Monash University

In 2009, Monash set out on a transformation journey to improve the delivery of financial services to the organisation with three objectives in mind:

  1. To improve the efficiency and the effectiveness of finance services
  2. Achieve operational cost savings across the organization
  3. Enhance financial governance, business intelligence, compliance and risk management.

Since embarking on their transformation journey, Monash has realised some impressive results – including a 20 per cent reduction in costs across the business and an improving internal customer satisfaction by 25 per cent.

Ahead of University Transformation 2015, Nicole Tournier, Director of Finance Strategy at Monash University shares the core strategies her team is using to improve operational efficiencies through transformation, and the key lessons learnt along the journey so far.

To learn more about Monash University’s business transformation journey, download the full case study Driving business efficiencies through finance transformation at Monash University here.

For more information about University Transformation 2015, download the brochure here or visit www.universitytransformation.com.au

How the rise of IBCs are changing the game for international student recruitment

The game is changing for the higher education sector in Australia. As more countries such as Canada, Malaysia and the US revamp their strategies and efforts to attract students, Australia is facing more competition for international students than ever.

As a result, universities are looking for new ways to refine their recruitment and marketing strategies to ensure they can adapt to today’s landscape and appeal to the student of the 21st century.

And on the surface, it looks like these efforts are working. According to recent Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, international students contributed to a record $17.5 billion to the Australian economy for the 12 months to the end of March 2015 – a 14 per cent surge compared to the previous corresponding period.

What’s more, Australia is still topping the charts when it comes to being a favourable country to study, sitting among the top five destinations for international students globally.

But how long will this last in a market dominated by increasing competition and new entrants?

Traditional competitors like the US, Britain, Canada and New Zealand are ramping up their efforts to attract more overseas students to compensate for a drop in domestic student numbers.

And new entrants, like Malaysia, Singapore and Japan are casting their net wider when it comes to international recruitment, aiming to attract students from the same countries targeted by Australia.

In order to ensure the flow of foreign students, Australian universities are beginning to roll-out International Branch Campuses (IBCs) as part of their recruitment and marketing strategies, to build brand awareness and improve their reputation in an increasingly competitive market.

RMIT is one university which has opened an IBC in Vietnam in 2001 as part of an internationalisation strategy to strengthen the institution’s “contribution to the social, economic and environmental well being of the international communities in which it operates”.  It has now become Australia’s largest IBC out of the 13 IBCs in the Australian higher education sector.

Christine's Photo 12 May 2015Ahead of International Student Recruitment and Marketing 2015, Christine Chow, Principal Advisor Global Business for Science, Engineering and Health at RMIT University, explores the  global landscape of IBCs and provide some insights on establishing an IBC based on her experience with RMIT Vietnam.


The RMIT objective: strengthening offshore student numbers

International Student Campuses represent the far end of the spectrum of international student recruitment and will intensify the competition for the pool of international students Australia is currently getting.

IBCs not only provide offshore students in a branch campus, but they also provide a pipeline and pathway for offshore students to study at a home campus – offering a different route to study in the onshore campuses in Australia.

In 2001 RMIT was invited to submit a proposal to the Vietnamese Government for the establishment of an international university with a “technical and vocational emphasis.” At that stage we didn’t have an explicit offshore international student recruitment strategy, but 15 years down the track, we have matured and our strategy now revolves around growing our offshore student numbers.

The main reason for this is because we are almost reaching our limit of growth in our onshore campuses in Melbourne. Therefore our strategy is to grow our offshore student numbers, including strengthening the position of RMIT Vietnam and promoting student mobility.

Building an IBC: critical success factors

  1. Government Support

Local and national government support is a critical success factor for any university looking to build an IBC. Otherwise they face the risk of building international campuses that the government does not approve. These days it’s quite common for local government to provide infrastructure and funding support for foreign universities to build IBCs.

In the case of RMIT Vietnam, we had a great level of support from the government – but not in terms of funding. RMIT Vietnam was the first foreign owned university in Vietnam, and we had support from the government because they offered a very generous land lease to help us resettle some of the farmers in order to give us the land for our main campus site.

  1. Adequate funding

Funding is another important component of rolling-out an IBC. RMIT received generous donations from Atlantic Philanthropies – which is a US philanthropy organisation – which helped us build capacity and the campus in Vietnam.

  1. Understanding local conditions

Very often universities going into a foreign country to establish an IBC may not realise that there’s a huge difference between their home university and the host country environment – they’re culturally different.

Apart from the language we have to understand that students in other countries might have a different learning style. For example in Vietnam we found students are much quieter in comparison to Australian students who have a Western style of questioning and challenging the prevailing paradigm. The difference in culture and religion requires respect and observation of local customs.

  1. Aligning the organisational structure

The organisational structure of both the home campus and the branch campus needs to be aligned. Because universities these days have a vertical, functional alignment they sometimes may not foster teamwork. So it’s quite important that both campuses work together to foster mutual respect, trust, commitment, and effective communication.

  1. Develop the research capacity of the campus

Developing the research capacity of the branch campus has become an increasingly important factor in building an IBC, because most national government’s will want the branch campus to have more research capacity to help the host country to boost its innovation capacity.

Results so far: the IBC impact on student numbers and engagement

Since opening the RMIT campus in Vietnam, we have seen Vietnam student numbers grow – and we hope to grow more in the future because we are planning to introduce more science and technology programs to fit in with the Vietnam Government’s agenda and priorities.

But the interesting result is we have actually seen more Vietnamese students coming to Australia as a whole which is quite surprising. My view is that the presence for RMIT in Vietnam actually signals that Australia is a very good country to study, and its presence is attracting more Vietnamese students coming to our home campus and Australia.

This is a success factor we didn’t plan for originally, because we saw RMIT Vietnam as more about the pathway and the pipeline, rather than attracting Vietnamese students to our Australian campus. But we have seen more first year students applying to RMIT, and also to other universities throughout Australia – its actually benefiting the whole of Australia by having a presence there.

We’ve found that the IBC acts almost like a cultural ambassador. So we’re very mindful that we have to support the IBC in terms of the fact that it not only represents our home campus, but it also represents our country.

To learn more about the proliferation of IBCS and RMIT Vietnam’s IBC experience, join Christine Chow at International Student Recruitment and Marketing 2015.

For more information download the brochure here, visit www.intl-studentrecruitmentandmarketing.com.au or call +61 2 9229 1000 or email enquire@iqpc.com.au