Change, the only constant

Why you’ll need an appetite for change in 2021

At a time where the need for change and adaptability has never been more front of mind, there is a pressing need for tertiary institutions to meet the changing expectations of their students. In the broadest context, a more connected world has created a savvier, more socially conscious and technologically proficient student population.

With such a strong focus on student acquisition and retention, tertiary institutions arguably have more in common with large consumer businesses than they do other enterprises of similar size, so it is to be expected that the technology goalposts shift more rapidly. Technology is having a direct impact on the student experience, and it is likely to be judged by the same criteria as other consumer technology that has become so prevalent in our lives.

In an environment increasingly influenced by change, institutions must now be agile enough to adapt and respond. With heightened levels of uncertainty, many have accelerated their digital transformation aspirations, but only those with an appetite for change and a culture that supports the process will truly succeed. While some are poised to take advantage of new and emerging technologies that have the potential to transform the way they do business, many will flounder as they lack a solid digital core – the underlying foundation of every successful digital transformation.

In a 24/7 connected world, enabled by apps and services designed to make our lives easier, as individuals we have never been busier. We are now replacing even more in-person interactions with virtual ones. The unforeseen consequence of constant connection is an expectation that institutions will immediately adopt new technologies and offer digitised services and solutions that exploit the benefits provided by those technologies.

Social considerations and expectations are doubly influential, as students are innately affected by interaction with other organisations and services outside of their university environment, so come to anticipate similar services and solutions from their education provider.

The impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic


For universities, the pandemic initially appeared to have been perceived as a ‘2020 issue’ as institutions experienced an immediate decline in international enrolments and other revenue streams. Funds were directed to provide support for students impacted by the loss of casual or part-time work on which they relied for living costs. Within a matter of weeks, institutions rapidly moved to completely virtual campus models.

As the far-reaching health and economic consequences of the pandemic became clearer, the sector came to appreciate the longer-term significance of the global pandemic on their operations and finances. Universities Australia reported that potentially 21,000 jobs would be at risk over the next six months and that revenue across the sector would decline by between $3 billion and $4.6 billion.

The closure of Australia's borders and subsequent loss of international students has hit university finances hard. While each university has a different exposure to the downturn, it is estimated that, Australia-wide, revenue will drop by $3 billion this year. National Tertiary Education Union division secretary Cathy Day said the impact had been worse than the global financial crisis.

Division Secretary
National Tertiary Education Union

Even if, magically, coronavirus disappeared from Australia and we opened for business tomorrow, the countries that the majority of our international students come from are very heavily impacted.

The loss of international students has taken a heavy toll on institutions, who now need to minimise cost wastage and reduce overheads, while accelerating digital transformation plans and rapidly making technology investments that enable remote working and learning.


The biggest impact on the VET sector was the rapid shift to online learning. TAFEs across Australia deliver over 1,200 courses to over 770,000 students. With only 19 per cent of courses being delivered online, most courses needed a high level of adaptation to move to digital delivery. For one TAFE, none of their courses were online, meaning that the capacity had to be built from the ground up in a few weeks.

Not all elements of courses could be moved to digital delivery, especially where workshops and practical exercises and work placements were involved. For many courses, the theory components were brought forward to enable continued delivery, and other elements rescheduled for later in the year, which may adversely impact the optimal application of theory to practice.

For many TAFEs, redesigning courses for digital delivery was already part of their strategic plan. COVID-19 brought that priority forward and the necessity to support students at home forced the conversion in a few weeks for what was planned as a multi-year process.

In April 2020, ADAPT conducted an in-depth study with 217 Australian and New Zealand C-level executives to gauge COVID-19 responses. It found the most significant technology change had been the move to cloud – with half of respondents saying their organisation had increased cloud workloads by over 50 per cent to enable their remote workforce.

This is unsurprising as, by early March 2020, tertiary institutions alongside many businesses were faced with the need for most of their employees to work from home. The challenge was how to provide access to core operational systems and data securely and at a level of performance that would not affect productivity. Migration from on-premise systems to SaaS was a proven and ready-to-go solution.

Another major challenge for both sectors was maintaining a seamless student experience – especially with increased online learning requirements and remote support. For some institutions, existing services were inadequate to the task. Again, SaaS came to the rescue with phenomenal rates of migration of mission-critical workloads to both public and private cloud.

The only way is forward

The world isn’t going to slow down any time soon, so it’s time for institutions to make a decision: lead their students into the future or risk being left behind. To step up to the task, institutions need the agility to adopt new technologies as they arise, and the flexibility to keep up with ever-evolving student expectations.

Every day, TechnologyOne collaborates with institutions to help solve their business challenges and simplify the way they work. With TechnologyOne empowering over 1.4 million students, our OneEducation global SaaS ERP solution is specifically designed to help institutions simplify their processes, adapt to the changing landscape and reduce the administrative burden.

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Publish date

19 Feb 2021


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