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Leading through Adversity: the Impact of Covid-19 on University Finance

Leading through Adversity: the Impact of Covid-19 on University Finance

SUMS Consulting, a sister division of SUPC, has been talking to university leaders about managing the Covid-19 crisis and their visions for the future. With views gathered from a series of one-to-one interviews, SUMS’ Community of Practice Groups meeting virtually, along with student surveys, SUMS is able to take a service-by-service review of university operations. It has found a sector eager to change and seeing positives in adversity.   Here, SUMS Principal Consultant David Becker shares insight from discussions with finance directors across the sector on the challenges and opportunities in the wake of Covid-19.

University finance directors are the custodians and stewards of their institution’s financial strategy. Without exception, they are also crucial cogs in the strategic leadership wheels of their institutions.  Our conversations with a cross-section of FDs from all mission groups painted a picture of a community of staff who care deeply about their institution and the higher education sector, who are finely attuned to the concerns of both students and colleagues, and energetic – often provocative – in their thinking about how they should lead through this crisis. And the crisis is real. Depending on which analysis you examine, the coronavirus pandemic seems certain to result in a total decline of income across the sector of around £2bn.

Given the gravity of the situation, it’s no surprise that finance directors were at the heart of decision-making about the immediate steps their universities have taken in response to financial concerns.  Although troublesome times lie ahead, our conversations left us in no doubt that finance directors stand ready to play active and visible roles in helping their institutions transition to an operating model that will be fundamentally different to any that have gone before.

Read the full Rapid Response Briefing Paper – SUMS Briefing Paper – The Impact of Covid-19 on University Finance, here.