Managing risk in Higher Education: Higher Education sector risk profile 2018

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The Higher Education sector is going through arguably one of its most turbulent periods for a generation. This paper aims to add to the discussion by giving a view of what’s on the agenda for universities in 2018 as expressed through their risk registers.

Our annual benchmarking study analyses the risk registers of a sample of 37 higher education institutions, highlights the most significant risks facing the sector and outlines how institutions are responding.

Top 5 risks facing the sector in 2018

Government Policy / Political Landscape

The current political instability and uncertainty around government policy is seen as a major risk. This uncertainty to some extent reflects how tuition fees became one of the central themes of the 2017 General Election and the perceived influence of the student vote.

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Student recruitment

The lifeblood for many institutions, student recruitment remains a constant on risk registers. Whilst in previous years there have been specific concerns around postgraduate or international recruitment, now the risk appears to be present across all areas of recruitment.

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Reputation

Given some of the bad publicity the higher education sector has received over the last twelve months it is, to some extent, no surprise that specific risks on reputation have moved up risk registers.

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Information/Cyber Security

The need to be GDPR compliant and the ever increasing and complex threat of cyber-attacks has meant Information Security has re-entered the top 5 risks identified by institutions.

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Financial Sustainability (including Pensions)

The perennial risk area of Financial Sustainability remains high on risk registers, with Pensions being deemed as the highest individual risk facing the sector at the moment.

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With such an uncertain and risky environment it is more important than ever to have effective risk management embedded in to a university’s decision making processes. Effective risk management should ensure management and governing bodies are focused on the areas that matter, understand the risks they face, how they are being managed and whether the actions to mitigate risk are having an impact.

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Ian Looker
Education Leader, PwC United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)7703 546 138
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Ian Roberts
Senior Manager, PwC United Kingdom
Tel: +44(0)113 289 4066
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Chris Monk
Senior Manager, PwC United Kingdom
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