Managing risk in Higher Education: Higher Education sector risk profile 2019

This annual benchmarking study analyses the risk registers of a sample of 35 higher education institutions and highlights the most significant risks facing the sector, outlining how institutions are responding.

This year we publish against a backdrop of continued uncertainty over Brexit and as the sector considers the implications of the long awaiting Augur Review. It continues to be an uncertain time for the Higher Education sector and this paper aim to add to the discussion by providing an overview of what’s on universities 2019 risk registers.

Key risks facing the sector

Financial Sustainability (including pensions)

Financial sustainability is the golden thread which runs through most institutions’ risk registers, be that threats to funding, inflationary pressures on costs or an increasingly competitive market for student recruitment and research funding. Ultimately this all impacts an institutions’ long term sustainability.

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Student Recruitment

The competitiveness of the student recruitment market has never been higher and the risk of under recruiting remains a constant. This year, however, the breadth of the risk is more extensive – with international, postgraduate and undergraduate recruitment all identified as problem areas.

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Business Continuity / Cyber Security

Business continuity and cyber security continues to move up our top five. As suggested last year, this is probably because institutions are becoming more aware of the cyber security threat, but it also reflects the increasingly risky world we now live in.

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Campus Deterioration / Lack of investment in infrastructure

The potential deterioration of campus facilities and the struggle to invest in infrastructure is a by-product of overarching financial uncertainty. We see this appearing more and more on registers.

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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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Chris Monk

Chris Monk

Senior Manager, PwC United Kingdom

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