New Pressures on Higher Education

The education and training sector has felt the full force of COVID-19’s impact. The pandemic has created immense revenue shortfalls which will persist through 2021, at least, and created downstream pressure on business and operating models. Institutions were forced to stand up distance learning and remote working arrangements in a matter of weeks and have recently shifted their focus to the medium term.

The big question for most institutions is:

Is this is a temporary jolt or the catalyst for something more profound and more transformative through the acceleration of digitisation?

Almost four out of five institutions suggest it is the latter and that COVID-19 has created the tipping point for digitisation of education and campuses.

Education Is at a Tipping Point

An independent study commissioned by Cisco and Optus – The Tipping Point for Digitisation of Education and Campuses – elicited responses from 80% of Institutions from the Australian higher education and TAFE sectors.

Key insights from this report include:

  • Students will start to differentiate institutions on the quality of their digital services and engagement, perhaps more than the quality of buildings
  • Campuses will need to change: there will a greater priority given to informal learning commons, outdoor spaces and innovation/maker facilities at the expense of formal lecture theatres
  • There will be less people on campus driven by more flexible work and learn from home arrangements which will reduce the amount of space dedicated to administration accommodation
  • Campus safety will rise in prominence including expectations that institutions will put a range of measures in place to guarantee a safe return to campus, including the ability to use technology to contact trace more effectively
  • Investment in digital is forecast to rise by 11% even in a fiscally constrained sector. Nearly half of all institutions said they would consider liquidating real estate assets to fund digital programs and research.
  • Energy efficiency and space utilisation will be treated as table stakes

The study found that institutions were actively thinking about the re-prioritisation of budgets to free up precious capital for digital transformation, particularly underlaying technology infrastructure such as networks, security and cloud. Institutions are becoming more focused on digital services and more reliant on technology, creating pressure points on infrastructure but also significant cyber security risk. 

UWA’s Security Evolution

The University of Western Australia is an example of a university that has had to quickly mitigate cyber security risks via a partnership with Cisco. The relationship with UWA is broader than supply of technology recognising that in times of uncertainty and change institutions need partners, not just suppliers. For additional details, please read the UWA case study found here.

Exploring the Campus of the Future

The Tipping Point report is a fascinating insight into what the campus of the future might look like, and demonstrates that Australia is well-served by a progressive, forward-looking and adaptive education and training sector that will be vital to getting the Australian economy growing again.

>> Download the report here

>> See the Optus blog here

explore how Cisco is transforming education

How has your COVID-19 impacted your campus? Stay tuned for the next #EducationNow blog with an exciting announcement next week.

next stop: Cisco designed for education


Reg Johnson

General Manager, Education

Cisco Australia and New Zealand