An analysis of higher education institute clients' risk registers

Our analysis is based on the in-depth examination of 20 of our higher education institution (HEI) clients’ risk registers. Our sample allowed us to gain important insights into the current risks facing HEIs and to consider what institutions should look out for with regards to emerging risks in the future HEI landscape. For each of these themes we have considered how risks, in terms of their nature, likelihood and impact, have changed over time since 2012.

Key risks and findings:

  • HEI students have high expectations of their learning experience; it is against this backdrop that internationalisation is becoming increasingly important;
  • complying with the legislative requirements when recruiting from overseas and the ramifications should a breach in relation to UK visas and immigration occur, represents a key risk;
  • out of 1,383 risks, 20 per cent were finance related, including budgetary and government funding;
  • 15 per cent of all risks related to organisational factors such as governance, internal resource, institutional disruption, reputation, academic processes and student attainment;
  • out of the 15,431 buildings that the HEI sector has, effective oversight needs to be in place to ensure facilities are maintained and for the good of the student experience;
  • 108 risks focused principally on staffing and in particular recruitment, retention and withdrawal, staff development, compliance and industrial action.

In a challenging environment, trustees, vice chancellors, academics and staff must consider all risks collectively, rather than in isolation. Many risks are interlinked and the most successful HEIs will be those where the audit committee can adapt flexibly and quickly to manage the entire risk profile which will include both exceptional and business as usual risks.

Reflecting on this, it is clear that many HEIs are heading in the right direction, yet there is room for improvement in risk management. HEIs need to remain focused on their current risks and be mindful of the future risk landscape to ensure they remain commercial.