Pandemic fuels renewed focus on organisational risk for FE sector

Organisational risks break into the top three risks for further education institutions for the first time as the pandemic puts the focus on business continuity, safeguarding and environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues in 2022, reveals RSM UK.

After analysing 54 risk registers from further education (FE) institutions, reporting 1,036 risks, organisational (operations) risks accounted for 139 risks, just behind the biggest risk which continues to be finance, equating to almost 200 risks.

When focusing on high risks only, student experience and student numbers drop out of the top three to be superseded by organisational, business planning and staffing risks – highlighting the severity that the pandemic has had on sector.

Stephanie Mason, head of further education and academies at RSM UK, said: ‘Education providers have been operating within a tumultuous environment with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Whilst pandemics and natural disasters for some may have been featured within the strategic risk register, providers are likely to have encountered challenges like never before, with business continuity plans put into full operation, moving to remote learning and managing coronavirus on campuses.

‘The effort required cannot be underestimated and its effects on well-being and wider safeguarding can be seen in the risk profiling analysis which is backed-up by discussions with clients.

‘Coming out of the pandemic, there is a renewed focus on emerging risks such as ESG and learner wellbeing, putting FE institutions on the front foot. However, the sector still sees major headwinds regarding funding concerns linked to the Adult Education Budget and devolution; failing to comply with safeguarding duties and meeting the necessary welfare needs of students; alongside delivery capacity due to staff shortages.’