Deloitte Unveils Top 10 Most Pressing Issues Facing Post-Secondary Educational Institutions

Apr 20, 2011 | Corporate Member News

Canadian higher education sector faces critical challenges, as institutions around the world head into debt for first time 

Spending on Canadian higher education is coming under increasing pressure. As nations around the world work to recover from the global financial crisis, they are tightening their budgets, leaving fewer funds available to the educational sector. As well, market weakness has reduced the value of many of the endowments educational institutions rely on and private donations have declined. Yet at the same time, the costs of doing business are on the rise. According to a new report by Deloitte, as financial conditions deteriorate, Canadian tertiary institutions can no longer maintain the status quo, but must radically transform the way they do business in order to survive economic hardships and meet the educational needs of the future.

“As funding dries up, some universities are heading into debt for the first time,” says Louise Upton, partner and Canadian Higher Education leader at Deloitte. “This is constraining dollars for classroom delivery and research, creating tension among different departments for scarce financial resources.”

According to the report, Making the grade: A study of the top 10 issues facing higher education institutions, Canadian colleges and universities, along with their international counterparts, are facing competitive pressures as they confront shrinking resources and increased business demands. For starters, deferred maintenance is catching up with campuses with aging infrastructure badly in need of upgrades. The costs of attracting and retaining high-calibre faculty are on the rise as staff retire in increasing numbers. Furthermore, colleges and universities are under ever more scrutiny and compelled to invest in systems that provide the highest levels of transparency and accountability.

“The business landscape has changed and Canadian educational institutions are now finding that they must meet a host of costly demands just to stay competitive,” says Upton. “In addition to developing and maintaining state-of-the-art campuses, competing internationally to attract top students and professors, and meeting new transparency requirements, the new generation of students now expects user-friendly, self-service administrative options as well as access to the latest technologies.”

“However, these unprecedented and combined challenges create a unique opportunity for transformation. Educational institutions willing to think laterally can position themselves to outperform into the future,” Upton explains further. “To succeed, Canadian higher education institutions must take a good, hard look at their organizing principles. Ultimately, the most successful players will be those who remain open to fundamental changes in management practices and support their decision-making with a sound, forward-looking business case.”

The top 10 issues Canadian higher education institutions will face in the coming year

To help higher education institutions take a forward-looking approach to their strategic planning in the face of these new challenges, Deloitte Canada, in consultation with Deloitte education practitioners from around the world, has identified the top 10 issues that will prove the most pressing in the coming year:

1. Over budget and under-funded: As funding declines, cost management is key

2. The rivalry intensifies: Competition to attract the best students heats up

3. Setting priorities: The danger of making decisions in the dark

4. Moving at the speed of cyberspace: Technology upgrades are needed across the board

5. Rethinking infrastructure: A renewed focus on asset optimization

6. Linking programs to outcomes: Where training and market demand intersect

7. The best and the brightest: Attracting and retaining talented faculty

8. A sustainable future: Enhancing environmental performance

9. Education for all: Tackling diversity, accessibility and affordability

10. Regulations and reporting: New responsibilities require better disclosure

Obtain a copy of the report
For a more detailed discussion of the issues facing higher education institutions in the coming year and potential response strategies, read the full report .

About Deloitte
Deloitte, one of Canada’s leading professional services firms, provides audit, tax, consulting, and financial advisory services through more than 7,600 people in 57 offices. Deloitte operates in Québec as Samson Bélair/Deloitte & Touche s.e.n.c.r.l. Deloitte & Touche LLP, an Ontario Limited Liability Partnership, is the Canadian member firm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited.

Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, a UK private company limited by guarantee, and its network of member firms, each of which is a legally separate and independent entity. Please see for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited and its member firms.

For more information contact:

Jeanne d’Arc Umurungi  
Job Title:
Media Relations Manager / Directrice des relations médias
Phone: 416-874-3518
Email: [email protected]

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