Higher education (HE) in the United Kingdom (UK) has witnessed unprecedented changes in the last decade characterised by increased level of government intervention, encouragement of competition resulting in a quasi-market in higher education, and the establishment of the Office for Students in 2018, with the increased focus on student experience, attainment of learning outcomes, and improving access and participation for disadvantaged students. The aim is to protect students' interests and maintain the UK HE sector as a world-class system. This study discusses the remit of Strategy and Planning Offices (SPOs) in public sector universities in the UK in light of the evolving changes in the higher education sector and the risks presented by the Covid-19 pandemic on university operations. The study outlines the emerging factors that influence SPOs’ involvement in strategic planning and risk management processes. A total of twelve in depth semi-structured interviews were conducted across twelve universities, with one similar role interviewed from each university. The study proposes that the remit of SPOs within British universities has widely broadened from routine data analysis to a comprehensive set of responsibilities including business planning, coordination of strategic planning and risk management practices, and supporting an evidence-based decision making culture. Furthermore, this study establishes the connection between strategic planning and risk management and, therefore, suggests the evolving of Strategy, Planning and Risk Management Office (SPRO) as a standard unit within a university structure in the UK. Nevertheless, SPOs remits in the UK HE sector vary and do not share consistent roles and responsibilities. Thus, the study acknowledged several elements that influence SPOs’ involvement in functions that support strategic planning and risk management practices. The two emerging overarching influences are resources and structure. Key themes under resources encompass university's maturity, utilisation of advanced technology, and an active professional body representing SPOs in the higher education sector in the UK. SPOs’ proximity to senior management and their positioning within the organisational hierarchy are among the significant factors attributed to structure. Given the scale and speed of the changes happening in the UK HE sector, SPOs can play a vital role in the ever-changing landscape, yet there has been little attention to this important topic in the HE literature. The identified patterns from this study raise a number of relevant topics to the professionalisation of planners and HE broadly.
|Date of Award
|22 Jun 2022
|Roger King (Supervisor) & Hong Bui (Supervisor)