Colleges and universities are among the most venerable institutions in the Western world. Because of their hallowed tradition, it is easy to conclude that these institutions are timeless and unchanging; and the reputation of the leading brands in US higher education reinforces this perception. Students come and go, but the great colleges and universities endure forever.
In reality, the higher education sector is changing more rapidly today than at any time since World War II, and now the higher education sector is adapting to the “new normal.” It is pursuing innovation in an effort to buck the status quo and change the centuries-old old business model, and to respond to increasingly negative public sentiment toward higher education. But this innovation is occurring at varying rates across the sector.
EY-Parthenon has interviewed over 50 university presidents and senior leaders to hear their perspectives on how the industry is transforming, and the challenges and opportunities at their universities. This report summarizes the findings from those interviews and EY-Parthenon has captured these types of capital and related topics in the EY-Parthenon University Capital Strategy framework.
Across the four areas of capital — human, reputational, financial and physical — there are challenges. Attracting and retaining talent, competition for students and rankings, financial pressure, and addressing physical needs were all cited by presidents.
Despite these challenges, or maybe because of them, presidents are finding ways to innovate and develop creative solutions to the most pressing problems. EY-Parthenon’s interviews surfaced unique perspectives of presidents around both the challenges they face and the ways they are addressing those challenges.