Optimising size and shape at Anglia Ruskin University

Optimising size and shape at Anglia Ruskin University


Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) is an innovative global university. Established in 1858, ARU is now one of the largest universities in the east of England, with over 35,000 students from 177 countries.

The university was at a critical point in its development

With a new vice-chancellor, and a rapidly evolving and highly uncertain set of policy and environmental factors at play, ARU recognised the need to take strategic stock and consider its options. While pursuing a strong growth strategy had been successful in recent years, external dynamics had called historic drivers of superior performance into question.

We explored alternative models of size and shape to aid the strategic planning process

  1. Compiled a data set of 92 universities for analysis
  2. Determined key size and shape indicators that differentiated performance
  3. Grouped universities into clusters based on size and shape indicators
  4. Developed archetypes to evaluate relationships, similarities and differences
  5. Used archetypes to facilitate strategic discussions.

[Nous] have provided valuable input into challenging projects that has been balanced and considered and have really added value to the teams involved – the project teams have seen them as partners rather than consultants. [Nous’] deep understanding of higher education alongside perspectives from other sectors has been very useful.

Professor Iain Martin

Vice Chancellor, Anglia Ruskin University

The insights gleaned enabled ARU to identify potential ‘best fit’ models

Leaders identified three key archetypes for further exploration. A hybrid model was found to best suit ARU’s specific circumstances and aspirations. ARU is now aware of the critical levels and specific size and shape indicators with the greatest potential to influence performance. Our analysis also revealed an opportunity to realign and optimise expenditure across the university to better deliver on its core mission.

What other organisations can learn:

  • Sector-level analysis enables organisations to challenge pre-existing assumptions.
  • Data builds the case for change.
  • No one model is best fit – but understanding options is a critical input into strategic decision-making.