Strategic advice to help a university thrive in a turbulent environment

Strategic advice to help a university thrive in a turbulent environment


A university needed analysis and options, delivered with discretion

As the UK Government prepared in mid-2019 to release the Augur review of post-18 education and funding, a small university, highly dependent on undergraduate student fee income, faced a grave threat to its financial viability and mission sustainability. The university sought to position itself to seize the opportunities presented by the possible financial shock with bold and creative thinking, and so commissioned Nous to explore options for a merger or strategic partnership.

The financial shock arrived – not through a post-Augur fee reduction, but in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nous took time to understand the university’s mission and cut through the noise of hundreds of potential partners

Nous delivered a rapid, discrete study, designed to preserve our client’s anonymity and protect staff and students from concern or disruption. We:

  1. worked closely with the university’s executive to understand its mission, identity and operations
  2. engaged with leaders individually and collectively to capture and probe their thinking and crystallise organisational priorities
  3. developed merger and partnership archetypes; including full mergers, acquisitions, federations and less formal strategic partnerships
  4. carried out systematic quantitative and financial analysis of higher education institutions to identify potential partners aligned to each archetype
  5. assessed each option for mission, vision and values; financial sustainability; research excellence; student experience; and practicality and risk.

Nous delivered options and a practical way forward

Nous produced a discrete, tractable set of merger and partnership options and recommendations; and concrete, carefully sequenced actions for the executive and council to take them forward. The university is equipped to confidently initiate structured, informed discussions with potential partners.

What you can learn from the university

  • Mission and vision alignment – not just finance – are at the heart of successful mergers and partnerships.
  • Businesses can prepare to be well-placed to react to a financial or other shock.
  • A strategic partner can help cut through the noise of potential business partners to find those best suited.