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We developed and helped implement a strategy to transform a leading NZ university

Our Work | Case Study

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Our client was a New Zealand university with 20,000 students across multiple campuses and with more than 100 years of history.

The university sought structural and cultural transformation

A large New Zealand university was facing serious financial sustainability challenges, with rising costs outstripping stagnant government funding. This was exacerbated by weaker than expected enrolments and an inefficient, highly devolved operating model.

The university had spent some time developing its vision for the future, but needed a robust strategy that would allow it to deliver on the vision. It also needed a strategy that would position it to honour commitments under the Treaty of Waitangi.

The university council and senior leadership team sought our help to develop a strategy and implementation plan to guide it through critical structural and cultural transformation by 2030.

We developed the strategy and plan in three phases

Our work involved three phases:

1. Developing a strategy: We brought together deep analysis and Nous’ global perspective to articulate the case for change, challenging the university’s board and leadership in workshops to look beyond their context, learn from the global sector, and unite behind some big aspirations. The outcome was a transformation-focused strategic plan.

2. Preparing a roadmap: In collaboration with the university's strategy office, we developed an implementation roadmap that prioritised strategic initiatives to focus the university's effort and resources. It also laid out the processes, governance and accountability required to keep implementation on track.

3. Driving action: We developed a strategic planning framework to ensure a consistent approach to cascading the strategy through all levels of strategic, tactical and operational planning, budgeting, and performance management.

The strategy is giving the university the platform to change

The case for change and big aspirations articulated in the strategy are giving university leaders a strong and agreed platform to transform the way they work as leaders and as an institution.

The university’s council and senior leadership team said they were very satisfied with the new strategic plan, which will position the university to make the changes to its operating model needed to achieve financial sustainability, including through shifting its focus, improving its reputation, and strengthening its teaching and research.

University leaders also asked us to support the resulting implementation initiative, putting in place processes, governance and accountability to accelerate and align implementation. We have also supported critical projects flowing from the strategy, including reviewing the university's shared administrative services, restructuring its largest faculty, and analysing the market to boost international student enrolments.

What you can learn from this project

Transformation must be backed by a compelling case for change, grounded in deep analysis and global best practice.

Focus on areas of strength is required to achieve high performance in teaching and research.

Strategic objectives must be cascaded through planning and budgeting processes at all levels of universities to achieve transformation.