A new strategy to help the University of Westminster build a base for growth

A new strategy to help the University of Westminster build a base for growth

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The University of Westminster (Westminster) is a central London institution with a long history of providing practice-based teaching.

Westminster was planning its strategy in a complex environment

Along with many other UK institutions, the University of Westminster faced fundamental challenges: falling numbers of potential students, high capital costs, Brexit uncertainty and pressures to achieve quality and efficiency. Westminster engaged Nous as it undertook strategic planning to help it think deeply about financial sustainability and transformation; reconsider its vision, mission and culture; and chart a way forward on issues including its structure, provision of student services, academic model and professional services arrangements.

We collaborated to build a strategy with broad backing

Nous harnessed our experience in the UK and Australia to work with Westminster on a 12-week project across two phases:

  1. we helped Westminster define a focused path back to financial sustainability that included improved teaching, learning and student experience
  2. we mapped out in detail how Westminster could mobilise the strategy, including preparing a business case for investment, governance and prioritisation of projects.

Through both phases, Nous worked closely with Westminster’s executive and board. We engaged extensively with stakeholders university-wide to collect insights, test findings and build engagement with the new strategy.

The university emerged more efficient, targeted and engaged

The new strategy rationalised the university offering, transforming five faculties into three colleges. A portfolio review led to a 17 per cent reduction in the number of postgraduate courses and a nine per cent reduction in undergraduate courses, resulting in cost savings and an increase in teaching quality. The resultant savings also allowed the university to introduce a scholarship programme to allow specific groups who would otherwise not have been able to take up studies to do so.

The changes increased staff engagement, increasing teaching quality and Westminster’s ability to lead further change. They also signalled a crucial change in the university’s direction – toward improved sustainability, student experience and employment outcomes.

What your organisation can learn from the University of Westminster:

Thorny strategic issues require energy and resources across data gathering and analysis, engagement and decision-making.

Simplifying the offer – be it an education portfolio or professional services delivery – can increase quality and satisfaction.

Organisations can overcome significant challenges with hard thinking and a commitment to a clear strategy.