Skip to content

What are higher education’s top priorities for 2023?

Last month, some of the Crimson team attended the Education Strategy Forum 2022. Hosted bi-annually, the forum gives higher education leaders and providers an opportunity to network, while also providing them with invaluable insights into the hearts and minds of the attendees. With a combined spending power of £739 million, it’s clear to see why providers and other higher education institutions should be listening to the thoughts of these leaders.

Discover the top five trends and priorities within the higher education industry for 2023, according to the Education Strategy Forum (ESF) data:


The cloud is here to stay

It’s safe to say the past few years have been tough for higher education institutions. Coronavirus restrictions meant they had to act quickly to provide remote learning experiences to students, whilst also being under pressure to preserve the wellbeing of students to maintain good retention levels. To overcome these challenges, higher education institutions look to innovation and new technologies such as virtual reality and cloud solutions. Now, universities have other challenges to face thanks to the current economic and political turmoil, so they’re technology requirements have also changed.

The ESF data backs this up. Virtual reality and other simulators will see the biggest decrease in tech spend according to respondents, with investments being made in big data and analytics instead. None of the respondents are looking to decrease spend in cloud solutions – it will only be maintained or increased – solidifying the fact that on-premise solutions are soon to be a thing of the past.


Keep it personal – and flexible

Around 70 per cent of respondents claimed that personalised omnichannel engagement was a high priority. This type of engagement is great at attracting and retaining students, by ensuring students only receive content that is suited to their situation and providing them with a multitude of methods to engage with the university.

Each student is different, and as widening access improves across universities, cohorts are only going to get more diverse. A part-time, mature student is going to be interested in different topics and will engage via different sources in comparison to a student that is fresh out of college and studying full-time, so its only right that they receive different types of content and have the ability to engage with the university in different ways.


Experience is key

When asked what the top areas of investment are, 76 per cent of the higher education leaders chose the overall student experience. At the end of the day, the student experience is what both attracts and retains students at universities. When students enjoy their time at university, they’ll score the institution better, resulting in great reviews and league table results. They’re more likely to finish their course so retention scores will also be great, and students will also be more enthusiastic about their course so grades will be higher. It’s a win-win all around.

Other answers included improving the analysis of data, which 52 per cent chose as a top tech investment. The least common answer was the incorporation of mobile devices, which only 22 per cent of respondents chose.


Clear visibility ahead

Moving on from the investment in the student experience, 57 per cent noted that their top improvement initiative was to improve the visibility of the student journey. For universities to enhance the student experience, they have to be aware of the student journey. Once they’re aware of the various touchpoints, they can then make the journey as easy and engaging as possible for prospective and current students, helping to improve the overall experience.


Power in the midst of uncertainty

The most important find from the research, however, is the top strategic technology priority within higher education in 2023 – “building a cost effective and flexible technology infrastructure for the future.” 64 per cent of respondents claimed that this was their top priority for the coming year, and it echoes the challenges universities have recently faced, as well as challenges to come. The current economy is turbulent; no one knows what’s around the corner. Therefore, universities want to have the capability to solve any problem that they come across with flexible technology, and because of the uncertainty, the cost needs to be kept to a minimum.


Are you looking to improve your student experience in 2023? Get in touch to arrange a Discovery Call, where you can find out how Crimson's Higher Education Accelerator can improve experiences across the whole student journey. 

Get More From Microsoft: Click for a FREE Discovery Call