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How the Right Tech Can Elevate Universities' CPD Profits


Nowadays, the higher education sector is constantly being asked to do more with less. With funding deficits, inflation, increasing student needs, tuition caps, and rising costs across the board, universities are truly feeling the pinch. 

Though undergraduate and postgraduate programmes have undoubtedly been universities' bread and butter in the past, many face a financially uncertain future. However, there is a potentially lucrative option that could ease these fiduciary burdens - the “forgotten child” of the higher education sector: continuing professional development (CPD). 

Businesses of all stripes are focusing on training and development for a few reasons we’ll explore shortly. So, universities could be perfectly placed to provide this increasingly essential tuition. 

Let’s explore the current state of play for universities and look at a brief business case for investing in tech that supports CPD programmes. 

Higher Education: The Current State of Play 

It’s a difficult time for universities. 

On the face of it, things are looking quite rosy: admission figures seem healthy and participation by those from disadvantaged backgrounds is increasing. This is great news, of course, but when you start to explore the current status quo for British universities, cracks quickly begin to show. 

Brexit resulted in EU students paying higher tuition fees and being excluded from certain funding. The number of EU students embarking on full-time undergraduate courses dropped by 67% between 2020 and 2023 - its lowest level since 1994. 

Though non-EU overseas applicants increased to record-breaking levels each year between 2019 and 2022, there are signs of cooling sentiment among non-EU applicants. The UK’s new, stringent visa rules are especially worrying for universities who rely on income from international postgraduate students who can no longer bring their dependents with them to the UK when they study. 

We are also in the midst of a gruelling cost of living crisis - one that may impact families’ capacity to send their children to university for years to come. 

And if those impacts weren’t enough, the current university funding model has been described as “broken”. 

These issues are incredibly worrying for the higher education sector. Who knows how long those ripples will be felt for, and the impact that will have on institutions’ profitability? In the face of these challenges, universities must find new opportunities to increase revenue beyond the ebb and flow of the academic year – something they can do by providing continuing professional development training. 

Continuing Professional Development: Universities’ “Forgotten Child” 

One such opportunity is providing continuing professional development training for businesses and professionals. Employers are becoming increasingly switched-on to the benefits of providing continual learning and development for their teams. 

Companies who invest in L&D have a 24% higher profit margin than those that don’t, and organisations that provide comprehensive training programs enjoy 218% more income per employee according to data from The Association for Talent Development. 

Learning and development is an essential component of employee satisfaction and retention. Employees don’t want to stagnate, they want to grow, develop, and improve. When companies invest in employees, those employees feel valued, with a strong sense of belonging. Career progression and mobility is also essential to today’s workforce. 

In fact, 77% of employees report that workplace learning is important to their continuing professional development, and 37% claimed that a lack of training had negatively impacted their career. 

This presents an unmissable opportunity for universities. In a space that is being so strongly buffeted by political issues that impact under/postgraduate admissions, it’s likely time to explore lucrative sidelines elsewhere. 

So where better to focus that potential on forward-thinking businesses and eager professionals who have the money, drive, and influence to spend on CPD? 

And with many universities still treating CPD as an afterthought, it’s a great time to develop your own CPD approach in order to get ahead. 

A New Tech-Powered Era for CPD 

Though no two universities’ tech stacks are ever quite the same, they are often built to support the typical under/postgrad admissions process. Thankfully, Crimson is a highly skilled Microsoft Solutions Partner with experience in providing custom CPD management solutions for UK universities up and down the UK. 

What Can a Custom CPD Management Solution Achieve? 

Any custom IT system is tailored to fit your precise requirements, though there are a few common threads that our CPD management software projects address. Hopefully this will provide some inspiration around what can be achieved. 

Automating Manual Processes 

Without a for-purpose CPD solution, a lot of the CPD department’s work sometimes ends up being done manually, especially around course enquiries and bookings. 

For example, before one current project of ours, the university's website would simply drive enquiries about their CPD programme which were addressed piecemeal by a team member. But now they’re on track to have a whole public-facing “self-serve” CPD portal where potential students and corporate training bookers can view and book courses without any involvement from CPD back-office staff unless needed. 

Understandably this can help free the department up for trickier, more “value add” tasks. With your own bespoke system, we may be able to automate a surprising number of manual tasks and processes. 

Streamlined Customer-Facing Functionality 

“Self-serve” portals such as these also benefit your potential CPD students, as you are providing them with all of the information they need to make a decision without them having to lodge a manual enquiry. They can view your complete CPD prospectus, book a course using familiar “shopping basket” functionality, and even pay online. 

This benefits them in a similar way that it benefits you - they don’t have to sit around waiting for the phone to ring or their inbox to ping in order to progress an inquiry. Plus, as sales processes drag along, sometimes the buyer gets cold feet; however, this tech-first approach allows the buyer/booker to strike while the decision-making iron is hottest! 

Central Course Management System 

Of course, robust course management functionality serves as the cornerstone to these university- and learner-facing portals. At its most basic level, this is a “database” of sorts containing details of all of the courses you provide. It serves as a central point of truth when it comes to what courses are available, the public-facing descriptions of each course, lecturer info, dates available for booking, uptake data for each course, and more. 

University-side, this system can also enable booking management and gives CPD staff the direct ability to adjust every course’s promotional copy, pricing, lecturers, and course materials on the fly. 

Course management systems can also power student portal functionality such as lecture reminders, course materials, assignment reminders, tuition invoices, and ultimately certificates upon successful completion. 

It could even be set up to drive totally self-directed courses where the learner simply accesses pre-recorded lectures and pre-prepared course materials, making their way towards their qualification at their own pace. Programmes like this, running on autopilot in the background, can be great for streamlined revenue generation. 

Strong Connectivity Between Tech & Business Functions 

The best bit is that all of the above functionality seamlessly ties together as one all-inclusive CPD system - one that isn’t limited to course management, online booking portals, and increased automation. 

Perhaps most crucially, a CPD system like this can also include powerful Microsoft Dynamics CRM functionality, so you can record and keep tabs on each of your CPD alumni, learners, and prospective buyers. Systems like these allow organisations to market to interested parties effectively, better nurture them through the sales process, and generally turn more leads into learners! Systems like these can also build cross-functional efficiencies between teams in sales, marketing, and the operational CPD department. 

One university we worked with uses their improved CRM functionality to keep track of each individual’s professional interests too, so they can now market to relevant individuals when new, relevant courses become available. 

Elevate Your CPD Programmes with the Right Tech 

If your institution is looking to improve its CPD prospects but needs to amend its tech stack to support those goals, speak with the team here at Crimson. Our experienced team is eager to help you make your CPD goals a reality through completely tailored Microsoft Solutions. 

Leverage Microsoft Technologies To Revolutionise The Way You Deliver Continual Professional Development (CPD)

Want to revolutionise the way your university delivers continuous professional development (CPD)? - find out more about our CPD solutions

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