When I speak to academic staff at universities across the UK, as I do during every portfolio review project, I often find us discussing the importance of Portfolio Efficiency. From a market perspective, this would simply be measured by the number of individual programmes offered by the University plotted against the number of students who have been enrolled to them.
Whether from the perspective of a subject area, Faculty or University, having stronger Portfolio Efficiency means you are running attractive programmes, maximising financial income and have a greater ability to ride out sector-wide issues, such as current COVID-19 related uncertainty or the soon-to-be-over demographic dip.
Conversely, an inefficient portfolio is a major risk, as the cost of delivery is likely to be higher and a proliferation of programmes can make it more difficult for potential applicants to find the courses they want to study. The paradox of choice is real in Higher Education, and an applicant presented with too many potential options is more likely to look elsewhere.
Although the current situation is leading to greater uncertainty and budget cuts, institutions with both a strong reputation and an attractive portfolio stand a greater chance of making it through the medium term with fewer negative impacts.
Using a measure of Portfolio Efficiency as a KPI is an important way of identifying course problems before they become a wider issue.
TKP’s market-leading work on the i-MAP project with HEFCE highlighted the difficulties in introducing new programmes, and therefore their creation should not be viewed as the holy grail for attracting new students.
Instead, the first stage is to look at the current offer and answer the following questions:
- Which of our subject areas and programmes are underperforming?
- What changes can be made to the portfolio to increase attractiveness to potential students?
- What would be the impact of improving the offer to potential applicants, in terms of gained income and students?
At TKP, our Portfolio Review methodology will provide many of the answers to these questions. Portfolio Efficiency is a useful starting point to get your institution thinking about the importance of the courses offered. See our website for more details, or drop me a line.