COVID: A catalyst in HEI leadership?

Our latest thought piece ‘COVID: A catalyst in HEI leadership?’ aims to share reflections following one of the most transformational periods in our sector’s long history, and to explore how the pandemic may shape its future.

As with almost every industry across the globe, Higher Education in the UK has been significantly altered by the COVID-19 pandemic. The way in which staff and students live and work has fundamentally changed, and we are unlikely to return fully to previous ways of working. In 2020 universities demonstrated great resilience and dynamism by rapidly addressing the challenges associated with the pandemic. This necessitated enormous commitment from senior leaders on both sides of the board table.

The almost overnight adoption of technology enabled transformation to happen apace, with innovation in the delivery of education near the top of the agenda for most institutions. As universities move from the reaction and resilience phase to the recovery phase of the pandemic, sector leaders have started to focus on the medium term, reassessing strategic priorities and working to address the imbalances caused by the pandemic.

In many ways the pandemic accelerated existing sector trends. Challenges facing the sector were amplified as universities were forced to adapt to operating within the context of a global health crisis. Many across the sector felt and still feel that the pandemic has enabled institutions to deliver positive change at a greater pace.


For this piece, we explore the extent to which COVID-19 has driven and accelerated change within the sector. We also investigate the implications for HEI leadership from several angles including governance, strategy, personal qualities and organisational structure. In Spring 2021, we consulted with both vice-chancellors and chairs from a range of Higher Education institutions across the UK. We would like to extend our sincere thanks to those who have graciously given up their time to share their thoughts and experiences with us.

Read COVID: A catalyst in HEI leadership?

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Contact Jamie Wesley, Partner & Head of Higher Education Practice