In the UK, there are currently over 160 universities, boasting a collective student body exceeding 2 million and supported by a workforce of over 200,000 staff. These institutions contribute significantly to the economy, with a combined income of £43.9 billion and generating £130 billion overall. The higher education sector has recently undergone a disruptive phase, with 69% of institutions experiencing considerable change. While the COVID-19 pandemic acted as a catalyst, the sector has recognised the imperative for substantial transformation across academic and professional service departments for several years.


The primary challenges faced by most institutions today include the need to prioritise changes, particularly in the context of sustainability encompassing environmental, social, and economic responsibilities. This involves addressing policy considerations, migration issues, and managing fees and places. Creating inclusive and diverse environments, managing legacy estates on university campuses, and right-sizing institutions to align with evolving needs are also top priorities. Additionally, adapting to and adopting new ways of working is crucial for staying relevant in the evolving higher education landscape.


For many universities, the complex and multifaceted challenge of transformation is exacerbated by the siloed nature of faculties and departments, varying paces and readiness for change, the diversity of the portfolio, and numerous interdependencies across the institution. Successful transformation requires a strategic vision and a collaborative, inclusive approach that addresses the unique needs of diverse stakeholders. Breaking down organisational silos, fostering a culture of innovation, and promoting cross-disciplinary collaboration are essential elements for navigating these challenges and allowing universities to effectively meet the demands of the future.



PMO Supporting Transformation in Universities

Introducing the PMO into this transformative landscape can play a pivotal role in addressing the challenges universities face. The siloed nature of faculties and departments often leads to fragmented approaches to change initiatives, making it difficult to achieve coordinated and institution-wide transformation.


A PMO can act as a central hub for overseeing and managing these transformation efforts. Its role involves providing strategic guidance, standardising portfolio, programme and project management processes, and facilitating communication and collaboration across diverse stakeholders. By breaking down organisational silos, the PMO helps ensure that transformation initiatives are aligned with the overarching strategic vision of the university.


The PMO can also enhance the pace and readiness for change by introducing structured frameworks and methodologies. This includes defining clear objectives, timelines, and performance metrics. The PMO’s expertise in portfolio, programme, project and change management can also support the development of a culture that embraces innovation and collaboration, essential components for successful transformation in higher education.


Given the diverse portfolio and interdependencies across the institution, the PMO can assist in prioritising projects, allocating resources efficiently, and managing dependencies to minimise disruptions. This contributes to a more streamlined and effective transformation process.


Universities – Creating and Sharing Knowledge

PMOs in UniversitiesWith the mission of most universities being about creating and sharing knowledge, the House of PMO in the same spirit and in collaboration with the University of Nottingham, have created a new community which focuses on supporting those practitioners working in PMOs in today’s higher education institutions.


PMO:HE is dedicated to bringing together practitioners who recognise the importance of their role in supporting their institution to meet the challenges of transformational change and future-proofing, fostering a collaborative environment where insights, best practices, and innovative strategies can be shared amongst the community of practice.


The PMO Higher Education community kicks off on the 14th March 2024 with an online virtual event focused on bringing the community together for the first time. The program for the half day conference includes sharing of best practice in portfolio management and the case study approach of the Strategic Investment Portfolio from the University of Nottingham. The conference also features plenty of interaction and collaboration to understand the key challenges and opportunities faced by practitioners in HE today. [See the agenda]


The half -day event is the first step in building the community of practice which will aim to meet several times throughout the year to focus on how to overcome some of the identified challenges from the conference.


>> For more information about the community and the event


PMO Higher Education Virtual Conference