When future historians reflect on the pandemic that swept the world in 2020, there is little doubt they will ask serious questions about the response from the education sector. As governments enforced lockdowns and businesses rushed to implement remote work procedures, the world’s schools, universities and other teaching facilities grappled with how to provide the basic need of education to a cohort of students that were unable to leave their homes, let alone step into a classroom or lecture theater.
Three years on, it is easy to forget just how surreal those times were but a quick look at the numbers provides a sobering reality check. An OECD study revealed that 1.5 billion students in 188 nations were unable to attend school in person during the first 12 months of the pandemic1. UNICEF says nearly 147 million children missed more than half of their in-person schooling between 2020 and 20222. Even this year there are still 1.23 million fewer undergraduates in America’s colleges and universities than prior to the pandemic3.
Despite such hardships, there is a chance those future historians will one day mark the pandemic as a positive turning point for the education sector.
While the corporate world and other institutions have long been adapting to technological and workplace disruptions that unfold at breakneck speeds, critics claim education providers remained rooted to ancient ways of teaching and administration. From primitive means of processing enrolments to time-consuming test paper creation, they say many educators have failed to adapt as quickly as needed to modern advancements and should be focusing on the three Es – Education, Entrepreneurship and Employment – as much as they do on the three Rs of Reading, Writing and Arithmetic4.
The good news is the pandemic forced many of those institutions to rethink the way they not only educate but do business. While slogans such as ‘learning for life’ and ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ paint a romantic picture of the education sector, the reality is it faces the same challenges and corporate pressures as any multibillion-dollar industry. From budget cuts and teacher shortages to declining enrolments and inadequate access to technology, the business of running educational programs is increasingly stressful.
As outlined in an Oxford Academic journal: “Not only have competition and competitive schemes dramatically developed in the last decades … the nature of competition has also evolved. It is argued that competition in higher education is no longer only occurring between individuals and countries but has become institutional, leading to a multi-level form of competition and transforming universities into competitors.”5
Amid such challenges, it is no surprise that an increasing number of educational institutions are turning to a tried and tested strategy to ease the pressure. Long before famed management expert Peter Drucker told the world: “Do what you do best and outsource the rest”, smart organizations were turning to specialized providers to increase efficiencies, address skills shortages and reduce costs.
Now, on the back of a pandemic that rewrote the rules of engagement, America’s public and non-profit colleges and universities are among education providers paying tens of billions of dollars a year to outsourcing providers to support them. One report revealed 300 new deals were made between universities and outsourced online program managers in the first year of the pandemic, a 79% increase on the previous year6, and there is good reason many others are now taking a similar path.
Outsourcing education services sees schools, universities or other teaching facilities partner with external providers or contractors to manage aspects of their administrative or educational needs. Quality outsourcing providers can provide entire teams or specific roles such as online tutors, teaching assistants, admissions officers or student enrolment officers. With innovation and technology playing a central role in modern-day education delivery, the sector is well suited to outsourcing and can benefit from access to more efficient, professional and cost-effective services.
Modern education facilities are essentially businesses, hence why they are so well suited to tapping into the various areas of outsourced support.
Research has shown 45% of global corporations plan to increase outsourcing in the wake of the pandemic7. Their reasons for doing so vary widely though, with many education providers attracted to a combination of the benefits on offer.
Choosing an offshore partner should never be rushed. For all the benefits of outsourcing, they will only be realized if education institutions take the time to identify the right provider.
These are exciting times for education institutions. Between online learning, technological change and new teaching philosophies, there is a sense of revolution in the air and that extends to the way they manage their workforces. Partnering with quality outsourcing providers has already been a game-changer for so many schools, universities and teaching facilities and that trend is set to extend to even more as they realize just how much it can save time, resources and money.
Business leaders have been won over by the benefits of outsourcing and subcontracting but they are certainly not one and the same. Learn how they work, their respective benefits and the key differences that will help you decide which is best for your organization.
 The State of School Education: One Year into the COVID Pandemic | READ online (oecd-ilibrary.org)
 With 23 countries yet to fully reopen schools, education risks becoming ‘greatest divider’ as COVID-19 pandemic enters third year (unicef.org)
 College enrolment decline caused by COVID starts to slow (universityworldnews.com)
 To flourish in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we need to rethink these 3 things | World Economic Forum (weforum.org)
 New forms of competition in higher education1 | Socio-Economic Review | Oxford Academic (oup.com)
 Universities are outsourcing billions of dollars worth of services (hechingerreport.org)
 19 Fascinating Outsourcing Statistics & Facts for 2023 (findstack.com)
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