A Canadian Perspective

Mamdouh Shoukri, President and Vice Chancellor of York University, in an October 29 column “Universities Change with the Times” in the Toronto Star discussed what he sees as the most important trends in higher education:

“Evolving cultural and social environments, heightened demands for a post-secondary education, rising costs and expectations surrounding the role of universities, funding uncertainties and reluctance to accept change are some of the many obstacles facing post-secondary institutions. If Canadian universities are going to compete successfully in today’s global knowledge-based society, it is crucial they address these challenges.

At a recent conference in New York, I presented my views on the leading drivers affecting this change to the presidents of some of world’s foremost universities. In my opinion, these drivers are: internationalization, online learning, demographics, challenges to university autonomy and society engagement.”

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Figuring Out the Future

Mark Weinberg recommends:  Scott D. Anthony and Clayton M. Christensen, “Are You Reading the Right Signals,” September 2004, Strategy and Innovation (Harvard Business School)

“All of us make countless decisions every day based on what we think the future will hold. The challenge, naturally, is that the future rarely turns out as expected. Companies that appear to be poised to take off suddenly fizzle out; an analyst’s seemingly prescient predictions turn out to be 100% wrong. Determining whether a hyped innovation truly has the potential to transform an industry is a similarly challenging endeavor: Which developments are transformational and which will end up being more hype than reality.”

Brief Overviews from Planning Units

The following are brief descriptions of how some planning units are approaching their environmental scans.

Executive Vice President and Provost

Ohio University Chillicothe

Ohio University Eastern (Added 8-16-10)

College of Fine Arts

College of Health Sciences and Professions

Honors Tutorial College (Added 9-1-10)

Center for International Studies

Ohio University Lancaster

Vice President for Research & Creative Activity and Graduate College

Ohio University Southern (Added 8-20-10)

Voinovich School

Ohio University Zanesville (Added 8-12-10)

New Vision Statement and Environmental Scanning

At the Board of Trustees meeting that concluded June 25, a strategic vision statement for the university was endorsed: “Ohio University will be the nation’s best transformative learning community where students realize their promise, faculty advance knowledge, staff achieve excellence, and alumni become global leaders.”  Given this development, aligning the environmental scan with this core strategic goal should be a priority.

In Provost Benoit’s presentation to the Board on June 24, she put forward the argument that at the roots of every transformative learning community are meaningful and consistent interactions with faculty and staff.  Those interactions take place in many ways and in multiple venues.   I’ve created a diagram of sorts, based on her presentation, which identifies some of the key ways of advancing the university’s ability to grow its effectiveness as a transformative learning community.

What the slide tries to illustrate is that there are two key means by which we can continue to improve our effectiveness as a transformative learning community—by prioritizing our activities and by building faculty and staff commitment to the institution.  In order to do both of these things, we must have resources to devote to these two areas.

There are four majors ways in which we can acquire those resources—by reallocation, by improving retention, by strategically growing enrollment, and by increasing donations.  But in generating those resources, we need to remain committed to maintaining affordability.

Arguably resources should be prioritized in ways that would best enable us to support an engaged faculty and staff, a nimble and effective curriculum, measurable and meaningful co-curricular activities, extensive mentoring, and abundant research/creative activity experiences that have meaning and opportunities for students.  These are the primary elements of a transformative learning community.  But in an era of economic uncertainty, resources cannot be invested absent attention to productivity, efficiencies, and effectiveness.  For instance, not all means of mentoring can be pursued.  We need to identify the strongest approaches to mentoring, select a limited set of strategies that are productive and efficient, and carefully assess their effectiveness.

In the University Environmental Scan and the planning unit scans, special attention should be paid to identifying the trends that appear to have the greatest impact on our ability to create ways of sustainably supporting faculty/staff, curriculum, co-curricular activities, mentoring, and research/creative activity experiences.

New Resources Posted

A list of undergraduate degrees and their salary trajectories from Today’s Campus (May/June 2010) has been added to the Examples/Resources page under “Economics” category.

Also added to the Examples/Resources page are the following:

Under “Conducting an Environmental Scan”:  Kathy Aboufadel, Pamela Miller, Katie Daniels, “Conducting an Environmental Scan to Inform Strategic Planning,” Association of Institutional Research Annual Forum, June 2, 2010.

Under “Multiple Issues/Trends”:  Society for College and University Planning’s (SCUP) semiannual environmental scan, “Trends in Higher Education.”