(this article is in development)
What is Academic Strategy?
The chasm between academics and the rest of the institution is lethal to any efforts to sustain a healthy future for an institution of higher education. Further the common condition puts in peril the …
The term strategy is poorly understood and is often confused with tactics, goals and objectives. Further people are apt to label strategy anything they have done or are doing that links with a new buzz word or popular concept. In actuality it may be a fragment, artifact or small piece of what would be a strategy.
To illustrate I recently asked a College President if they had launched a cohesive social media effort to support their enrollment and development goals. He responded ‘of course, we are on top of it. Our website has all of those links on it.’ As I explored the reality I discovered the website folks reported to a different vice president than the enrollment and recruitment side and they were at war, the development office embarked upon their own stand alone bucket of apps, no social media policies existed, there was no social media plan, no one was monitoring or even understood social media metrics. And everyone mimicked the Presidents response, ‘we are on top of it we have those little clicky things on our website.’
I asked the provost of the same college if they had developed a strategy to move their curriculum into digital format. His response, ‘we are on top of it. We just signed a contract with a consortium to do our online, since we don’t have the people, the tools, or the support.’ I asked what is the plan, what programs, courses, enrollment expectations did he have. ‘Well,’ he said nervously, ‘I am not sure, the President said we have to be online, he announced that we were at the last board meeting to a standing ovation, just before the meeting he told me to sign the damn agreement, which I did, and we are in the hands of the consortium. I suspect there is more going on, just not sure what it is.’
When I shared an early form of this with these examples a close colleague responded, ‘I am confused what do these examples have to do with academic strategies?’
- Strategy defines the highest level of initiatives, why they are engaged in, what benefit they bring to the entity, and how they position the entity within the educational spheres it engages.
- Entity refers to any major or minor unit or subunit that has a distinct vision, a defined trajectory (where it is going), a specific sphere or sub-sphere it influences, and an administrative/governance structure that guides decisions.
- Entity Strategies define the position it occupies in the educational realm with respect to markets, competitors, disciplines, knowledge domains, communities of practice, research and a wide variety of roles and functional domains an institution or its composite entities may engage in.
- The term strategy, as used in planning, is a relative term (to the entity i.e. institution, division, school or college, department), and this causes further confusion.
- Institutional Strategy enables school, college, division, department and program of study strategy to be developed. Each of these strategic entities may have strategies, and they can be either tightly or loosely coupled to the institutional mission and strategies.