CIO higher ed

Seeking competitive advantage? Look to “clusters”

Why tuning into your next door neighbor (forming clusters) may help distinguish your institution.

competitive-advantage-clustersIt’s not news that technology helps colleges and universities expand academic offerings around the world. But while global connections are important, regional connections can provide just as many – if not more – benefits to our students and local communities.

An increasingly discussed topic in academics is the concept of “cluster” networks. According to experts, these clusters – the co-location and interconnection of related industries and schools – help increase competitive advantages. The benefit is the knowledge, relationships and motivation of local communities. Together, these clusters hold a unique, collective power that’s unmatched by looser, more distant connections.

State universities and colleges are home to some of the top, most diverse range of classes available in the U.S. today. Taught by many of our country’s brightest minds, students at these research centers and technical colleges have a wealth of information at their fingertips, but only at their own university.

A Cup of Sugar?

University administrators have long understood this gap in resources, but historically, they haven’t looked next door for help. However, recently the presidents of four Virginia universities – George Mason University (GMU), James Madison University (JMU), the University of Virginia (UVA) and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) – joined together to form the 4-VA consortium.

In order to reap the full benefits of an education cluster, they needed to connect on a deeper level than before.

(Next page: What makes the 4-VA cluster work)