#5: 10 new trends defining the state of higher education

Higher-ed leaders will help ensure their institutional success by preparing for change

[Editor’s note: This story, originally published on April 11th of this year, was our #5 most popular story of the year. Happy holidays, and thank you for tuning into our 2018 countdown!]

Establishing innovative strategies for growth and preparing for industry disruption are just two of a number of trends higher-ed leaders should expect to come their way in 2018, according to a new report.

The State of Higher Education 2018, from professional services firm Grant Thornton LLP, offers guidance around emerging and potential higher-education trends in 2018. The leadership challenges and opportunities outlined in the report are shaped by the firm’s interaction with higher-ed clients.

Trends include achieving growth strategies; preparing for disruption; outsourcing via shared services consortia; using public-private partnerships; mergers, partnerships, and collaborations; tailoring fundraising to generational nuances; using independent verification and validation ( IV&V) for cloud implementation success; innovations in campus facilities usage; preparing for social media reputation risks; and new ways to measure success.

“This is a time of great potential for engaging a diverse constituency, collaborating with other institutions and private industry, and effecting substantial operational change,” writes Mark Oster, national managing partner for Grant Thornton’s not-for-profit and higher education practices. “Innovative thinking will be vital to successfully moving into the future and we hope these articles will help institutional leaders do just that.”

A sampling of trends appears below; view the full report here.

Achieving growth strategies

More institutions are following a deliberate plan for growth because they know they must adapt and innovate to be successful. Focuses on enrollment and revenue growth have increased and have emerged as critical for institutions that want to survive. Strategies for achieving growth include horizontal or vertical growth, new product channels, expansion of existing offerings, and provisioning new programs or products. Leading institutions that have successfully adopted growth strategies have some common characteristics in common, including visionary leadership, a sufficient base of support, resources in place, and grit and determination.

Prepare for disruption

Institutions that are unaware of coming change will be startled by disrupting factors, but those that know what’s going on in the higher-ed marketplace and are aware of future uncertainty can prepare for change. Institutions can prepare for a variety of disruption:

  • Prepare for global trade disruption by becoming globally astute, being relevant to diverse students worldwide, and having a presence where students are.
  • Prepare for government policy disruption by developing revenue models less reliant on tuition and state funding, and communicating the value of education offerings to students.
  • Prepare for technological disruption by integrating learning environments, addressing diverse student needs, and leveraging information for decision-making.

Using public-private partnerships

Due in part to budget and time constraints, institutions are taking innovative approaches to how they plan for future projects. Many partner with businesses and industry to achieve goals for construction, financing, and facilities operations. Short-term benefits include quicker timelines, expert management, and freed-up additional capital to invest in core mission activities. Four keys to success include identifying important criteria and proceeding only for the right reasons, making it a true partnership, knowing if the campus location is suitable for the partnership, and generating public support.

Innovations in campus facilities usage

Today, technology and digital learning are critical to students’ educational experiences, and institutions are using the physical campus footprints to incorporate technology that adapts to learning needs. Trends in university environments include constructing new environments to foster collaboration and new ideas, equipping learning spaces as smart environments with cutting-edge technology, following modern business models, and finding creative ways to repurpose unused campus space through partnerships.

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Laura Ascione

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