What Is Excellence in Strategic Planning?

Excellence in strategic planning in universities not only requires a well-designed planning process, as described in the first part of this chapter. It also needs to focus on which profile the university would like to adapt. Should good teaching, even with an emphasis on excellent undergraduate education as at Princeton University, be a key factor? How research intensive should the university be? Should it pursue excellent research in targeted areas? How much will it strengthen research-based learning for students and foster the promotion of early stage researchers? Which entrepreneurial activities does a strategic plan need to have to better fund and change a university? How much can one rely on increasing the scale of a university, when combining the access of a more diverse student body with high quality of research and teaching? To what extent should a university tackle grand challenges and be engaged in solving problems of local communities? All these key issues were described in the chapter's second part. There are no clear-cut answers. They depend on the existing profile of an institution, external conditions, innovation challenges, and on the potential funding sources.

To complicate the search for an excellent strategic plan even further, let us remember that universities are likely to experience another big change in the near future. Higher education, through massively open online courses, as well as research, through online publications and the general availability of data in all fields, will become significantly more open and accessible. Higher education and research will be more accessible at low costs throughout the world. The innovation process will also be more open as firms will practice more outsourcing with respect to obtaining new ideas concerning products and production processes. Many more scientists and organizations, especially from developing countries and from outside of universities, will be able to engage in innovation issues. As with crowd funding of activities, there will be crowd research and crowd innovation.

“Open learning”, “open science”, and “open innovation” will make the borders of universities more permeable. As a consequence, education, and particular graduate education at universities, may become more important than research per se. Universities will enable people to participate in research and innovation endeavors of others, meeting research and innovation demands defined by society or by firms. Universities may then become certifying agents for those who actively engage in research and innovation elsewhere. They might then become marketing institutions to bring research and innovation more directly to the society and to the economy. In the future, a university will only thrive when it is well placed in a host of surrounding start-ups and applied or interdisciplinary research centers.

There will be more pressures on universities to meet the demands of knowledge societies to educate good researchers, particularly in the case of Ph.D. candidates [8]. The Ph.D. Education in many universities is still organized along traditional academic lines, with too narrow specializations, if it is organized at all. Interdisciplinary research and research in teams are rarely practiced in universities.

Oversupply in the job markets for Ph.D.s in Germany or in the US indicates that the research formation at universities has to change in order to meet the new demands of knowledge societies.


What do we learn from international experiences on the role of strategic planning for an excellent university? Take into account the strengths and values of your traditions, and formulate high ambitions and coherent goals, which should be attainable at a specific date. Be ready to change the organization of the university. However, look closely at how the world is evolving. What ultimately counts is to attain an inherent resilience to uncertain developments. Egocentric, wishful thinking is misleading.


1. Christopher L. Eisgruber, A Strategic Look into Princeton's Future. Princeton Alumni Weekly, The President's Page, April 23, 2014, Vol.114, No.11.

2. Rexroth, Frank. (2011). Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 9(2), 33.

3. Wilhelm von Humboldt, Antrag auf Errichtung der Universität Berlin, Juli 1809, reprinted in: J.J.Engel et al., Gelegentliche Gedanken über Universitäten. Reclam-Verlag Leipzig 1990, pp. 267–283.

4. exzellenz.hu-berlin.de

5. Clark, B. R. (1998). Creating entrepreneurial universities. Organizational pathways to transformation. Oxford: Pergamon Press.

6. Clark, B. R. (2004). Delineating the Character of the Entrepreneurial University. Higher Education Policy, 17, 355–370.

7. Michael M. Crow, The Research University as Comprehensive Knowledge Enterprise: A Prototype for a New American University. In: Luc E. Weber, James J. Duderstadt (eds.), University Research for Innovation. Economica London-Paris-Geneva 2010, pp.211–225.

8. Nature, 472, 261.

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