The University Owns the Strategy

The strategy implementation stands or falls with the process of strategy preparation. The strategy should be prepared in such a way that it is “owned” by the broader leadership of the university. These are the Board, the deans, key professors as well as some carefully selected student leaders and promising young staff. External stakeholders might also be included. The voice of alumni can also be important. Broad consultations are often viewed as a waste of time: academics are busy with education, research, or community involvement, and are not focused on or engaged in “strategy”. Also external stakeholders have to be convinced that they can actively contribute to the university strategy and that doing so is in their own interest. The costs in terms of time of the leadership, of faculty, and of stakeholders, as well as the costs of organizing consultations should not be underestimated. At the same time the result, in terms of ownership, is well worth the outlay.

Supporting the Development of a Strategy

Naturally (“we are as a university involved in the pursuit of the truth”), the discussions on future strategy are based on extensive research on our own position and strengths and include the nature and composition of the external environment. A SWOT analysis is an important starting point, not only concerning finance, satisfaction of students and alumni, external assessment of the quality of the curricula and research quality, but also in terms of the quality and culture of the organization. Recently the University of Cologne requested an outside Agency to conduct such a SWOT analysis for its Central Organization [3]. Cultural aspects were included in the analysis.

An important part of research is the exploration of the potential scope and space for maneuver (maneuverability potential). To what extent is the present situation determined by government regulations and what is the scope and space available for change? It often happens that perceptions of maneuverability potential are based on and limited by historic personal experience. The organizational autonomy, i.e., the ability of the university to set its own goals and priorities through an adequate governance structure, may be underrated. The financial autonomy (the ability to decide on its own finances) could be undervalued. More substantial investments using borrowed funds might be possible if innovative methods of selling research products can be developed. Also, on the policy side, there might be more maneuverability available than was initially presumed to be the case.

Funding remains an important issue. What is the potential for increasing funds, through grants, through partnerships with the private sector, through partnerships with local governments or the national government, through philanthropy, and perhaps through alumni?

International and national advisory boards may be able to widen actionable scope. As chapter International Advisory Boards in the World shows with examples: top universities, or universities which strive towards excellence, will, as a rule, try to acquire and utilize international knowledge and experience for developing and implementing strategies which imply substantial change.

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