How Do You Build a Visionary University?

You pick what you want to be known for.

Crazy Florida Gators fansDo you think the University of Florida cares about their academic performance? No, they don’t because they don’t need to. Their sports following for Basketball and Football is incredible and enough to give students a great reason to go there.

 

Do you want to go to the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton School of Business)? Do you want to play on their Basketball team? They haven’t won their division since 1979 and have never won the NCAA tournament. But that doesn’t matter, the only reason you’re going to Wharton is to get the best financial education money can buy.

 

“Standing out” is an underrated strategy when it comes to Universities and how to compete. That’s because it’s only up until now that they’ve never had to compete. The barrier to entry in to most higher level jobs in the past 20 years was a University degree or a comparable education. If you wanted a better job, you had to go to a post-secondary institution. Up until only 5-10 years ago, you didn’t have many choices of where to go to University. If you were from Regina you either went to the University of Saskatchewan or University of Regina, OK maybe Calgary or Edmonton (maybe Leftbridge, who knows). But why travel when you can go to your home town University?

 

But now you have to look across Canada and around the world because taking University from an institution away from home is going to be expensive either way. If your options are to move to Saskatoon or Dubai now you have an honest chance of attending the University of Dubai. (and next year it will be even easier)

Today your choices for post-secondary education have never been more abundant.

Education is free online. Want to learn about Consumer Neuroscience and Neuromarketing from Copenhagen Business School? Click the link and sign up for free. Or how about What Managers Can Learn From Philosophers from the University in Châtenay-Malabry, France. Yup, that ones free as well. Or how about What a Plant Knows (and other things you didn’t know about plants) from Telaviv University.

Coursera Home Page

You can make the argument that the quality of online education can’t compete with in person lectures at any of the bricks and mortar degree granting institutions. Combine that with not being able to verify “who” wrote your final exam and the traditionalists may have a reason why we shouldn’t trust an online degree. Even if the quality isn’t there yet, it won’t be long before it is. Why wouldn’t you go online to get a more interesting lecture about a topic you care about more, taught by someone who’s more passionate about their craft?

Dukes crazy Basketball Fans

What changed? Why is it getting more difficult for universities to compete?

1. More universities means more options for students

Today enough people are convocating and not finding the job they’re were promised, so why did we go to school, to get “smart” or to get a job?

Today, I can take almost any course I want online with an assortment of Universities to choose from. So why would I pick yours?

 

2. More graduates means more options to choose from: a degree doesn’t guarantee a job. 

A lot of people go to post-secondary to get an “education”. That means something different to everyone so don’t start trying to define what “education” means, someone can argue the opposite point. Besides getting an “education” school in the past was very good at getting people jobs.

Did you get a job because you had the education? Or did you get the education because you had to get a job? How we approach the degree vs job debate really changes the way we approach how post-secondary should be administered and in the end how institutions will compete in the future.

 

3. Transparency is making it hard for people to hide behind the letters that come after their name. 

If you convocated from a post-secondary institution in the past 10 years I bet you could recall at least one to two professors that well, to put it politely, were completely incompetent. Ten years ago you could fill out the form at the end of the semester and hopefully the administration and the professor read the feedback. Most likely they didn’t.

Even if you disagree with the student the fact of the matter is you can’t control what they say about you. Education will be held accountable.

Today, a Tweet, a Facebook post and a review on RateMyProfessor.com are the standard now. If you really good OR bad people will tell their friends, they will tell their friends, and alas, word-of-mouth remains the most powerful marketing tactic few organizations want admit to. The truth (or perceived truth) about a professor, program, or institution will spread like wildfire online.

Do you know what graduates are saying about your institution?