In an environment of increasing competition, radical shifts in student demand, and growing cost pressures, academic portfolio review and strategic growth planning are more important than ever. Academic leaders need to be equipped with the right market insights to achieve enrollment and revenue ambitions.
However, higher education leaders face a number of challenges to identify promising new programs and strengthen current offerings. Competing priorities, insufficient or infrequent program review practices, and exhausted resources can quickly distract or derail efforts. Additionally, our members share they struggle to even define growth, much less where to focus efforts. These challenges can quickly compound without strategic support.
Learn common missteps colleges and universities make in pursuit of growth to avoid in your own strategic planning.
1. Your last portfolio review was three to five years ago and you assume it meets demand
Some of your academic offerings require market calibration more often than others. For example, many technology-focused offerings require an annual or biennial evaluation to ensure that the curricula content is aligned with emerging knowledge and skills in demand from employers. Or for instance, a handful of new regional competitors have launched new offerings since your last competitive benchmarking review.
Lagging awareness could cripple your efforts to get ahead and mitigate the potential for stolen market share. Colleges and universities can no longer afford to wait multiple years in between portfolio evaluations. Appraising your portfolio more often can help maintain an optimal position within the competitive field.
2. You only use one or two labor market data points to inform your growth strategy
Are you relying on only publicly available labor market data to fuel your growth planning? Do you have a nuanced understanding of what is happening locally and regionally? Are you looking at multiple data points to determine your best bets? Does your college or university tend to over-rely on a few employer interviews and student surveys with low response rates?
Relying on only one or two data points gives a very limited view into the labor market. Understanding multiple perspectives of your market will help to contextualize employer demand and support a more holistic understanding of your best growth opportunities.
3. You assume what’s good for the competition is good for you
It’s necessary to benchmark your academic offerings against the competition. But not factoring in other market intelligence creates blind spots in your growth planning. For example, a competitor launching a new program in gaming does not necessarily indicate a sustainable market or even an attractive growth opportunity. They may not have done their homework and failed to ask key questions such as: Is the demand generated by only a small number of employers? Are hiring trends in gaming stable or sporadic? Does the volume of jobs also support new graduates entering the job market?
Complement competitive benchmarking with a more nuanced understanding of the market to help you home in on the best growth opportunities for your school.
How this university used data to grow—smarter
St. Ambrose University successfully streamlined its department review process and identified budgeting opportunities to save 700 hours with standard reports and $446K by reassigning new faculty lines. Here’s how.