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Key Takeaways from EAB’s Inaugural Deans Roundtable

June 6, 2024, By Chrysanthi Violaris, Analyst, Strategic Research

Transformational change at research universities frequently comes down to the colleges or schools within the institution. However, deans are often forced to spend a disproportionate amount of their scarce time managing administrative issues rather than developing long-term strategies or engaging with faculty and students.

In April, we convened 35 university deans from across disciplines to address critical issues within higher education, contextualized within their roles and colleges. Here is what we discussed – and learned – in our inaugural roundtable.

What We Discussed

The first topic of conversation centered around the six most significant challenges facing the higher education sector. We discussed how an increasingly negative public perception, peak population, and shifting college-going rates pose economic threats to colleges and universities. Further, the advent of AI and the disruptive aftermath of remote learning are forcing academic leaders to reimagine the fundamentals of their pedagogy.

During the latter half of our discussion, we talked about potential solutions to higher ed’s persistent struggle with public perception and value. As universities’ ROI is constantly questioned, many high school graduates are swayed away from a college experience and towards nontraditional career paths. One remedy we discussed is how institutions can redefine their value propositions to attract today’s skeptical students. Participating deans considered strategies for parsing their college’s unique identifiers to stand out against competing schools and programs.

What We Learned

Participating deans collaborated with peers from their disciplines to share ideas, strategies, and opportunities for growth within their college. Here are some of our deans’ top-of-mind issues:

1. Demonstrating the value and impact of faculty research:

Supporting a robust research enterprise is central to a college’s success. But to do so, colleges need to be able to tell the story of faculty research, highlighting its significance and influence.

Help Faculty Secure Next-Level Research Funding

2. Interdisciplinary programs and student career paths:

Degrees that combine humanities and STEM fields are increasingly important for society and students, but deans are feeling unsure how to implement these ideas to maximize student outcomes and leverage existing faculty talent.

3. Engendering buy-in for change:

Academic leaders want to implement initiatives that will transform their units but fail to muster support from key stakeholders.
Building Stakeholder Engagement Amidst Pressing Challenges

4. Budget models for your college:

Regardless of a university’s financial standing, deans are looking to maximize their college’s budget model and embrace cost-saving measures.

Align Resources with Institutional Goals Using Budget Models

5. Developing professional master’s programs:

Leaders struggle to launch new programs without knowing their value and feasibility. Leaders must consider their college’s value proposition, potential needs within the labor market, and student demands.

The Six Principles for Maintaining a Relevant Program Portfolio

The most effective deans are facing today’s challenges and opportunities head-on, developing strategic responses with their college’s mission and goals at the forefront. EAB’s Strategic Advisory Services for University Deans is designed to help leaders create impactful and enduring initiatives that position their college – and institution – for long-term success.

Chrysanthi Violaris

Chrysanthi Violaris

Analyst, Strategic Research

Read Bio

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