Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

Instituting a New Degree Program: A Case Study of University Planning

Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

Instituting a New Degree Program: A Case Study of University Planning

Article excerpt

Change in higher education rests on the skills of administrators and their knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of various planning approaches described in this case study.

THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR MANAGING and improving institutions of higher education rests directly on administrators: core university administrators, college and school deans, department chairs, and program leaders. Improvement, therefore, rests to a significant extent on these administrators' basic knowledge and technical skills related to planning, change, and reform. However, many individuals coming into these leadership positions have graduated from discipline-based academic programs that rarely focus on such knowledge or skills. This can create weaknesses that tend to handicap improvement efforts designed for institutional development. To help inform emerging leaders in higher education, this article presents a brief case study of a university that used a variety of planning approaches to plan a new academic program.


UNESCO (n.d., p. 9) defines planning as the "intellectual anticipation of possible future situations, the selection of desirable situations to be achieved (objectives) and the determination of relevant actions that need to be taken in order to reach those objectives at a reasonable cost." As far back as the early 20th century, Frederick Taylor (1911) called for the establishment of planning offices in factories to improve organizational efficiency. Shortly thereafter in 1916, Henri Fayol (1949) classified planning as one of the five key roles of administrators, who should forecast trends, set objectives, and link organizational efforts to those objectives.

Unless it is properly implemented, modified as needed based on continuous feedback, and eventually institutionalized into the organization's culture and routines, even the best plan is of little consequence. It must also be recognized that institutions of higher education have many established mechanisms for effecting change, some of which require little to no formal planning. For example, likely the most significant change a university can make in a student's education is the change of a faculty member. In most cases, this requires little, if any, new planning. The process is well established, understood, and accepted, and it is generally codified in the human resource policy manual. It is part of the institution's repertoire of defined operational processes.

The past two decades have seen a massive consolidation of institutions of higher education, which is clearly a circumstance that warrants the use of an institution-wide planning approach (Anderson 2014; Fleming and O'Leary 2015; Marcus 2013; McBain 2012; University of Arizona 2014). Why is this occurring? In many cases, it comes down to a question of financial resources and shifting enrollments. All institutions are challenged to cut costs, keep tuition low, and still serve students, parents, and employers well. Such large-scale change may also be due to shifts in economics, politics, technology, and demographics. Further, issues of scale enter into this phenomenon.

College deans, under pressure from funding that does not match growing enrollments, find themselves with limited flexibility to manage the changes demanded in increasing and/or shifting capability. These same demands require programmatic changes that, as the curriculum shifts, can necessitate painful personnel adjustments. A scarcity of appropriate and capable faculty creates serious issues as well. Whole colleges have been forced to merge due to shifting enrollments and financial limitations (Hare 2013; The Ohio State University, n.d.).

Mergers of departments are more common than mergers of institutions or of colleges and schools as they are less complex and generally driven by student enrollment patterns or new conceptualizations of content fields. In some cases, as departments grow in the number of students and faculty, it can lead to the separation of the department's programs into two or more separate departments, requiring an adjustment of resources and resulting in conflict (Boyd 2014; San Jose State University College of Social Sciences 2016. …

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