Quality Endeavors No. 153

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November 2012

The annual conference of the National Consortium for Continuous Improvement in Higher Education (NCCI) provides an opportunity to share information across universities about initiatives to advance academic and administrative excellence. Over 100 individuals from 64 institutions and organizations in the United States, Canada, England, South Africa, New Zealand, and Abu Dhabi met in July 2012.

Kumble Subbaswamy, Chancellor of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, opened the conference by highlighting the evolving intersection between the academic and business aspects of higher education, as government funding decreases, reliance on tuition increases, and there is an emphasis on reducing costs. One solution to this is an increased reliance on technology, but, as pointed out by Amara’s Law we may expect too much too soon from technology. Also as we move ahead, we need to balance access with the maintenance of quality as we address the issues of learning, credentialing, the value of residential education, and transferability of credit. Subbaswamy shared Epic 2020 with the group as a possible future scenario for higher education.

Universities at the conference provided information on how they are addressing some of the issues raised by Chancellor Subbaswamy. Among the highlights:

The University of California, Berkeley has launched its Operational Excellence (OE) program. The mission of OE is to “support UC-Berkeley’s world-class teaching and research with world-class administrative support.” Goals include achieving financial sustainability through simpler organizational structure, lower cost procurement of quality goods and services, efficient policies and procedures, and new tools and practices. OE includes numerous specific projects across the university, including energy management, procurement, information technology governance, and one-stop student services.

The University of Virginia is in the process of developing a new internal financial model. The goal is to have a budget model that will empower schools and units to be innovative, cost efficient and entrepreneurial. The model will emphasize transparent decision-making, incentive-based allocations and prudent stewardship of university resources. Resource centered management (RCM), also referred to as activity-based budgeting, will enable U.Va. to align their resources more precisely with the core mission of education, research, patient care and service. Responsiveness to the challenges of the current financial environment as well as embracing upcoming opportunities will be a key to the university’s success in the future. The initiative which began in 2011 is being realized in conjunction with the next two budget development cycles and is expected to be in place by 2014.

As a means to provide a coordinated response to the interest in accountability, assessment, and change in higher education, Rutgers University has continued to work with and has refined the model for its Mission Alignment, Assessment, and Planning (MAAP) system. MAAP centers on six broadly-defined undergraduate education goals: 1) Student Recruitment; 2) Rutgers Support and Pride; 3) Personal and Professional Development; 4) Academic Degree; 5) Progress to Degree; and 6) Post-Graduation Success. Units first identify which of their goals align with the university’s undergraduate goals. Then they assess how well their aligned unit goals are being met. As a third step, units develop plans to better meet their and the university’s goals.

Mo Qayoumi, President of San Jose State University, closed the conference with observations that may apply to institutions of higher education as much as they apply to individual students. In terms of scope of change, inventing is like an individual sport, similar to dropping a pebble in the water. Innovation comes as a team sport, when the pebble dropped in the water makes ripples. Entrepreneurship produces waves. Some say that students go to college to get a ‘real’ job. The future may be that students go to college to be able to create their own jobs.