I recently came across a 2004 report from HEFCE - the Higher Education Funding Council for England - which outlines 15 key strategic challenges for higher education for 2005-2010. These strategic drivers were:

  • continuing expansion of student numbers - that is, increasing demand for education globally,
  • associated with this is the imperative to widen participation,
  • people issues - aging workforce, succession planning, performance management,
  • elearning - strategies to develop and maintain,
  • increasing the sustainability of physical resources,
  • continuing to raise the bar on governance and accountability,
  • sustainability and corporate social responsibility,
  • funding of institutions,
  • marketing - branding and positioning of institutions,
  • dealing with competition and collaboration,
  • enhancing the student experience, including improving service standards,
  • research management,
  • internationalisation,
  • enterprise and community interaction and engagement, and
  • embedding equality and diversity in institutional activities.

In the three years since the report has published, these drivers still take up most of our time in institutions. Their complexity and inter-connectedness means that making decisions about what to do to address any one of the drivers is not an easy task.

Would it make our task any easier, I wonder, if we consider the impact of these drivers beyond 2010? Listing them out is akin to stating the bleeding obvious, and talking about ways to address them today will provide only short-term solutions. If we systematically explored how these drivers might evolve out until 2020, and the impact they might have on each other, insights that provide long term solutions start to emerge.

I often hear people talk about now having enough time to think long term, but if we keep thinking short term, we will be very busy, but we won't be preparing for the future.