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    A blog from the Center for International Higher Education

9 Common Errors of New World Class Universities- Consolidation Pitfalls
April 2, 2011 - 2:45pm

Editor's note: This week's blog is an addendum to a blog posted last year. As with all initiatives, different strategies are needed for initiating and sustaining world class institutions. What follows are recommendations for sustaining these initiatives.

The earlier blog can be read here.

In my previous blog about the type of errors that are commonly made when attempting to establish a world-class institution, I focused on obstacles usually encountered at the beginning of the enterprise. In today’s blog, I outline three common errors likely to happen at a later stage, when the new flagship institution has already been operating for a few years and has reached a sort of steady state. This second category of errors could be described as “consolidation pitfalls”.

1. Lose sight of your core mission. As new institutions grow in both number and size, the risk of academic drift increases at the same time. Larger enrollments, accompanied by adequate human and financial resources to maintain quality and relevance, can be healthy as long as the institution is able to maintain its core academic focus with regards to its key elements of comparative advantage. Unfortunately, institutions sometimes lose sight of their core mission or niche areas of expertise and start expanding into programs and disciplines that are not directly related to their original sphere of academic strength. This can lead to financial drains on the institution and imbalances in the overall tertiary systems in which the institution operates. It is, therefore, imperative that all new program initiatives be examined within the context of the institutions’ strategic plan.

2. Become complacent. As new institutions expand and achieve positive results, they may find themselves becoming too comfortable in their activities. It is easy to become complacent, on the assumption that what has been accomplished is good enough and likely to satisfy future needs without any adjustment. This is a recipe for mediocrity and, sometimes, failure. The mark of truly innovative institutions is their capacity to challenge and reinvigorate themselves continuously, seeking ways of improving their programs, curricula and pedagogical approaches in both proactive and reactive ways.

3. Don’t plan for orderly institutional succession. New institutions often owe much of their success to the exceptional leadership qualities of their founder: that leader’s ability to inspire, mobilize and show the way is always a determining cause of positive development. Over the long run, however, this element of strength can evolve into a limiting factor if the leader does not put in place autonomous management structures throughout the institution and does not make provisions for orderly transition procedures. The top management team should always seek to institutionalize the criteria and process for selection of future leaders.


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