5 Strategies to Transform Your Institution from Dull to Dynamic

In our first part of the series ‘ Vibrant Varsities’,  we discussed the need for the Indian higher education sector to become flexible and what factors can lead to  this transformation.  We also reinforced how this is an opportune time for our universities to contribute to the knowledge and economy of our country.

But, the big questions that still haunt the universities are:  How do we achieve this flexibility? What changes do we make to become proactive? How do we ensure that the institution will continue to sustain the global challenges? These are precisely some concerns that this post will address. It will take you through the core education strategies that can help you to foster vibrancy and responsiveness in your institution.

Create an anti-bureaucratic structure

According to a British Council India report, education in India is highly politicized and complex, particularly in the post secondary sector.  The formal structures restrict the distribution of power and resources required to drive the flexibility and transparency at the university level.  The rigid bureaucracy also puts the reforms and innovation on the back seat. A nimbler and stronger institution can make a difference here. What an institution should do is to trim the extra layers to cultivate a flat and glib organizational structure. This will remove the barriers between the decision making body and the academic leaders, enabling quicker approvals for the adoption as well as the management of changes.

Develop a dynamic workforce

In a majority of universities, including the top tier ones, there are two prominent stumbling blocks in creating a vibrant workforce: lack of academic autonomy and uneven salary structure.  The faculty barely has an authoritative say in the matters such as courses, syllabi, project funding or any other academic interests. They are largely dependent on the deans or vice chancellors to take these decisions. Similarly, the leaders are not compensated adequately according to their experience and qualification.  The success and failure of transformation to quite an extent, depends on the trust between the academicians and administrators.  Together, they can instigate dynamism in the university culture.

Equitable salaries, team building activities, faculty training, well-defined job responsibilities, interdisciplinary learning and research opportunities can go a long way in motivating your workforce as well as aligning them to the institution’s vision.

Keep a vigilant eye on the market

When institutions become too complacent or show resistance towards market changes, it will hamper their ability to innovate and learn. Universities need to be vigilant about the local and international trends that affect their existence. They should also understand that benchmarking their standards against the top institutions across the globe is more relevant in today’s competitive environment. Analyzing the rival institutions on their strengths and weaknesses, learning from their mistakes and inspiring from their success make sound guiding points for devising a robust strategy for a responsive university. Similarly, keeping a watch on what is being written about your institution and the others can also give you a fair idea about what is happening around.  This will not only give you an outsider’s perspective on your brand image, but also enable to mute the pain points, if any.

Blend learning with technology

The education sector is undergoing a tectonic shift. Today’s tech-savvy students demand courses, which are flexible, realistic and personalized. It’s about time, that students are treated as customers. And customers are king. Hence,  universities should create learning spaces, which are more modular, interactive and competency based. A strategic investment in ICT tools can reap long term benefits in e- enabled learning, including online courses and MOOCs. This philosophy is reflected in the 12th Five Year Plan (2012 – 2017), which emphasizes on creation of teaching resources through leveraging information technology as well as creation of meta-university for multidisciplinary learning and innovation.

Implement Enterprise Education

These days, the employers have been increasingly stressing on the inclusion of subjects, which enhance employability, entrepreneurship or job creation opportunities for the students. Universities can respond to this demand by adopting an enterprising model for teaching and learning.  Such courses will enable the students to experience the industry work culture and develop life skills such as decision making, risk evaluation and problem solving. This way, universities will be able to bridge the demand – supply gap efficiently.

The traditional Indian higher education sector still has a strong foothold, and we should be proud of its roots. But, at the same time, we should also be ready to accept the ongoing changes in the worldwide education, which calls for the adoption of nimble practices. A sustainable, transformative and innovative approach can bring the deep structural and cultural changes required to create a vibrant university.

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