Lucubrate Magazine, Issue 43, October 19th, 2018
It can be a formidable, revealing as well as exciting and certainly necessary part of any higher education institution’s regular planning and improvement agenda, to engage in open discussions with its key stakeholders. Students, alumni, staff, community groups, industry and professions, as well as government are all stakeholders in higher education.
Stakeholders Are or Will be Affected by What Education Institutions Do and Produce
It could be said that in small developing countries where there is just one education institution providing this level of learning, all these stakeholders stand to gain (or lose) a lot, based on how well their higher education institution contributes to and positively transforms the human, social and economic condition of the country. In some way or another all these stakeholder groups are or will be affected by what it does and produces. Further, many will be able to support that institution achieve its government mandate of meeting the human resource needs of the country and so it augurs well for it to listen to and potentially incorporate what the various stakeholders have to say.
Stakeholder engagement usually involves communicating with stakeholders about an institution’s achievements to date and plans for the future as well as asking their views about both, especially the latter. Stakeholder feedback can then be appropriately factored into the change management process.
What Do You Think the University Needs to Improve On?
I recently facilitated a series of stakeholder focus group discussions with students, recent graduates, staff, industry, professional and community groups, as well as Ministry officials on behalf of a young national University. The overarching broad question asked of all groups was: what do you think the University needs to improve on?
The discussions were incredibly insightful and reinforced the high expectations that exist in developing countries for its national University to make a real, constructive difference to the lives of its citizens.
The Future Development Of the University
All stakeholders, without prompting, identified the same issues as being critical to the future development of the University.
- The quality of the courses being delivered
- The quality of the resources, technology and equipment that support the delivery of the courses
- The quality of the academic staff who design and deliver the courses
- The quality of the students being accepted into the courses
- The quality of the graduates being produced
I would suggest that it’s a list relevant to most higher education institutions around the globe.
The Importance Of the Quality Of the Academics
For students, the area they rated as most important was the quality of the academic staff and the teaching-learning experience. They expected the academics to be knowledgeable and up to date in their discipline and able to deliver content relevant to the real world in an engaging and motivating way.
For staff, the area rated most highly was the quality of students coming into the university. They expected the standard of entry to be at least comparable to other universities in their region and highlighted the significance of prospective students having requisite good literacy standards.
For industry and community groups, the quality of the courses being delivered was rated highest, with particular reference to ensuring the curriculum is reviewed regularly to keep it contemporary. They were also vocal about the importance of embedding graduate attributes alongside knowledge learning outcomes and providing students with multiple work-based learning opportunities.
For Ministry officials, there was no single most important area highlighted. All five areas were seen as equally significant and interrelated. Understandably they emphasized the role the University must play in helping meet the challenges for the country and commented on the importance of research in doing this and in developing an identity for the University. They expected the University to provide leadership and develop the country’s talent.
Work Toward Truly Transforming the Human, Social and Economic Condition Of the Society
I have been involved in several such exercises in four different countries over the past few years. Most of the universities involved responded positively and genuinely to the stakeholder feedback. There was an overarching acknowledgement from university senior staff that the views raised – some of which were hard to hear, were shared within a spirit of concern and respect for the future potential of their university.
A positive response to such a necessary organizational process, which results in real change at the operational level shows real leadership. It has in the majority of instances led to a sincere offer on the part of various stakeholders to support the University to continuously improve and work toward truly transforming the human, social and economic condition of the society.
Lucubrate Magazine, Issue 43, October 19th, 2018
The photo on top: yanlev