The “Forum for the Future of Higher Education” presented four major issues that higher education currently face to its conference participants. The issues included; increasing enrollment, budget cuts, expansion of distance learning programs, and institutional accountability. These issues challenge and confound institutions of higher education, especially with the looming budget cuts that they face. This paper will examine the effectiveness of; leadership, decision-making, funding, distance learning, and accountability. Organization and Governance
Governance is a process that permits people to work together (Birnbaum, 1988). When the institution’s governance structure serves its purpose it will encourage those involved to make a difference. If an institution aspires to be productive the principles of organization and governance should be employed. This will enable the respective institution of higher education to operate effectively. Some principles to incorporate in this model are; leadership, structure, and decision making.
Leadership should be treated as something identifiable, tangible, measurable, and efficacious (Birnbaum, p.22, 1988). The study of leadership is more difficult in colleges and universities than in other settings because of dual control systems, conflicts between professional and administrative authority, unclear goals, and the other unique properties of professional, normative organizations (Birnbaum, p.22, 1988). In particular, the relationship between those identified as leaders and those whom they presume to lead is problematic (Birnbaum, p.22, 1988). Colleges and universities need leaders and managers who can turn their visions into reality (McDade, p.1, 1988).
Decisions regarding budgets, curriculum, athletics, and student programs make leaders an essential part of higher education institutions. In higher education, there is a strong resistance to leadership, as it is generally understood in more traditional and hierarchical organizations. It may be more appropriate in most institutions to think of faculty as constituents rather than as followers (Birnbaum, pp. 22 -23, 1988).
In higher education structure is essential to achieve institutional effectiveness. The operation of higher education implements a system to operate institutions. “A system is an organized whole that has two or more interdependent parts (or subsystems) and is separated from its environment by a boundary” (Kast and Rosenzweig, 1973, as cited by Birnbaum, p.30, 1988). Systems are hierarchal; they are made up of smaller systems and are themselves parts of larger systems (Birnbaum, p.30, 1988). Tight and loose coupling are two types of systems used to describe how institutions of higher education are ran. Tight coupling is a systematic relationship between two or more components in which there is little or no “slack in the relationship (Alesch and Holly, p.3, n/d). Loose Coupling refers to connections between organizational subsystems that may be unimportant, or slow to respond (Weick, 1976, as cited by Birnbaum, p.38, 1988). Loose coupling is often been attacked as merely a slick way to describe waste, inefficiency, or indecisive leadership and as a convenient rationale for crawling pace of organizational change (Birnbaum, p.39, 1988).
The decision making process is a vital component in the realm of higher education. When decisions are not made for the betterment of the institution, it may cause a divide in the organizational structure. In addition, the institution may experience a turnover in faculty and administration due to the lack of organizational structure. Typically, the constituents who make decisions on behalf of the institution, are; senior level administrators, presidents, and the board of trustees. Rationality assumes that the purpose of decision making is to create outcomes that maximize the values of the decision maker (Birnbaum, p.57, 1988). An objectively rational administrator knows all the information, considers all the alternatives, evaluates and compares all sets of consequences, and then selects the best alternative (Birnbaum, p.57, 1988). Effective decision-making is critical for the success of an institution of higher education. If decisions for an institution are not made in the best interests of that institution, then individuals will perceive the institution as inefficient, in serving its respective campus. Institutions of higher education desire positive outcomes in decision making in order to retain credibility of the institution. Organizational Responses to Future Challenges
As challenges in the field of higher education occur, these changes greatly impact an institution structure. This was a topic of discussion during the higher education forum. The areas of concern discussed included; increasing enrollments, looming budget cuts, expanding distance learning opportunities, and responding to increasing demands for accountability. If an institution is exploring the option of increasing enrollment, then the institution should be running effectively. Another area of concern when expanding an institution is ensuring there is an adequate number of faculty and administrators. This is so institutions may adequately accommodate the projected increase in the number of students enrolled at the institution.
The benefits of a collegial institution are; the right to participate in institutional affairs, membership in “a congenial and sympathetic company of scholars in which friendships, good conversation, and mutual aid can flourish,” and the equal worth of knowledge in various fields that precludes preferential treatment of faculty in different disciplines (Birnbaum, p.87, 1988). In a collegial institution, the president and board members work together to solve issue. Input from faculty and administrators are also taken into consideration when decisions are made. The essence of leadership in a collegial group is displaying marked conformity to group expectations (Birnbaum, p.103, 1988). In a collegial institution, the campus community would be able to voice their concerns about the feasibility of increasing enrollment. At a political institution the topic of increasing enrollment would be strategized by the senior level administration. Due to the structure of the institution, input from other constituents would be limited to middle management such as directors or department chairs.
Funding during these challenging economic times, presents difficulties for many organizations, especially institutions of higher education. As a result, government funding has been cut in many areas of higher education. Overcoming this obstacle is challenging, especially when trying to increase enrollment. In a report released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a “research organization in Washington”, says that 21 states were expecting budget shortfalls totaling nearly $9-billion for the fiscal year that started July 1, – an amount the center expects to grow as the nation deals with the continuing effects of the Wall Street meltdown, the housing slump, high unemployment, and low consumer confidence (Kelderman, p.1, 2008). At the same time, state and local governments are suffering more from inflation than the overall economy. The report says, with the costs of goods and services jumping 6.6 percent in the second quarter (Kelderman, p.2, 2008).
Funding in the collegial institution would be a collaborative effort. Due to the structure of the model, the faculty and administration compile recourses from the surrounding community, donors, and alumni. In a collegial institution, the majority of the campus community is afforded the opportunity to participate in the advancement of the institution.
For political institutions, funding resources would be left predominately to the president and senior level administration. Political processes in budget formulation simplify calculations and usually lead to outcomes acceptable to a majority of stakeholders (Birnbaum, p.138, 1988). Overcoming funding obstacles should not be as challenging for political institutions due to the structure because the campus community works collaboratively. Distance learning within students of higher education is increasing due to the fact it is convenient for students to enroll in courses. The courses meet students schedule demands, and scholars may achieve their educational goals without traveling to a land institution. Distance learning enrollments have increased significantly.
Online course delivery is beginning to augment telecourse and videoconference courses (“Distance Learning In North Carolina”, p.1, and n/d). Through technology, students may access recourses such as; the online library, chatting with professors and classmates via chat, and scheduling courses. Collegial institutions embrace suggestions about how to expand the institution from the campus community and the individuals that surround it. Integrating distance education in a collegial institution should not propose an issue. Typically, at political institutions, students are afforded the opportunity to voice their concerns. In response, the administration examines the proposed issues, and investigates ways to implement institutional change for the students benefit.
Accountability in higher education is a key factor in having a successful institution. Higher education institutions and systems have four choices in terms of increasing or maintaining funding at levels with inflation. These choices are; continue to increase tuition and fees, eliminate programs and close some institutions, reorganize or restructure to gain efficiencies, or redesign educational delivery systems to achieve economies of scale (Grantham, p.2, 1999). The accountability of faculty and administrators is vital to ensure learning occurs inside and outside of the classroom.
In a collegial institution accountability lies with the president. Since members of a collegial body are presumed to be equals, their leader is appointed (Birnbaum, p.89, 1988). The campus community looks to the president for guidance and ensures they will make proactive decisions for the institution.
Accountability in political systems depend on social exchange and therefore, on mutual dependence (Birnbaum, p.132, 1988). The power of any party depends to some extent on the value of that party’s contribution to the political community and the extent to which such a contribution is available from other sources (Bacharach and Lawler, 1980 as cited by Birnbaum, p.132, 1988). In other words, middle and upper level faculty and administration would be held to a higher degree of accountability than those colleagues that are not in this job classification. Conclusion
As higher education deals with challenges of governance and budget cuts, having an effective leadership team is essential for a successful institution of higher education. Additionally, it is important for the leadership team of an institution to make conscience and effective decisions for the benefit of the institution. The challenges presented by forum may be applied, and institutions may see result of outcomes if the respective institution of higher education overcomes obstacles to achieve institutional effectiveness.
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Kelderman, E. (2008, October 14). Fresh round of state budget cuts hits higher education. Retrieved from http://www.chronicle.com/article/Fresh-Round-of-State-Budget/1244 McDade, S. A. (1988). Leadership in higher education. Eric Digest, 1-7.