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Expertise in Support of Mission Centered Institutions

It is an insight seldom proclaimed but quietly understood in the candor of any college or university leadership group: “No margin, no mission.” However great the intrinsic value of higher education’s societal missions, succeeding in those purposes requires both strategy and a stable financial ledger. In tough times institutional mission can too often play second chair to the revenue stream. Market success becomes the goal in itself rather than the instrument of fulfilling public purpose. The academic community is being fractured into a collection of semi-autonomous business units, each adept at securing its own funds to pursue its own agenda.

Launched by the University of Pennsylvania, The Learning Alliance for Higher Education was formed as a possible answer to this conundrum. It aims to strike the balance between academic pursuits and the realities of the market by coupling the academic community's traditional leadership skills with the kind of expertise that focuses on markets, technology, and management practices.

The organizations that have come together to form The Learning Alliance include: higher education research centers at Stanford University, the University of Michigan, and the University of Pennsylvania; major organizations that have focused on public policy and institutional practice; as well as for-profit enterprises.

Joining institutions have rapid access to more than 60 experts on the staffs of the organizations plus an additional 30 outside specialists. Our assumption is that if the expertise we provide helps on the management side of the equation, the institutions and their leadership will increase both their human and financial investments in programs that pursue their academic missions.

The service builds strong personal relationships through frank and candid telephone conversations. When a senior leader at a subscribing institution has a problem, he or she gets on the phone and begins working with a seasoned professional skilled in the issues confronting that institution.

The realities of diminished resources have dominated many of our initial calls: strategies for staff reductions, for expanding entrepreneurial income without distorting the institution's mission, and for finding alternate sources for financing new buildings when public bonding authority is no longer available. Other questions reflect more traditional concerns: the launching of an effective strategic planning process, the remaking of academic governance, and the integration of new modes of learning and technology.

Alliance users are large and small, public and private. What made them willing experimenters was the possibility of making better, more timely decisions. From the perspective of The Learning Alliance, however, neither better market decisions nor improved management practices will prove sufficient. The ultimate test is whether subscribing institutions learn to use the funds derived from being market smart as the financial wherewithal for remaining mission centered.

Please contact us to learn more.