Scenario planning through the lens of a Student Services Manager

My decision making context:

I am reviewing the scenario through the lens of a manager for student services, specifically academic services, at a medium –size tertiary polytechnic. The polytechnic provides a range of vocationally based programmes both face-to-face, blended and online.

Overview of the scenario:

I chose to utilise the “Four Future Scenarios for Higher Education” (up to 2030) scenario planning document developed at the OECD/France International Conference. I chose scenario four – Higher Education Inc.

There is global competition to provide educational services on a commercial basis. Vocational institutions focus almost exclusively on teaching, with very little research outputs. Competition for students is fierce and institutions look internationally for their share of the market. The most successful open campuses in other countries and develop and sell their educational programmes to other institutions. This has resulted in a division of labour and specialisation, a scenario allowing the growth of specialised education providers in developing countries such as India. While English is the language of research and post-graduate studies, specialist vocational and under-graduate programmes are run in the local language of the provider.

Key drivers of change in this scenario include government policies and international agreements to open up educational opportunities to overseas students, thus encouraging international students to move for their education.

Support comes in the form of lower communication and transport costs to encourage student mobility, and positive immigration policies. With government support, institutions realise the commercial potential of marketing their institution internationally as an alternative education provider.

Brainstorm of potential decisions:

Student advisors would come from a range of cultural and language backgrounds
Provision of training and support in dealing with students from diverse backgrounds, and in the technologies to teach and support them
A reassessment of working hours if increasingly flexible provision of programmes is offered
Providing individualised learning plans that support the success and retention of students
Provision of student mentors to support the student’s educational ‘journey’
The accessibility of online resources, as seen through language and cultural filters
Decisions around how much English language teaching and support can be provided for international students
How to collaborate with colleagues in satellite campuses, sharing expertise and resources
Choosing the most appropriate technologies for communicating with and teaching students in distance learning programmes
Resolving the accessibility issues of student services to students in terms of information, locations and flexible means of support
Developing ways and means to orientate students to the host culture, educationally and socially

The two most important strategic decisions:

1. Resolving the accessibility issues of student services to students in terms of information, locations and flexible means of support. This is really important as in the competitive business model clients demand prompt, individualised service that meets their needs. If they don’t get it, they will go elsewhere. Being able to meet student needs in all areas, including student services, ensures a competitive advantage. That means making information and resources accessible to students in multilingual forms, and providing a comprehensive front-facing service both face-to-face and online.

2. Providing individualised learning plans is the second strategic decision. It provides the ability to track the progress of students, identifying issues that may affect their success and, as a consequence, the prestige of the institution. It is an important part of the package that offers a personalised, student-focused service and particularly necessary in supporting students to overcome language and cultural barriers. Learning plans can also move with students if they move from one campus to another.

Transferability of recommended decisions for the scenarios alternatives:

Both strategic decisions are crucial in the ‘Open networking’ scenario as it too is very internationalised, often delivering courses online and with students expected to work independently. There is less strategic importance on addressing accessibility issues for international students in the ‘Serving local communities’ scenario as anti-globalisation sentiments discourage international students in favour of local and national students. Both strategic decisions are relevant in the ‘New public responsibility’ scenario because institutions are more “attentive to the learning needs of students of all ages and with a wide range of learning needs.”


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