Higher Education for Development (3)
Consider the Baldridge Model in higher education PERSPECTIVES
By Prem Misir
Guyana Chronicle
April 9, 2007

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THE Government of Guyana heavily funds the University of Guyana.
Governments in many countries have initiated dramatic cutbacks in higher education budgets. Budget cuts now are becoming the norm in higher education in most developing countries.

Today, the public in many countries demand increasing efficiencies, greater accountability measures, and added sensitivity to stakeholder demands. In simple language, what has happened is that higher education has become vulnerable to the market dynamics of a consumer-driven economy.

One report suggests that the ‘university’ no longer holds the monopoly controlling where students enrol and what programme offerings are made. Under these circumstances, any university must address the needs of nation building. Given this situation, a critical issue that engulfs higher education then is the requirement for effective leadership.

However, universities have always demonstrated an enormous capacity, and frequently against all odds, to resist change and indeed, have been successful in accomplishing this. Today, effective leader behaviour is desired to quell this resistance to change.

The Perspectives in 1996 said: “It is no longer a question of whether institutions must change but who will do the recasting,” those currently in charge “or an increasingly competitive market…that holds little sympathy for institutional tradition.”

The Higher Education Digest posed this question: Should traditional definitions of higher education leadership be sustained, or should it be redefined to incorporate increased campus elements in sharing social responsibility and accountability? Any redefinition of leader behaviour would require leaders to identify the wide-ranging forces of change.

The University of Wisconsin-Stout (UW-Stout) used itself as a case study to identify the effectiveness of its leaders. UW-Stout has 8,000 students, 1,200 employees, and 450 faculty members. It has 27 undergraduate and 17 graduate programmes. In the 1990s, the university experienced fiscal restraint, especially when state government priorities moved from higher education to K-12 system, health, shared revenue, and corrections. The UW-Stout subsequently experienced a US$1.5 million budget reduction.

I want to now review how UW-Stout Chancellor Charles W. Sorensen, redefined leadership, creating systems of leader behaviour.

Sorensen applied the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award (MBNQA) as the framework for this action. This approach utilises seven criteria: (1) leadership (2) strategic planning (3) student, stakeholder and market focus (4) measurement, analysis and knowledge management (5) faculty and staff focus (6) process management and (7) organisational performance results. In this piece today, only the ‘leadership’ dimension would be briefly addressed.

As a response to the consequences and implications of fiscal restraint, the Chancellor working collaboratively with the University Council, faculty and other campus constituent groups, speedily made four significant changes: (1) creating a Chancellor’s Advisory Council (CAC), (2) creating open, inclusive planning, (3) creating an office of Budget, Planning and Analysis (BPA), and (4) creating the appointment of a chief information officer as part of the infrastructure for a digital campus.

The CAC is a 21-member body that includes every constituent campus group. This body meets bi-weekly to consider planning, budget matters, issue recommendations, and to communicate campus information.

The CAC gives each stakeholder an opportunity to influence campus decision, creating systems of leadership shared among all campus constituents.

The CAC’s success depends on team building to produce trust and a behavioural code of ethics.

The BPA has realigned the UW-Stout’s vision, mission, priorities, and budget. The Chancellor pointed out that they do not make an official priority happen without a budget for that priority. Ever since 1996, UW-Stout identified and funded 45 priorities: 81% to academic affairs, 18% to IT, and 1% to administrative affairs. The Chancellor noted that these statistics show their commitment to the educational mission.

The BPA also manages an open and participative strategic planning process. For instance, each year, there are nine facilitated group sessions, comprising of 30% faculty and staff. Ideas from all these sessions are recorded and presented to the CAC.

A chief information officer was hired to pilot a proposal to create a technology-intensive campus. The university is now a wired and wireless campus, producing a total digital campus. All students admitted are given a laptop computer financed through their tuition and fees. This is the e-scholar programme and all students were expected to be in this programme by the Fall of 2005. Faculty and staff are trained on web-based teaching techniques, and three web designers are at their disposal.

The IT facilitates a constant review of how efficient UW-Stout can become in delivering academic programmes. The Chancellor explained that not long ago, UW-Stout created a new School of Education without departments, solely a faculty of education. Some successes observed are: greater teamwork in programme and course delivery and an enhanced focus on the faculty of education, and not merely on an individual department. This strategy, the Chancellor noted, may help to maximise scarce resources.

Suggestions for action
Chancellor Sorensen believes that higher education requires a redefined leader behaviour -- that is, a more inclusive leadership style. Sorensen made five suggestions for action:

* redefine leader behaviour to include all stakeholders;

* use team building to sustain trust;

* create priorities linked to funding and methods of implementation;

* measure performance every three months;

* use the MBNQA criteria to determine what the university has and what the university wants.

The UW-Stout in 2001 was the first university to win the MBNQA in the United States. Understanding how the UW-Stout addressed its fiscal restraint and the impact of the 21st century demands on higher education governance, indeed, may be quite instructive for UG.