Eduvation Blog

Strategies for a Post-Pandemic Future


Good morning!

This week, I’ve been enjoying the opportunity to engage with the international leadership team at LCI Education Network, and to think about some “big picture” strategic issues. Some recent ideas about strategy and several examples of new strategic plans will be the focus today – but first, some pandemic updates.

If you haven’t heard yet, in addition to the vaccine China has been rolling out before bothering with clinical trials, now Russia has approved TWO vaccines, as the country hit a new daily record of cases. Canada recorded a record 3,416 cases yesterday, boosted by Thanksgiving weekend numbers from BC and Alberta, but offset somewhat by testing limitations in Ontario and Quebec. (Quebec is still tracking cases at 3x the per capita rate in Ontario, and about 6x the rate in Saskatchewan and BC.)

Of course, we’re all holding our collective breaths to see how bad the damage will be from Thanksgiving travel – but we won’t know until Hallowe’en. That’s the joy of the epidemiological time lag:

If more people really understood the 2-4 week lag, perhaps we could stop being so obsessed with daily wins or losses in test results. Ultimately what really matters will be the burden on Emergency departments and ICUs.


COVID on Campus

Since yesterday, CdnPSE have seen a few more cases, UK universities may impose a pre-Christmas lockdown, and the New York Times reports more than 178,000+ cases on US campuses since the pandemic began…

uAlabama head football coach Nick Saban and athletic director Greg Byrne has reportedly tested positive for COVID19. The team played uMississippi last week, who has had a recent outbreak.  Newsweek

uCalgary-adjacent Foothills Medical Centre has been rocked by a major COVID19 outbreak that has sparked 86 infections (45 patients, 36 healthcare workers, and 5 visitors). Since Sep 19, 313 workers have had to isolate, and 11 patients have died of the virus. Calgary Herald

Drury U (MO) reports a custodian has died of COVID19.  Springfield News-Leader

England’s universities minister is proposing a 2-week pre-Christmas lockdown (Dec 8-22) during which students would remain on campus and all classes be delivered online, before more than a million return home for the holidays. Students under quarantine would not be allowed to leave until completing it. VCs say they do not have the authority to confine students.  The Guardian

uFlorida has suspended football practice after 19 players tested positive for COVID19 – and just days after the head coach urged the administration to permit 90,000 fans at the home game this Saturday.  Independent Florida Alligator

uGuelph has reported a 3rd case on campus.  uGuelph

McMaster U reports a 6th case of COVID19 on campus this fall, involving a “student employee” who was last on campus Oct 2.  McMaster

Western U, the hardest-hit CdnPSE campus so far, was in the news again yesterday as “residence parking lots were bustling as students returned to a campus that had been deserted most of the weekend.” The local PHO told CBC, “To hear that a lot of people went home for Thanksgiving, that’s disappointing.” CBC


“To hear that a lot of people went home for Thanksgiving, that’s disappointing… We know for sure that will cause cases and potentially outbreaks elsewhere. You have a residence that’s in outbreak, that means people would have been infected last week and now they’re going home to family, so that’s concerning.”Chris Mackie, Medical Officer of Health, Middlesex-London Health Unit


“A critical risk is a large number of infected students seeding outbreaks across the UK, influencing national transmission… Peak health impacts of these new infections and outbreaks they spark would coincide with the Christmas and new year period, posing a significant risk to both extended families and local communities.”Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, UK



Rethinking Strategy in a Pandemic

The Chronicle’s Goldie Blumenstyk observes that colleges need to re-evaluate their historical “strategic edge,” and labour market forecasts, in light of the pandemic’s social and economic impacts. Strategies from prior recessions or crises may not work in the COVID context. Focus on new programs that can be managed by already overstretched employees and institutional budgets. She points to Fort Lewis College (CO), which reopened for F2F instruction but also ramped up online, is preparing new health and nursing programs, and saw a 4% increase in enrolment this fall. (In part, students were attracted to the remote location to escape the urban pandemic.)  Chronicle

Technology, Not Campus Amenities

A survey of 122 North American higher ed business leaders in August found that many were asking whether their existing business model will stay viable post-COVID, and are looking to “recalibrate” but not pursue radical change. Immediate changes were most likely in WFH policies, IT, automation, space utilization and shared services. Technology is now clearly recognized as a core competency that must be central to institutional strategy, and investments are required in online instruction, ERP, CRM and LMS platforms. The traditional residential campus model and investments in new facilities will be “de-prioritized” by many respondents: the “amenities arms race” may finally be over. Finally, some are rethinking “intricate revenue cross-subsidies” from international student and residence income, in favour of more transparent and agile budgeting.  EAB

Fightin’ Words from a Retired VC

Australian universities have suffered massive international enrolment drops, job cuts and deficits, and face threatened research programs and government cutbacks. Post-pandemic, however, they will have “a pivotal opportunity to rethink their institutions,” writes Warren Bebbington, former VC at uAdelaide. COVID19 “wrenched online learning modes from the fringe… to the core,” which will “profoundly affect the way forward.” The ideal blend of “asynchronous screen segments” and “synchronous group interactions,” on-campus and online, will need to be developed for every program, along with “more liberal leave of absence and progress rules.” Universities may have to focus on narrower missions, “and the fundamentally inefficient calendar for use of campus facilities will be no longer defensible.” Bebbington also suggests future academics might source work from fractional contracts. (With controversial suggestions like that, you can tell he’s a retired president.)   Campus Morning Mail

Strategic Plans

Several CdnPSEs have launched strategic plans in recent weeks, and there are certainly some themes in common…

uCalgary Aims to be “Unstoppable”

uCalgary president Ed McCauley unveiled a plan for the future, Unstoppable, at a town hall on Tuesday. Despite significant “headwinds” (like losing a projected $100M in provincial funding from 2019-2023), it aims to make uCalgary “the entrepreneurial university,” by focusing on transdisciplinary scholarship, deeper integration with industry and the community, and future-focused program delivery with expanded flexibility and customizability in teaching modes, modular programs and microcredentials. 4 areas of focus will include life sciences, energy transformations, city building, and exploring digital worlds. Specifics include moving to a “less departmentalized structure,” corporate training and “expertise on retainer,” incentivizing commercialization, rigorous program review (prioritization), and expanding online and stackable certificates. The plan also proposes assessing “possible mergers, acquisitions or partnerships with online institutions” or platforms. Over the next 10 years, success will include $2B in revenue, 37,000 students, and being ranked a top 5 university.  uCalgary

Carleton will be a “Force for Good”

Carleton U has launched its new 5-year strategic integrated plan, Shape the Future, after a year-long engagement process. Its aspiration is to “leverage the power of higher education to be a force for good.” The triangular shape of the campus “anchors our aspirations” in 3 strategic directions: Share Knowledge, Shape the Future; Serve Ottawa, Serve the World; and Strive for Wellness, Strive for Sustainability. Specific strategies emphasize personal wellness, sustainability, Indigenous reconciliation, interdisciplinarity, community engagement and partnerships, and “approaching teaching with imagination and new expectations.” (Specifically experiential learning, high-impact practices, Indigenization, and rewarding innovation and excellence in teaching and learning.)  Carleton

Holland College “Shapes the Future”

PEI’s Holland College has launched its new strategic plan, Shaping Futures, as a “bold path of action” to empower diverse, student-focused learning, strengthen communities, and support future prosperity. “Inspiring Today. Creating Tomorrow.” Key goals include innovative and flexible programming; enhanced diversity, wellness and Indigenous relations; climate leadership; and corporate innovation (through applied research, marketing, employee development, and technology). Some specific tactics include industry and community partnerships, cross-disciplinary experiences, a program review for “sustainability and alignment with strategic areas of applied considerations,” distance and part-time learning options, degree pathways and post-grad diplomas, rewarding teaching excellence, a new student support centre, UDL, incentivizing active and public transportation, retrofitting lighting, develop internal communications, and enhance branding.  Holland

Decision-Making Tools

Supporting students, staff and faculty in understanding confusing restrictions that are in constant flux has posed some real challenges to PSE communicators, but some of the best solutions have leveraged the power of infographics…

Return to Campus at-a-Glance

Ontario Tech U launched a simple and clear “Return to on-Campus at a Glance” chart on their website in early August, which highlights the current stage of re-opening across 14 distinct categories, including campus access, course delivery, fitness facilities, food services, the library and more. Currently much of the reopening is at Stage 3, except for services and staff working remotely, a ban on campus gatherings, and travel restrictions still in effect.  Ontario Tech

uCalgary Decision Tree

In one of the most attractive decision flowcharts I’ve seen this year, uCalgary has consolidated COVID19 Isolation Guidance for staff and students in a new single-page graphic (above). To return to campus, you must not be feeling sick, have tested positive, or been exposed to someone who has either tested positive themselves, or been exposed to someone else who has tested positive.  uCalgary

BCIT Publishes Scenarios & Responses

BCIT has developed yet another comprehensive document for the campus community, this time a 40-page Pandemic Scenario Response Plan that provides a “road map” to help ensure consistent and informed responses and decision-making, and help BCIT staff know what to say, do, and whom to notify under various scenarios. The 10 scenarios include international arrivals, symptomatic individuals, positive test results, close contacts of someone who has tested positive, PHO notifications, and various complaints and concerns. (Additional scenarios include PPE shortages, disregard for precautions, staff shortages, a death on campus, and more.) Responses range from “pinpoint precision” and isolation “micro” to ramp-down, pause, or shutdown in the case of more widespread or uncontrollable outbreaks.  BCIT



Leadership with Heart!

Huron UC (affiliated with Western U) recently uploaded a 1-min vid that launches “The Heart of Huron Campaign 2020,” a $25M fundraising effort to support a new academic building and expanded scholarships. The vid also describes how the launch of the “Leadership with Heart” brand 3 years ago quadrupled first-choice applicants, increased overall enrolment 30%, and raised their admissions average so that it is now “the highest… in the entire country.” (Congratulations guys!)  YouTube


Thanks for reading. Stay safe and be well!

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