Strat Plans

As a higher ed brand strategist and a frequent contributor to environmental scans and strategic planning processes for colleges and universities across North America, I find it interesting to scan through new strategic plan documents looking for unique strategies, whether big ideas or small details that might be overlooked. Here are some capsule summaries I have included in prior issues of my daily newsletter, the Eduvation Insider. (Click the thumbnails to go to the full strat plans.)

Acadia University

Sustainability & Impact

NOV 2020: Acadia U’s new strategic plan was approved by the board just 1 week before COVID19 closed the campus in March, but was unveiled Nov 27. Acadia 2025 emphasizes a commitment to holistic, transformative liberal education, preparing students for a “transforming world,” and outlines 5 strategic directions “of equal and interchangeable value.” Caring for students and employees includes “inclusion, service excellence, and leadership.” Revitalizing the academic core means “compelling and impactful programs, experiential learning, and inspired teaching,” faculty interaction and undergrad research opportunities. Maximizing Acadia’s impact includes community engaged research, innovation, regional cultural and economic collaborations. Institutional sustainability means optimizing enrolment, sustained fundraising, energy efficiency, and infrastructure renewal. Research themes and environmental stewardship are entwined in rural and coastal research, climate change and sustainability, and will be “signature institutional features of Acadia.”

Aurora College

Strengthening the Foundation

OCT 2020: Northwest Territories’ Aurora College launched a 3-year strategic plan in October, to begin its transition to a polytechnic university, “rooted in strong connections to Northern land, tradition, community and people.” Its 4 interconnected strategic pillars start with academic and research excellence, enhancing pedagogy, assessment and supports and strengthening the relationship between research and teaching. (Structural changes will be required, and new units will be guided by an Academic Plan and a Research plan “that support multiple ways of learning and knowing” and is focused on “Northern research priorities.”) Aurora will also be learning-centred, supporting their majority Indigenous student population with adaptive, tailored programs and expanded, holistic supports to ensure success and inclusion. (A SEM plan will be developed and implemented.) The college will establish and strengthen co-investment partnerships with the NWT, Indigenous governments, communities, industry, NGOs and other academic institutions. Finally, Aurora will pursue organizational effectiveness through integrated planning, transparency, accountability, and continuous quality improvement.  

University of Calgary


OCT 2020: uCalgary president Ed McCauley unveiled a plan for the future, Unstoppable, at a town hall in October. 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. 

Carleton University

A Force for Good

OCT 2020: 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.)

Confederation College

Building Common Ground

OCT 2020: Confederation College’s 2020-25 Strategic Plan, Kaa-anokaatekin, means “work that is now carried” (or “building on past success”), and as its name suggests, Indigenous reconciliation is a strong theme throughout. The 3 values are admirably concise (Courage, Equity, and Relationships), as are the 4 strategic pillars. First and foremost, Confed is committed to student access and success, and plans to expand flexible programming and pathways, employment supports, early alert and intervention systems. It aspires to be a Canadian leader in Indigenous learning, embedding Indigenous knowledges, cultures and languages in the fabric of the college, increasing Indigenous staff and faculty, embracing the Negahneewin Vision, and implementing the Mino Wiijiiwidowin (“Good Relations”) model (developed collaboratively with SK Polytech). Goals for institutional excellence include efficiency and transparency, renewing facilities, “refreshing and unifying marketing strategies to support recruitment and enrolment,” and developing a COVID19 recovery plan. Finally, the college will drive prosperity and quality of life for diverse communities, meeting employer training and applied research needs, and engaging alumni. 

Durham College

Together, We’re Leading the Way

MAY 2020: Durham College (ON) launched its 2020-23 strategic plan along with a refreshed vision and brand, Together, We’re Leading the Way, near the beginning of the COVID19 pandemic in May 2020. “We’re not just putting the student experience first, we’re reinventing it,” and DC’s new vision is “inspiring learners to create success for themselves and their communities through the best in innovative and transformative education.” The plan’s 4 pillars are timeless (students, people, work and community). DC will “provide exceptional learning experiences that create opportunities for students to build resilience, competence, personal capacity and life-enhancing skills,” through experiential learning, applied research, transferable and durable skills, and lifelong learning. DC will invest in employees and “empower them to be entrepreneurial, innovative and strategic,” along with the usual commitments to diversity, wellbeing and respect. DC will foster an environment of “idea generation, bold leadership and purposeful innovation” in teaching, learning and applied research; enhance the student experience through “transformational programs, services and systems”; and “reimagine and grow our facilities to be more flexible, accessible and progressive.” And DC will partner with industry, government, community and alumni, expand volunteer opportunities, strengthen relationships with Indigenous communities, and “drive the economic, social and environmental success of our community, locally and globally.” 

University of the Fraser Valley

IYAQAWTWX (House of Transformation)

FEB 2021: U Fraser Valley (BC) launched its 2021-26 strategic plan, IYAQAWTWX (House of Transformation) in Feb 2021, building on its Vision, Mission, and Values established in 2019, and particularly its three-fold mission: “Engaging Learners, Transforming Lives, and Building Community.” UFV will engage learners by “thinking outside the usual boxes,” through indigenization and inclusion, interdisciplinarity, and active/experiential learning and research opportunities. UFV will transform lives by providing opportunities for everyone “to discover, develop, and share their gifts,” prioritizing “the health and well-being of our community members and our ecosystems,” “centering Stó:lo ways of knowing and being,” and expanding student pathways. And UFV will actively build community through its academic programs and scholarly activity, meaningful partnerships, and by preparing “ethical and engaged global citizens who redress historical injustices.” UFV is committed to achieving the TRC and UNDRIP calls to action, and will “create opportunities for the world to positively interact with the Fraser Valley” and vice-versa.  

Holland College

Shaping Futures

OCT 2020: 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. 

Mount St Vincent University

Strength Through Community

Jan 2021: Mount St Vincent U (NS) launched its 2021-28 strategic plan, Strength Through Community, in Jan 2021 as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2023. The 7-year plan has 7 key themes, including some shared by most plans this year: EDI, TRC, community engagement, well-being, and operational sustainability (through data-driven decision-making, SEM planning, attracting investment, and enhancing collaboration). MSVU will also promote “an inclusive, dynamic, current and personalized teaching and learning environment focusing on nurturing informed, critical, socially responsible and socially just global citizens.” And it will enhance and expand research, scholarship and professional activity among faculty, staff and students, “especially as it relates to the advancement of women, girls and other marginalized and underrepresented groups,” and specifically through community-based research and undergraduate research opportunities. MSVU aims to be “the study and work destination of choice for marginalized and underrepresented groups and their allies,” including African Nova Scotian, Indigenous, disability and 2SLGBTQIA+ communities, and building on its historical foundation advancing higher ed for women and girls. (MSVU’s plan is one of the few dedicating a full page to acknowledging its own historical connections to the Indian Residential School system, and explicitly mentioning missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.)

University of New Brunswick

Expansion on Every Front

MAY 2020: UNB Toward 2030 emphasizes research strength, financial and environmental sustainability, engagement in community debate, and transformative educational experiences, innovative and interdisciplinary programs, and experiential learning. UNB seeks to double research funding, focus on major societal challenges, expand grad students to 25% of enrolment, and support Indigenous research methods. It also plans to expand online microcredentials, expand partnerships for professional learning opportunities and research collaborations, advance EDI and diversity in campus leadership, and “invest strategically to tell our story to the world.” (Sounds like good news for the marketing team!) The plan is “expansion on every front,” growing enrolment to 15,000, investing in infrastructure renewal and expansion (reduced deferred maintenance by 50%), leading Canadian universities in environmental stewardship, and doubling research funding.

Northern College

Exceeding Expectations

MAR 2021: Northern College (ON) unveiled its mission, vision and 2020-25 strategic plan in January, seeking to provide “empowerment through learning to build a better world,” and emphasizing “building community across the North.” The plan focuses on 3 strategic directions: “Indigenous Education and Empowerment, Innovative Access, and Invigorating Northern Experiences.” It emphasizes applied experiences, transferable skills, lifelong learning and overall wellbeing, building on “an authentic and deep culture of caring and excellence,” to become “the college of choice for Indigenous learners.” Northern will sunset the phrase “signature programs,” instead recognizing “areas of strength.” Northern will leverage the proximity of its 4 waterfront campuses to the natural elements to deliver “uniquely northern experiences.”

Parkland / Cumberland Coalition

Stronger Together

MAR 2021: The Parkland College – Cumberland College Coalition (SK) is a collaboration unique in CdnPSE, formed in 2019, that sees 2 distinct colleges adopt a shared board of governors and CEO, and shared vision, mission, values and strategies. (Aside from adult basic ed, essential workplace skills, ESL and contract training, regional colleges in SK broker college-level programming from other PSEs.) In the 2020-25 coalition strategic plan, Stronger Together, they emphasize regional labour market needs, sustainability, and “a blended learning and working environment.” Alongside 6 pretty common values (relevant, responsive, accountable, innovative, sustainable, and inclusive) the colleges also commit to be “catalytic,” leading change and driving rapid social, economic and environmental advances. They emphasize efforts to address rural depopulation and internet connectivity, and to support provincial economic and workforce development goals. The colleges aim to develop “E-shaped” learners and employees, supplementing technical skills with entrepreneurial, electronic literacy, and employability skills. The plan includes efforts to grow alternative revenue and applied research, enhance student recruitment and retention, market the coalition’s brand, and position the colleges as “destination colleges.”

University of Regina

All Our Relations

JUN 2020: The University of Regina launched its new 2020-2025 Strategic Plan, “kahkiyaw kiwȃhkomȃkȃninawak – All Our Relations,” via Zoom on Friday. The plan identifies goals in 5 areas of focus (Discovery, Reconciliation, Well-being, Environment, and Impact) to be accomplished by 2025 (“5×25”). These goals include experiential learning opportunities for all students, and a 25% reduction in the university’s ecological footprint.


New Thinking for a New World

SEPT 2020:  SAIT unveiled its new 5-year strategic plan, New World. New Thinking, which emphasizes skills for the future (including a growth mindset, entrepreneurial skills, digital technology and data literacy), learning for life (personalized learning, new delivery models and credentials, and growing CE), global perspective (through international student recruitment, outbound opportunities, and industry or PSE partnerships), and being industry-driven (by enabling a “free flow of people” through secondments and internships, facilitating tech transfer and consulting agreements). “We blur the lines between industry and SAIT to strengthen the economy.” SAIT aims to be “the talent accelerator of choice” and a “preferred lifetime learning partner.” “The story of our province is still being written. Our plan is right for our evolving world.”

Saskatchewan Polytechnic

Leading the Rise

AUG 2020: Saskatchewan Polytechnic launched its new 2020-25 strategic plan yesterday, Leading the Rise: Bringing Polytechnic Education to New Heights. From a foundation of miyo wahkohtowin (“good relationships”) SaskPolytech will inspire, invest, shape, and lead into the future, guided by 4 values: Respect, Integrity, Sustainability and Excellence (hence, “RISE”). The print brochure are supporting materials are impressive.


Have you seen other CdnPSE strategic plans this year, or even a notable one from elsewhere in the world?  Please drop me a note!


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