Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Divergent strategy: How higher education institutions under distress develop and pursue solutions for their financial challenges
by Joseph, Joshua M., Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania, 2016, 283; 10158536
Abstract (Summary)

This study seeks to relate to two problem statements. First, higher education literature is largely missing a conversation about strategy. Second, while some universities succeed at remediating their troubles and adapting to new situations; others fail. This study, then, explores the role of strategy in developing successful solutions for financially distressed institutions of higher education. A review of current literature on strategy in general supports the research, and aided in the formulation of the four research questions.

The goal of the research was to understand specifically the strategies chosen to move the universities forward; what actions and behaviors they take in forming strategies as well as in their implementation; the role of leadership in facilitating those solutions together with their teams; how the leaders communicate their ideas—both to their teams and their institutional communities; and the ways that history, mission, and culture interact with strategy to lead to successful outcomes.

Conducted as a comparative case study of three institutions of higher education, this study seeks to better understand how strategy evolves during financially challenging times on university campuses. Colleges and universities seem to be able to successfully employ divergent strategies through innovative programs, opening new markets and/or building novel business models. Thus, the institutions were selected based on their success in accomplishing one of these three criteria.

Three small to mid-size, private, non-profit institutions of higher education comprised the focus of the case studies. The findings emerged out of site visits to the campuses, personal interviews and review of historical documents. While the histories, missions, cultures and leaders differed at each site, several common themes surfaced and the study revealed some important revelations and implications for both the literature and leaders in practice today. For instance, the findings demonstrated the significance of an aggressive approach to growing enrollment through various diversification mechanisms, as well as focusing decision-making on student needs, support and success. Ultimately, strategy matters for higher education success stories, and the universities herein studied provide models which can likely be emulated.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Eckel, Peter
Commitee: Hartley, Matthew, Lapovsky, Lucie
School: University of Pennsylvania
Department: Higher Education Management
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 78/03(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Higher Education Administration
Publication Number: 10158536
ISBN: 9781369135442
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