A university’s first job is to ensure academic excellence. The first purpose of its existence is the delivery of academic programs with quality and ensuring internalization of learning, conceptually and practically, among the learners so that they can engage themselves socially and in the economy productively.
All the enablers noted above, if done with care and success, shall lead to academic excellence. A university needs to ensure a healthy Mentor-Learner Ratio within 1:20, at the most. So is the ratio of non-teaching support staff in the university vis-a-vis the learners. The learning gaps in learners with regards to a course being mentored must be covered through diagnostic & formative assessments. The goal of academics is to evolve batches of creative, critical thinking, analytical, problem-solving, & application oriented learners.
Academic excellence, apart from high quality blended learning, must also ensure research outcome of every learner (levels of research objectives and outcomes shall differ from UG to PG to PhD).
Finally, academic excellence will lead to global placements of the learners, with employability standards and figures visibly high.
Teaching Assistant Fellowship program to support academics and create new Mentorship talent is a very positive step and good universities across the world nurture a cadre of future mentors through TAF.
Academic excellence ensured and documented shall lead to high scores in QS, THE & Sanghai ranking frameworks.
Research & Consultancy
Evidence based Research Outcomes make an essential need of every university system. Such outcomes of research must be seen in multifarious ways as follows.
- Academic Publication from the research completed: high Impact value SCOPUS indexed publication, or peer reviewed publication.
- Degree contribution of most research: towards MPhil or PhD or Post-Doctoral thesis or Masters by thesis or Masters Dissertation.
- Ranking contribution of all research work of the university: contributing to points in QS or The Higher Education (THE) or any other relevant ranking, general or domain specific.
- External Recognition of research done by faculty members and research scholars: by a professional or academic or trade body, discipline specific professional body (including citations).
- Patents emanating from research work (applied, being considered, or received).
- Social impact of every research project: in development, welfare, policy making by government or an international body.
- Commercial impact of research projects: supporting entrepreneurship, business growth, business application & consulting.
- Branding contribution of every research work: Must be covered adequately in personal, institutional and professional social media platforms, covered through articles in mainstream newspaper, being showcased in Innovation Lab or at the department.
- Popular writing emanating from research: research outcome written in a layman’s language in a newspaper, or writing a viral blog or vlog on the outcome of the research.
- Fund application and fund procurement for research, including consultancy projects: the project must lead to a possible government or private sector funding (for the immediate or the extended research project), or lead to donate option in website bringing in crowd-sourced funding. Funds before or after the research are an important criterion of applied research.
- Motivation impact of research and consultancy done: for junior researchers, & current learners.
- Newsletter coverage, case-study publication (as book chapter or in a journal).
Outcomes of every research project or consultancy project must include at least eight to all twelve of the above to be really impacting and productive, some areas being more significant than the others. From the inception of putting in a research proposal, these outcomes must be pursued and ensured for a quality university experience.
It must be noted that research outcomes make the second most important parameter in evaluating a university’s rating and ranking.
Next to academics and research, the most important outcome of quality higher education is the experience of the learners during their learning journey, from admission to placements or higher studies.
The enablers noted earlier shall lead to a higher satisfaction of the learners with their learning journey in a university. And this can and should be quantified. High Net Promoters’ Satisfaction (NPS) Score from learners’ feedback is an important index of the quality of the university. High scores (above 7, on a scale of 10) are considered positive, 5 to 7 on any criterion is considered neutral and anything below 5 negative. The negatives and positives cancelling one another, final score is NPS Score that can be positive or negative or even zero. This tells learners’ feedback on university as a whole, and on each component of university work (academics to even food or security), and thereby provides a ready reference for the management to focus on the negatives sharply till next such annual feedback.
The learning journey being positive and enjoyable, such a scenario will lead to Alumni Engagement being higher and regular, since learners of today are alumni of tomorrow. Alumni coming as recruiters shall be common. Naturally, the Social Media engagement of the learners & alumni shall be positive and frequent, and one can see second generation coming from learners’ families. Customer or stake-holder testimonial is the best form of marketing. Here, the Learner as Advocate, spreading the good word, shall lead to referral admissions going up.
Learners’ previous colleges get engaged in many ways if the learners’ satisfaction quotient is high. There can be programs like honouring the best school teacher and parents of each learner on campus, apart from academic outreach programs in the schools of learners as a part of institutional social responsibility. For example, the learners can go back to their schools with their university mentors to organize financial literacy camps, drone-making workshop, media or legal literacy camps, good communication skills workshops, etc.
Higher learners’ satisfactions can lead to learners’ life-changing stories to be shared online, as to how a student from a poor family from the hinterland of the country has evolved remarkably within a year or two at the university campus. Placement, or higher studies, or entrepreneurship of each learner while passing out can be documented and shared widely.
Naturally, such NPS scores shall also contribute to high scores in QS, THE & Sanghai ranking frameworks worldwide.
Social & Media Footprints (Communication)
If the enablers are well implemented, several stories to share evolve. For example, there needs to be one engaging story-telling online on a daily basis, of one learner whose life has been transformed, or one major initiative or research done on campus which can be presented like a story. There has to be a powerful visual communication across all platforms since visual story-telling through pictures, graphics or video create much greater impact. Often branded or even brandless shareable content going viral online (written stories and videos) takes reputation forward. Any good university today needs multiple social media handles for its multiple departments, clubs etc to engage the young audiences better. These can lead to increasing engagement figures, blogs & other contents. Even the campus stories or content by stakeholders should be going into mainstream legacy and digital media alike. Tie-ups with a few media to create and share content can be useful. The media and communication department of the university can help support this.
As far as social media platforms are concerned, focus should be on professional linkages & polemics through LinkedIn, visual story-telling through Instagram, research outcomes, debates and published work on Twitter, videos that can engage well on YouTube, and comments, stories, pictures and short videos on Facebook. All the five need engaging content on a regular basis, not less 3 and not above 6 a day, for seven days a week, throughout the year.
All rating-ranking organizations today give a high weightage to ways and means for internationalization. Tie-ups with earlier universities should be taken to the next level through focused engagements in International Relations, Public Relations, Research and Academics, all. These can be through organizing annual conclaves and flagship events of schools or departments where partner universities participate, or through global collaboration on sharing intellectual capital through a multi-country repository of academic talent.
Active internationalization of a university also refers to International Mobility (scholarships, exchange programs, joint research, joint academic events, twinning programs) with many universities across nations and continents. Internationalization can have Memorandum of Understanding (MOUs) with foreign universities for exchange programs, joint seminars and publications, joint research etc.
There can also be sister universities twinning their programs jointly, creating and sharing transferable models (e.g. Smart Campus, Smart Edu, LMS etc). Two universities can help each other in upgrading their specific programs based on their demonstrated mutual strengths.
There can be week-long invites for eminent scholars and professors from around the world with a specific plan to make use of each visit.
Participation in contests and conferences globally by mentors and learners alike is another major aspect of internationalization.
Taking short to long courses and programs out of the country, and finally expanding university campus beyond borders shall be other goals of internationalizing the university with a host of other positive outcomes.
Part III ends….
next edition…Part IV will continue