Sometimes the best way to understand what’s going on in higher education, or any field for that matter, is to ask a research firm. Because they work with a range of colleges and universities daily, research firms enjoy a particularly useful view of the landscape. They get to hear what’s keeping academic leaders up at night.

Case in point: I recently spoke with Cam Wall, Managing Content Director for Higher Education at Hanover Research (Washington DC). Cam touched on five of the stickier issues – some predictable, others surprising.


Institutions are striving to identify new ways to make their programs and operations financially sustainable. For the last couple of years, particularly, institutions want to know what new business models and which markets they need to focus on to ensure they address the new budget realities.

Student Support

What kinds of student support do today’s students need? What’s the best way to deliver this support and how might the support translate into student success and retention?

Workforce Readiness

How do we best go about preparing students for the workforce? What constitutes workforce readiness in 2013? And how can the institution demonstrate to regulators and other stakeholders that their learners are properly prepared?



How can the institution do a better job of assessing student success? What are the most meaningful rubrics, how do we manage this data, and once we have the data in-hand, how do we use it to institute change across the institution?

Online Education

Not surprisingly, Cam reports that online education is major focus for many of the firm’s 450+ clients. Many institutions, particularly during the past year, are asking how best to invest their limited resources so that they can properly respond to the sector’s embrace of online education. Institutions also want to know where they stand vis-à-vis other institutions; how far ahead or behind they are and what will it take to be competitive.

Big questions, all.

By Keith Hampson. Analysis, Strategy, and Workshops

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