Developing or updating a strategic plan for an institution of higher education is a substantial endeavor. Engaging colleagues in committee and subcommittee meetings, discussing the future direction of the institution, and coming to a consensus on goals to guide the institution for the life of the plan: these considerations are at the heart of the collaborative process that is strategic planning in higher education.
When you are ready to write your strategic plan, having a clear structure to organize all the information you have gathered during the process helps. There are six common elements of strategic plans in higher education. Keeping these elements in mind should make the writing process easier.
- Context: summarize all the background information you discussed during the discovery phase of the process. While this isn’t the “meat” of the plan (the remaining five elements are the “meat”), it’s common for the context to be the longest section. This section often includes:
- A brief history of the institution
- The vision, mission, and values of the institution
- Recognition of the members of the strategic planning committee and subcommittees
- Data trends showing how well the institution is meeting the needs of its students (e.g., course success rates, graduation rates, etc.)
- Challenges and opportunities facing the institution (i.e., environmental scan or SWOT analysis)
As you move into the implementation phase, SPOL can help keep track of who is responsible for each initiative, the budget allocated, and milestones you have crossed. After all, no one wants to waste time developing a strategic plan that just sits on the shelf.