Three successful educational institutions are concerned about their recent gradual decline and the impending termination of government funding. Why were they originally successful; why has their success declined; and what should they do to reverse the downward trend?
As an education and business consultant, I conducted a review of three non-American educational institutions receiving American Government funding: (1) a private secondary school funded for seven years; (2) a private post-secondary college funded for nine years; and (3) a post-secondary independent institution funded for fourteen years. Due to the global financial crisis and the re-alignment of funds to the country involved, funding was to be terminated for all three institutions within the next twelve months.
In the initial years of funding assistance, there were virtually no competitors. All three institutions were leaders in their field with solid reputations and international respect. They still are. They produced top-class graduates who gained work easily. They still are. They brought international experts to their country as guest lecturers, whose advanced “free-thinking” knowledge was well sought after. They still are. Over eighty percent of graduates of each institution either continued their studies in America and Europe or gained leadership positions in private and government organizations. They continue to do so.
All three successful institutions took a downward trend in the previous two years. Their competitive edge waned, enrolments declined, the urgency to seek funding from other sources put a strain on lecturers, and attracting international guest lecturers cost more each year. Why? Conflict with their neighboring country made tourists and international investors nervous and the global financial crisis impeded the capacity of participants to afford elite, quality education. However, these two factors weren’t the cause of the institutions’ downward trend. The quality of courses, lecturers, training, and services did not decline – to their credit they all maintained their strict selection criteria. But they were all facing tough times amid continual and rapid government reforms.
The key factor is this: over the past ten years other institutions in the country emerged and existing ones strengthened, rising to nudge the three institutions off their unique perch. The three institutions no longer have a market niche, no longer have a monopoly on the delivery of education and training, and no longer enjoy a unique reputation. They are all under threat of losing their “number one” status in their field. Not only that, the funding provided by the American Government is due to cease.
Did complacency, lack of foresight, lack of innovation, or a rigid adherence to their niche market hamper their continued success? One of their failures was not being intimately familiar with their competition. By the time they realized that they had competition, it was almost too late. Institutions that are not successful spend time and money on becoming successful. Institutions that are successful at their outset often don’t.
To address their downward trend, the institutions have been focusing on reducing their debt, re-locating to cheaper premises, providing shorter fee-paying courses, establishing programs outside their core business, aggressively marketing their core programs, fundraising, and writing submission for additional funding.