Preparing a university strategic plan requires more than just the responsibility of a single leader. It often requires vertical and horizontal coordination among internal and external stakeholders. It also requires coordination across several contributing planning processes—academic, research, financial, students services, and sustainability plans.
In January 2023, the University of Utah, lead implementer of USAID’s Higher Education System Strengthening Activity (HESSA), engaged the Society of College and University Planning (SCUP) to support its partner Pakistani public sector Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in their effort to build capacity for strategic planning. After multiple consultative sessions, it was determined that the integrated planning model taught by SCUP could be applied to the Pakistani context to support university leaders in their strategic planning efforts.
This is the first time that a comprehensive program has been launched for the public sector HEIs in Pakistan to learn how to prepare a university-specific strategic plan through an inclusive process. The integrated planning model is specifically designed for the complexities of higher education. It is a sustainable approach to planning that builds relationships, aligns the organization, and emphasizes preparedness for change. The model emphasizes the importance of engaging campus stakeholders and fostering collaboration to create a sustainable roadmap for institutional success.
In March 2023, HESSA organized a study tour for the Vice Chancellors to South Korea. As part of this tour, the project conducted an in-depth briefing for the VCs about the professional development series for their senior officials and evaluated if the tools would be valuable in the Pakistani context. The dedicated 3-day session was led by SCUP facilitators, Ray White and Lynn Akey. These mutual consultations determined the individual institution’s planning capacity and how each partner would benefit from participation in the planning trainings.
In May 2023, customized delivery of three training modules began. HESSA worked with the university leadership to establish planning teams consisting of 6-7 team members including Pro-VC, senior Dean(s), senior Department Chair(s), Registrar, Director of Students Affairs etc, representing all 16 partner institutions. Establishing a planning team at the university level is an effective way to distribute the responsibility and involve different perspectives in the process.
In September and October 2023, HESSA leadership visited all partner universities to meet with the leadership and planning team members and reinforce the importance of this initiative for each HEI participating in the program. Annual subscription of SCUP’s resources were provided to the universities to access planning materials and training modules.
To provide additional information and context about the integrated planning model, a session was planned from October 23-27, 2023. Representatives from each institution including Vice Chancellors/Rectors and planning team focal members attended orientation sessions in Islamabad, Pakistan. Team members received information about the planning model and were provided suggestions on activities they could undertake to prepare their teams for the training. Vice Chancellors participated in a separate session that provided them, and the strategic planning facilitator, Ray White, with important context to increase the impact of the training series.
Between October and December 2023, HESSA leadership organized virtual sessions for supporting partner universities in constituting relevant teams and orienting all the members on plan development process. HESSA continued working with the SCUP team to customize and finalize the training materials that would help participants develop critical leadership skills, like analyzing trends, asking critical questions, and building actionable plans. Through hands-on activities and collaborative discussions, participants could apply an integrated planning framework to their own institution’s contexts, building a solid foundation for both short- and long-term planning.
In December 2023, the training workshops commenced in Islamabad. Divided into two cohorts of eight HEIs each, the five-day series was offered twice over two weeks to accommodate approximately 100 participants. Two groups of approximately 50, completed all three modules in five days. The first training module, titled Foundations: Laying the Groundwork for Strategic Planning, covered the assessment of institutional context, identifying and analyzing stakeholders, internal and external scanning, and adapting integrated planning to an institution’s unique situation.
The second module, Design: Designing and Implementing a Strategic Plan went into depth on the process for building a plan. Topics included creating a vision, developing an integrated planning process, institutional alignment, and plan implementation. Through a combination of lectures and small group activities, participants practiced using planning tools that can be applied on their campus.
Finally, participants concluded their week with the third module, Sustain: Sustaining an Integrated Planning Culture. The focus of this training module was maintaining the success of a plan for the future by nurturing a culture of planning at their institution. Participants practiced skills in decision-making, managing conflict, and planning for the long range.
“This has been a highlight and a capstone to my 40-year career. It is clear the participating institutions are committed to improving student outcomes through integrated strategic planning.” – Ray White, planning facilitator
“This has been a tremendous opportunity to globally apply integrated planning principles. I am grateful for the partnership with HESSA and the hard work put forth by all associated Pakistani institutions.” – Randy M. Simon, planning facilitator
In the next phase, the University of Utah is providing virtual support to its partner universities to guide them in developing their plans. The partner HEIs will be required to develop their schedule of strategic plan development, create key performance indicators, document each step of the process, and track their individual progress according to the indicators.
“Through HESSA’s support, all 16 partner HEIs will be able to prepare their university-specific strategic and business plans in the next 6-8 months. The University of Utah mentors will guide each HEI in this endeavor. These HEIs will become a role model for other universities across Pakistan to advance a culture of inclusive and sustainable development that can ensure an improved workforce development in the country.” – Dr. Aslam Chaudhry, Research Professor at the University of Utah and Associate Project Director of HESSA
“I learned the importance of integrated planning and now I’m confident that effective planning can only be done if all the stakeholders are on board,” remarked Dr. Silvia Khattak a training participant from Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan, Khyber Pakhtunkwa-Pakistan.
“This training was very well organized in terms of the content and structure. Every session was interactive and we got the opportunity to learn from international experts on this topic. Now all the members of our planning team will work together to drive the development of a consolidated strategic plan,” commented Dr. Muhammad Saleh Khaskhali from the Peoples University of Medical & Health Sciences from Women, Nawabshah, Sindh-Pakistan.