Strategic plan models that of similar universities

Correction appended

GW is playing catch up against competitor schools in several areas of the 10-year strategic plan, like globalization and interdisciplinary work – already outlined in other colleges’ roadmaps.

Among the 14 private universities GW calls its peers, six prioritize internationalization and three point to interdisciplinary research in strategic plans from the past seven years – showing that most schools have nearly the same view of the next 10 years of higher education.

GW recognized its plans’ resemblance to other universities’ in the draft of the strategic plan released Tuesday, noting that the ideas “reflect trends in higher education and society at large.”

Globalization has been an across-the-board focus, with American, Boston, Duke, Northwestern and Southern Methodist universities, as well as the University of Southern California, all highlighting global connections in recent strategic plans.

At the Oct. 2 meeting of the Faculty Assembly, Provost Steven Lerman cited boosting GW’s number of foreign students, teaming with foreign research hubs and fostering more expansive study abroad experiences that would afford students richer interactions with their temporary homes as key tenets of the strategic plan’s international concentration.

“These are fairly common approaches to increased international engagement by universities,” Richard Edelstein, a research associate at the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Studies in Higher Education, said.

Jake Julia, Northwestern’s associate vice president, said in an email that its 2011 strategic plan would similarly aim to “develop innovative study abroad programs and opportunities for our students.”

Northwestern will open a new building in Doha, Qatar, slated to be completed in 2014, for its program that has been running since 2008. New York University debuted its Abu Dhabi campus for undergraduates in 2010, which became its 11th world program on five continents. It will open a campus in Shanghai, China next year.

Lerman said that GW was not looking recreate NYU’s path.

“I don’t think we want to globalize our academic operations quite the extent NYU has,” Lerman said. “We want to be a little more selective about the places we establish a physical presence. They’ve been a little more expansionist than this plan calls for us to be.”

GW’s charge to the strategic plan’s working groups acknowledged the University’s confines relative to its rivals, noting, “there are areas in which we have not invested and in which we therefore may not be well positioned to compete with other top-tier universities.”

The memorandum also encourages a similar approach to other universities’, stating GW’s intention to “focus our resources on” avenues where it could already claim an advantage, “rather than attempting to catch up to competitors in areas in which we have traditionally not been among the leaders.”

The University is also joining an existing drive for interdisciplinary scholarship, which is underscored in strategic plans released by Duke, Emory and Boston University.

Undergraduates at BU, for example, can pursue diplomas in Interdisciplinary Studies, allowing them to explore their interests outside a traditional major.

Kristen Amundson, a communications director at the Washington-based think tank Education Sector, said many elite institutions have “built their reputations” through an interdisciplinary approach.

But she warned that to focus on crossdisciplinary studies over “the quality of instruction” and “practical and real world experience through internships” would be to miscalculate of students’ priorities.

This article was updated Oct. 11, 2012 to reflect the following:

The Hatchet incorrectly reported that Northwestern University’s Qatar campus would open in 2014. A new building is actually expected to be completed by 2014, but the program itself began in 2008.

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