College Leadership: Focus on the Real Market – Nu Leadership Series

“Any committee is only as good as the most knowledgeable, determined and vigorous person on it. There must be somebody who provides the flame.”
Lady Bird Johnson

Technology and cultural influences continue to change our society. However, traditional universities have ignored cultural trends. According to Clayton, an educational expert, the 21 century needs students who possess good communication skills, critical thinking, applied knowledge, intellectual depth, ethics, and cultural understanding. Many organizational changes in universities are conducted from a “top-down” manner. Nadler and Tushman, author of Competing by Design, explain that a top-down approach focuses primarily on the strategic level but is blind to operational problems in organizations.

Therefore, I hypothesize that more knowledgeable students and a demanding market are forcing educational changes. Let’s analyze closer. The quickening pace of technology, global competition, and educational innovations has caused students to view themselves as customers. Many institutions continue to ignore working students; however, the current undergraduate markup is 73 percent of nontraditional students. Also, the demographic changes of more women, minorities, and low income students have created social pressure on traditional institutions.

Berg, author of Lessons from the Edges, cites the following as a state of higher education: (a) diminishing financial support, (b) mandating to serve adult learners and first-generation college students, (c) needing to balance applied and liberal arts curricula, and (d) the subsequent necessity of maintaining and evolving institutional mission. According to Lyon, Kysilka, and Pawlas, authors of The Adjunct Professor’s Guide to Success, students want more than the traditional academic institution is willing to give.

As savvy customers, students are weighing their options. They don’t need to depend on the local universities to educate them. Therefore, the emergence of customer-focused college curriculums has come about via outside sources.


Berg, G. (2005). Lessons from the Edges. San Francisco: American Council on Education Praeger.

Clayton, M. (2002). New models for higher education. The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved May 5, 2006, from

Lyon, R., Kysilka, M. & Pawlas, G. (1999). The Adjunct Professor’s Guide to Success: Surviving and Thriving in the College Classroom. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Nadler, D. & Tushman, M. (1997). Competing by Design. New York: Oxford University Press.

© 2006 by Daryl D. Green