Mercyhurst's Global Intelligence Forum: Colleges need to become 'learning organizations'

ERIE, Pa., March 30, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- "If higher education is really on the cusp of a major reset, and I think it is, then a critical feature of that reset will be a change in how college leaders make decisions," said Andrew Roth, Ph.D.

Roth, president-emeritus of Notre Dame College, is currently assisting colleges and universities with strategic visioning and planning as they navigate the increasingly demanding challenges facing higher education today.

According to Moody's, 1,000 colleges will close or merge in the next 10 years. Other challenges, Roth noted, stem from financial aid discount rates spinning out of control, as well as zealous accreditors and regulators threatening to strangle higher education in a maze of red tape.

It is incumbent upon administrators to gather good information to make good decisions, but how?

Roth proffers that that will involve mastering three interlocking research domains – competitive intelligence: the systematic scanning and understanding of a college's competitive and surrounding environment in order to develop actionable information; knowledge management – the systematic scanning and understanding of its internal knowledge assets in order to create actionable knowledge to create more effective student outcomes and to operate more efficiently in order to remain affordable and accessible; and the use of predictive analytics to make sense of the trove of data at its disposal to enhance learning outcomes, enrollment management (admission and retention), student life and the service it provides all of its students.

These topics will be the focus of a conference in July in Dungarvan, Ireland, sponsored by the Tom Ridge School of Intelligence Studies and Information Science at Mercyhurst University, Erie, Pa., on the topic "Intelligence-Informed Decision-Making to Build a More Secure Future." For more information see

Historically, and quite paradoxically, Roth said, colleges have not been learning organizations. While they teach and do research, they actually spend relatively little time learning about themselves and where they fit in the surrounding environment.

Decision-making at most institutions, particularly small privates and regional publics, but also at large national institutions, has been intuitive and experience-based, Roth said. The leaders – faculty, administration and especially boards – trust in their experience and their own intuitive grasping of the situation to guide their decisions. Unfortunately, all too often, their decisions are, indeed, grasping.

Roth cites the work of Jim Breckenridge, director of The Ridge School at Mercyhurst University (, who found in his research "Organizational Learning and the Application of Intelligence Processes in Higher Education" that many schools have no formal process for seeking intelligence, for analyzing it, for crafting it into usable information and for deploying it effectively in strategic planning.

This needs to change, Roth said.

"Years ago, when I taught strategic marketing and problem-solving, the question arose: 'When does one abandon intuitive, experience-based decision-making and engage in research-based problem solving?' The answer was and remains quite simple – when the cost of being wrong is too great," he said.

Higher ed has arrived at such a moment – given current student market volatility and the volatility in all the fields in which higher ed competes, the probability and the cost of being wrong has outgrown simple reliance on one's experience, an inward focused institutional research office and one's gut sense of what needs done.

Now, more than ever, Roth said, colleges need quality information; now, more than ever, colleges need to become learning organizations.

CONTACT: Debbie Morton Mercyhurst University

Source:Mercyhurst University(formerlyMercyhurst College)