The Need of Collaboration & The Future of Higher Education

Nov 11, 2021

Our connected world demands unprecedented Collaboration. Achieving consensus on a path requires a thorough knowledge of how one world impacts the other and how many different worlds affect one another. This is why it requires an in-depth understanding of regional and local culture and their perspectives and identities and how they respond to one another when cooperation is the key to advancement. 

The interconnectedness and the growing complexity of higher education institutions involved in internationalization are increasing. 

A decade-long growth of universities -the golden age in which most of today's college leaders reached their peak -- has come to an end.

According to an analysis conducted by EY, more than 800 organizations face strategic issues due to their inefficiencies or small size. 

These challenges require a major change in institutions' strategy in the direction of Collaboration and the formation of more deep collaborations than higher education has ever had before. 

It was discovered that colleges have emerged from the past in one of the four strategic positions, as illustrated in the image below. 

Though institutions face many financial situations, their response to changing market conditions must not be separate and solitary from each other. In a handful of instances, this period provides huge potential for colleges and universities to collaborate and join forces with institutions that could be an ideal fit for the coming years. 

The new era of Collaboration extends beyond the simple agreements between institutions to share back-office processes or cross-list academic courses, which often lead to positive publicity but nothing else. The Collaboration currently involves universities and colleges working together as one institution to alter their direction for the future. 

The institutions with the highest likelihood of failing must cooperate due to necessity. Those in a position of strength must collaborate with other universities and colleges for the potential they provide. It is time for institutions to collaborate since the market cannot accommodate the number of institutions in the world at present. 

Why should institutions be collaborating now? 

In higher education, the funding is cut as costs rise. The main issue is the existence of simply too many institutions that are competing for too few students. The most dramatic drop in enrollment has occurred among smaller colleges, which have less than 1,000 students, which comprise around 40% of institutions that award degrees across the United States. Since the year 2010, their enrollment has dropped by more than five percent. 

The declining enrollment rate has led many institutions to increase their discount rates to attract students. In 2014-2015, the average discount rate for first-year students was around 50% for the universities and colleges surveyed with the National Association of College and University Business Officers. 

The current structure of costs for universities and colleges cannot support an era of decreasing numbers of students as most institutions are now more dependent on student enrollment for the bulk of their income. A modest drop in enrollment at these colleges can have an impact on their financial viability. 

To combat this trend, tuition-dependent colleges must either enhance their students' value to boost revenue or reduce costs. Working with other institutions could aid both sides, and it should not be thought of as a means to allow weaker players to stay alive. 

In the current higher learning era, the size and scope of an institution are crucial to ultimate success. However, the institution's size is not the only insurance to protect against the forces that are weighing upon higher learning. Even big universities and colleges have to work together in the new age of Collaboration as the strategies that are commonly employed to increase their revenues are not sustainable because they either depend on a continuous student supply (e.g., students who are out of state) or are primarily focused on temporary cost-saving strategies (e.g., procurement). 

It is a good opportunity for universities with few risks to develop collaboration models and cement their status as leaders in the new world of higher education. 

What should you do: determining the best way to collaborate and when to collaborate 

There is no single best way for institutions to cooperate, and there are many options available, and the option your institution selects depends on where it is within a predefined risk-based scale. The analysis should separate universities and colleges into categories based on their size and risk. 

Although the various institutions and colleges in each category may seem very different in their choice of students and finances, the strategy towards Collaboration inside each category should be based on a similar framework. The institutions will follow one of two routes based on their specific situation, and they pursue Collaboration either for survival reasons or are taking advantage of an opportunity. 

1) Opportunity 

Institutions that have discovered efficiency in operating at a large size think of enhancement even if it is small or involves risks, they think in terms of differentiating, having a special opportunity in the current era to enhance their offerings by collaborating. 

For instance, the integrated Keck Science Department is shared among three colleges located in California -which include Claremont McKenna, Pitzer, and Scripps. The department is housed in a state-of-the-art building near the intersection of three colleges and allows students to choose from a range of academic majors taught by top faculty, which none of them would provide on their own to their students. 

The same can be said of the Collaboration between Babson College, Wellesley College, and the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering. Three different institutions with respect to their goals which include entrepreneurial, liberal arts, and engineering which saw their distinctions as mutually beneficial and the possibility of forming a consortium because of their proximity to each other.  

Collaborations are no longer restricted to institutions located within proximity, and technological advancements can bring together institutions separated by thousands or hundreds of miles. In Pennsylvania, ten colleges of the liberal arts, which include Haverford, Gettysburg, Franklin & Marshall, and Swarthmore, are taking one step further than the usual course sharing that typically led to collaborative agreements. They have formed partnerships on the development of faculty, studying abroad, the management of risk and compliance. 

Of course, colleges nearby have been collaborating for a long time in non-academic activities, such as sharing police forces or buying offices. However, there has been very little cooperation in the academic realm about degree programs or whole departments, such as Keck. 


Institutions with many risk factors should think efficiently, and consider acquiring partners who can help them cut down on their expenses. Small colleges that rely heavily on tuition to generate most of their revenues from it and large universities with budget deficits. 

Making savings from the low-hanging fruits by traditional cost reductions in peripheral budgetary areas is no longer an option for many of these schools. Smaller colleges in survival mode cannot attract more students as they depend more and more on them to generate the necessary revenue. 

In recent years, the big universities in survival mode have continuously increased their tuition fees over national averages, but they have a financial sense. It is now time for both institutions to seek out partners, and each group cannot go forward by itself. 

The idea of combining public and private colleges has become more popular in recent times. However, they have faced fierce opposition from legislators and higher-education officials. In Georgia, which was struggling with budget cuts, the higher education officials tried to avoid tension by making the merger procedure as clear as possible and adhering to six principles that guided their efforts. 

The consolidation was also seen to free funds for student-focused initiatives and not just to reduce expenditure. This led to the three years starting in 2011, the leaders in the University System of Georgia approved six campus mergers. 

It is not the case that all universities which have to develop a survival plan are in trouble, and sometimes this approach is best for institutions that have poor performance as independent institutions. In 2013, the Texas A&M Health Science Center joined with the larger Texas A&M University to better use the university's research capabilities. 

Prior to the merger, the Health Science faculty conducted about $80 million of research each year, and the main university was able to award $700 million of research grants. It was believed that if researchers collaborate more closely as part of a single university, the institution as a whole could earn more funds all-around. 

If you are looking to survive, Surprisingly, searching for a suitable partner is not the most significant barrier in Collaboration. 

When you are beginning to prepare the way for Collaboration, make sure that your priorities are aligned internally and that all your constituents (trustees and faculty, and alumni) are aware of the need for Collaboration before you propose possible partnerships and models. 

What's next? The three-step process: identify how to structure and then sustain 

Step 1: Identify the areas that require Collaboration 

Collaboration can take a variety of types and does not necessarily have to result in an acquisition or merger. 

Collaboration in the areas of administrative and service tasks is not uncommon. When you are beginning to pinpoint areas in which partnerships are possible, here are a few important questions to think about: 

  • What kind of Collaboration will be the most beneficial for your institution? 

  • To what degree does Collaboration be necessary to remain financially feasible? Do you have a chance to increase the value of students or reduce expenses? 

  • What service, administrative and academic departments could gain the most from Collaboration? Moreover, how far should these collaborations be? 

Step 2: Structure potential partnership opportunities 

The institutions should choose their partners not based on proximity but more on the importance of the same vision.

When colleges collaborate for administrative tasks and services, there are many challenges in implementing the agreement, specifically determining matters of control. When you are preparing to negotiate a deal with an organization, Here are some important questions to ask: 

  • What factors to consider to assess the feasibility and attractiveness of a prospective partner (e.g., geography, geography, common vision)? 

  • Which organization is the best operational, financial and strategic match for the type of Collaboration being wanted? What other collaboration opportunities can we explore with our existing partners? 

  • How will Collaboration be conducted? How do the two institutions cooperate in the operational sense? 

Step 3: Continue to enjoy the advantages of the partnership. 

Forming a partnership may be a simple task, but maintaining the benefits of a partnership for the long haul could prove more challenging. 

Students receive the most significant benefit of partnerships because they enhance the value of education. 

Cost savings are not often mentioned as a major issue for Collaboration between academics. These partnerships can allow institutions to "save costs" that would otherwise have been needed to expand the capabilities. When you are looking for ways to ensure the success of a collaboration, Here are some important questions to think about:

  • What can we do to realize the full benefits from every cost-saving opportunity identified in the two initial phases (e.g., integration of systems or property optimization, etc.) 

  • How can we leverage Collaboration to increase the value of students by extending the academic and service offerings? 


In the new world of higher education, Collaboration is a method that many institutions will have to adopt if they want to stay afloat. However, partnerships can also be an effective strategy for colleges in an area of relative strength currently. 

Collaboration can give a needed boost -- to educational and co-curricular programs for institutions lacking strengths in specific areas. By focusing on cooperation, it is possible to describe the new age of university education characterized by Collaboration and growth rather than reduction. 

Stay Informed with our Newsletter!

Subscribe now