Is Your Academic Program Sustainable? 5 Key Indicators

Academic Program Demand - Photo of Microscopes in a Lab

How do you measure academic program demand? The former CFO at Stanford discusses 5 key indicators that can help you gain confidence and clarity in your academic program decisions.


by William F. Massy, Consultant to Higher Education, Former CFO at Stanford

Universities can no longer take the sustainability of their academic programs for granted. Pressures on institutional finances and disruption and volatility in the student marketplace makes it necessary to perform systematic sustainability analyses across one’s whole portfolio of programs. Sustainability has both academic and financial dimensions. This places it close to the heart of strategic decision-making. Academic Impressions (AI) has been working on how to help people responsible for resource allocation add program sustainability as an area of focus.

AI’s upcoming program on Academic Resourcing Models for Evidence-Based Decision-Making will introduce participants to the indicators, concepts, and best practices associated with program sustainability analysis. These can stimulate and inform needed conversations about sustainability among both academics and administrators. There are several reasons why such conversations help leaders get things done:

  1. Colleges and universities must deal with the inherent complexity of intellectual work and the needs and expectations of those who perform it.
  2. Academic resourcing requires the integration of disciplinary, financial, and market-oriented knowledge and skills. This requires bridging the cultural gap that separates professors, academic administrators, enrollment managers, and financial specialists – a goal that is best achieved through conversational interactions.
  3. Finally, mission considerations are highly subjective and often controversial. At the end of the day they are the province of senior academic leadership, subject to shared governance considerations, which again places a premium on frequent conversation.

But not just any conversations. They need to be mindful, informed by evidence, and guided by a shared conceptual structure wherever possible. Uninformed and unstructured conversations tend toward dysfunctionality because they spawn chaos and controversy. The challenge, then, is to use appropriate concepts and data to build structure into the conversations without limiting their scope and independence.

5 Key Indicators and Why They Matter

The needed conversations are built around five broad indicators of a program's academic and financial sustainability.


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Image Credit: The photo at the top of the page is by Ousa Chea on Unsplash.

Learn More

Use market and financial data to gain confidence and clarity in your academic program decisions. Come learn from William Massy at:

Academic Resourcing Models
for Evidence-Based Decision-Making


December 5 - 6, 2019 | San Antonio, TX