Harvey P. Weingarten – “Plans are useless but planning is indispensable.”
These are the words of former US President Dwight Eisenhower about how one plans for battle. One reason “I like Ike” is that his words capture HEQCO’s philosophy of planning. He understood that plans are useless when they get too specific, try to predict the future with certainty, and prompt fights over every comma in the apparently obligatory mission and vision statements.
Ike also understood that planning is indispensable because it allows one to analyze the environment, articulate one’s values, principles and goals, and generally to position oneself to pursue promising opportunities and strategies, avoid unhelpful ones and monitor progress.
So, HEQCO has no formal strategic plan. But, we do plan and our planning is described in a strategic direction preamble that accompanies our annual research plan (which lists the specific research projects to be conducted that year). Our strategic direction document describes our values, short-term goals and strategies/tactics that will help us achieve our long-term goals no later than 2025.
Followers of HEQCO know that we have a legislated mandate to advise government in three areas: access, quality and accountability/system design.
On access, our 2025 goal is that every Ontario student has an equal opportunity to attend and succeed in postsecondary education. We will have achieved this goal when the participation and graduation rates for currently under-represented groups equals that of the most currently advantaged groups in our colleges and universities. To achieve this goal, we believe we must work in stronger partnership with community networks and with the K-12 sector. Toward this goal, we are establishing a HEQCO Centre for Equitable Access to coordinate and manage our efforts and projects.
On quality, our 2025 goal is that every Ontario postsecondary institution will annually identify, evaluate and report the skills and competencies, i.e. the learning, their students have acquired as a result of their postsecondary education. To achieve this goal we must identify the skills and competencies students need to succeed, ensure that we have reliable and valid measurements of these skills and competencies and disseminate effective pedagogical techniques to teach, foster, and optimize these skills and competencies. Toward these goals, we are establishing a HEQCO Centre for Learning Outcomes Assessment to coordinate and manage our efforts and projects.
On accountability/system design, our 2025 goal is that all Ontario postsecondary institutions are sustainable and capable of delivering on their distinctive missions. This is not strictly about money; it is fundamentally about institutions having and using all of their resources (including human and capital) effectively to deliver the strongest academic experience and education to their students. As a result, HEQCO projects will examine finances, human resource deployment, models of differentiation, postsecondary regulations, funding formulas and tuition policies. While this goal is not on the same plane as access and quality, it is difficult to imagine how we will achieve the goals of equitable access and quality without sustainable institutions. But, sustainability without achieving the goals of equitable access and quality would be an empty achievement. Our system design work, therefore, is necessary to position our postsecondary institutions to achieve the access and quality goals.
Of course, foundational to achieving all three of these goals is better and more meaningful data to understand the challenges the Ontario system faces and where opportunities for effective solutions and policies are to be found.
When asked what a prime minister most fears, former British PM Harold Macmillan said, “events, dear boy, events.” Indeed, events invariably unanticipated, can foil even the most eloquent and detailed plan. But what HEQCO’s strategic direction document identifies clearly are the ambitious and lofty goals we have for the Ontario and other postsecondary systems, and how we might achieve them. Ontario, and its students and citizens could only benefit by achievement of these goals. The team of talented, committed and passionate individuals I work with every day at HEQCO keep me encouraged, optimistic and comforted that we can achieve these goals by 2025.
Thanks for reading.
Harvey P. Weingarten is HEQCO’s president and CEO.