Elements of a University Strategy

When we look at the university strategies of the USBM partners and other considerations on strategic thinking, a strategy normally contains the following three elements:

  • a vision statement indicating where the company/institution expects to be in the future and how the operation in planning will contribute.

  • a mission statement that explains what the company/institution wants to achieve by its operations in general and more specific why new operations are started.

  • a consideration of the company's/institution's values and how these are implemented in the operations/activities.

Going Forward - Strategic Planning

In practice when we investigate the university strategies of the USBM partners (see "Showcases of University Strategies and Business Models for Lifelong Learning") and some of the many university strategies available on the homepages of European universities it becomes clear that vision, mission and values very often are presented in a joint introduction to the strategy – often under the heading mission of the university.

The next step in formulating a university strategy is to set up a strategic plan – sometimes as part of a business plan – for who will do what and by when. Often the strategic plan (and/or the business plan) is based on a strategic analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (a SWOT analysis) the university is facing. The results are formulated as:

  • a statement of objectives to be reached in the operations/activities – both internally and externally in relation to stakeholders, users/customers and society in general.

  • a series of strategic decisions by which the mission and objectives may be achieved. Often a SWOT analysis may help to identify the Strength a possible strategy may build upon, the Weaknesses it ought to resolve, the Opportunities it should exploit and the Threats it should avoid.

  • finally a list of goals – time-based measurements to be achieved when implementing the strategic decisions in order to obtain the objectives. In some studies of strategies goals are considered to be part of a business plan.


Within higher education objectives, strategic decisions and goals are often closely related and integrated in the strategic statements from European Universities. As part of the strategic planning of the university they bridge between the mission and the more operational business plan.