Report details new pathways to the higher ed presidency
- Different pathways and shorter tenures are increasingly the new normal for college presidents, according to a report examined by Inside Higher Ed that comes as many long-serving college presidents across the country will soon retire.
- Previously, becoming a provost was the typical pathway to the college presidency, but academic deans and outside hires are increasingly prominent, with the report finding that more recent presidents were less likely to have been provosts before being hired, indicating a trend away from the conventional path.
- The analysis indicated newer presidents saw their primary role as being financial and operational leaders for their schools, as opposed to veteran presidents, who saw themselves as academic leaders — and who also think a provost will succeed them, while newer presidents believe successors will come from the private sector.
The way presidents view their role has transformed. Respondents to the report said being a “strategist” was the top skill needed to be a successful in the role, followed by communication and storytelling skills, fundraising skills, a collaborative spirit and “financial and operational acumen.” The shift in desirable skills also explains how college CIOs are forging new pathlines to college president positions. CIOs bring a forward-thinking outlook to their roles on campus, and higher education institutions may see information officers as someone who can bring corporate acuity into the presidency without making an outside hire.
The shorter tenures of recent college presidents may also make it increasingly likely that selection committees consider private sector hires in lieu of college staff. If universities tend to believe a president’s tenure will be measured in years as opposed to decades, they may not consider it necessary to nurture talent within the school staff, and they will be content with seeking the right outside hire applicant with a strong CV when the time comes.
- Inside Higher Ed Making a Modern President