Over the past several years, AGB has urged boards to focus on work that is consequential. By that, we mean work that concentrates on strategy rather than management and on long-range issues instead of day-to-day concerns. We also mean focusing on work that is the purview of the board to which it can add value, not the work of the president and institutional staff.
AGB's 2018–2019 report on top strategic issues for boards is designed to help with this work. In the course of a year, a board's agenda includes a host of complex topics ranging from budgets, IT, and new buildings to campus security, tenure, and student mental health needs. In choosing the list of strategic issues for 2018–2019, we considered trends that have the power to affect institutional performance significantly, in both positive and negative ways.
As is always the case, this report identifies issues that should be of particular interest to boards because of their fiduciary responsibility to ensure institutional strength and viability for future generations. While this new edition includes some familiar, practical themes, it also highlights new issues that are broadly encompassing what boards of colleges and universities need to consider in the near term and well into the future. The six themes we highlight in this biennial edition of Top Strategic Issues weave together a picture of higher education's future as it can be when boards and institutional leaders work together to ensure that mission, values, and strategy are aligned.
This year's top strategic issues are:
- Educational Quality
- Financial Stability
- Freedom of Speech
- Presidential Leadership
It is our hope that boards will devote time to thoughtful discussion of these strategic issues. How does each topic relate to their institutions? What more do boards need to know about the issues as they play out on their campuses? Do they need to make policy decisions, or are new board processes required to strengthen the institution or the board in these areas? Paying attention to these issues now can pay off for years in the future.