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Strategic Management Case Union College In The Philippines Education Essay

Union College (UC) is an institution of higher learning located in San Fernando, La Union, Philippines. It offers high school and college courses such as liberal arts, nursing, business administration and education.

La Union, the service area of the college has large areas of marginal lands in the hillsides and barely tapped marine resources. Thus, with this challenging situation, UC, aside from its primary mission of providing quality learning, orients its programs and activities to motivate, and lead education from a teacher-centered programs to a student-centered ones.

Union College traced its beginnings from a Women’s Training School founded in November 7, 1910 by Ms. M. Weber (UC, April 14, 2011).

Although it is surviving over the years, enrollment growth has been low compared to those of other similar institutions. This has affected the school’s ability to expand its services.

Aware of the increased interest of foreign students going to the Philippines either for further studies or to improve their ability to read and write in English, the Board of Trustees in 2010 approached the author to help them make a decision to embark on a venture that will solve their financial predicament.

2. Purpose of study

In view of the above, this study aims to formulate a strategic plan to catapult UC to become a dynamic learning institution in Northern Luzon in the Philippines. This study aims to achieve the following:

Formulate a viable strategy to enhance the financial stability of the school;

Recommend measures to ensure that the strategies will work.

This study will consider strategy issues raised by experts and use concepts and models practiced in strategic management.

As a result, students should be able to:

1. Think strategically about a company, its business position, and how it can gain sustainable competitive advantage.

2. Develop skills in conducting strategic analysis in a variety of industries and competitive situations.

3. Use their experience in developing business strategy; justify strategic options; use what-if analysis to evaluate action alternatives, and initiate the changes necessary to keep the strategy responsive to emerging market conditions.

4. Improve their ability to manage strategy formulation and implementation processes.

5. Enhance abilities to assess business risk, and understand challenges in a global market environment, develop and update strategies as required.

3. Approach

To achieve what the Board defined to be the outcome of my assistance, it is proposed that a strategic planning exercise be made to define the college’s objectives, assess both the internal and external situation, formulate a doable strategy, implement it, evaluate the progress, and make needed adjustments.

Essentially, the strategic planning exercise will follow the following steps:

Define the vision and mission of UC

Scan the business environment

Determine the strengths and weakness of UC

Formulate strategy

Implement chosen strategy

Assess effectiveness of strategy

4. Vision statement

A vision statement outlines what the organization wants to be, or how it wants the area in which it operates in. It focuses on the future and it is a source of inspiration. It provides a clear decision-making standard (Gabriel and Farmer, 2009), (National School Boards Association, April 14, 2011).

For UC, its vision is stated simply as: A distinct center of excellence providing affordable, relevant, and quality education towards a deeper Christian faith and the improvement of quality life of the Filipino (UC, April 14, 2011)

5. Mission statement

A mission statement defines the fundamental purpose of an organization. It states the customer and the critical processes and establishes the desired level of performance (Campbell and Nash, 1992).

The mission statement can encourage people to achieve objectives for as long as these can be explained in SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound) terms (Jeffrey Abrahams, The Mission Statement Book).

For UC, its mission is to train the individual to be self reliant.

To sustain the capability and initiatives for excellence, financial stability and responsive learning environment; to promote leadership in all areas within the community; to engage in research, community development; and to develop teachers and learners who are honest and creative, and technologically proficient (http://www.ucc.edu.ph/, April 14, 2011).

Values

Knowledge and skills are essential in achieving success.

Goals and objectives

Guided by its vision, the college can define financial and strategic objectives. Financial objectives involve measures such as student population and financial stability. Strategic objectives include the school’s market share and reputation.

6. Environmental assessment

As presented by John Middletone, the environmental scan (John Middleton, The Ultimate Strategy Library) includes:

An assessment of external environment covering the Political-Economic-Social-Technological (PEST) aspects of the environment

Analysis of the education industry (task environment), and

An internal analysis of the college,

The industry analysis can be done using a framework introduced by Michael Porter known as Porter's five forces. This framework covers entry barriers, suppliers, customers, substitute products, and industry rivalry (Michael E. Porter, Michael E., 1980, Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors).

It can also be done using Kaplan and Norton’s Balance Scorecard (Kaplan, Robert S., Norton, David P., 1992, The BSC: Translating Strategy in Action).

Political Factors

The political factors that directly affect learning institutions are favorable.

Being organized as a foundation, UC enjoys tax-free privileges, provided any earnings are plowed back to the school. The risk of this privilege being removed is nonexistent because this is a national policy.

Local regulations are also favorable. The local government encourages the creation of learning institutions because it wants to project that San Fernando as the center for learning in the region. While this may be favorable, it can pose a threat to UC because competition is free to proliferate.

Economic Factors

Economic factors affect the cost of living and the firm's ability to survive. Economic growth in the region has been steadily growing. The entry of tourists are increasing, primarily because of La Union’s beaches and excellent surfing areas. Eco-tourism also abound.

Social Factors

Social factors include the values and culture of the people as a whole. These factors affect customer needs and the size of potential markets.

People in the region view education as an important attribute to a person’s success. This can be attributed to the high literacy rate of 90%. Preparatory schools, elementary, high school and university levels are all present in La Union.

This attitude is a positive factor for the establishment of learning institutions.

Technological Factors

Three large communications have established their respective networks in the area, connecting La Union to the rest of the Philippines and to the world. Internet connections are readily available in all areas.

Computerization of learning media, as well as the ability to communicate with the rest of the world are positive aspects that can be used to enhance the ability of UC to expand its reach.

UC’s internal capabilities and resources

As discussed by Bradford, et. al. in their Simplified Strategic Planning: A No-Nonsense Guide for Busy People Who Want Results Fast!, (Bradford, Duncan, Tarcy, , 2000), UC’s strengths using the SWOT analysis matrix developed by Albert S Humphrey (Humphrey, 1960 and 1970) who led a convention at Stanford University in the 1960s and 1970s), include the following:

long history of excellence

loyal cadre of English-speaking teachers

history of successful alumni

Weaknesses

Its weakness, on the other hand, can be stated as follows:

Dwindling funding support

Lackluster profitability

Opportunities and threats

Opportunities have cropped up recently. These are:

Increase in demand for competency in the English language. The Philippines is one of the choices of Southeast Asian countries for higher learning. Lately, other foreign students, particularly Korea and China, have chosen the Philippines to learn the English language. The motivation of these foreign students in going to the Philippines is its English-speaking population and its affordable cost of living.

Foreign students can be classified as those attending traditional schools, and those coming to the Philippines to gain proficiency in the English language.

Those that are attending traditional schools stay n the Philippines for four or more years. Those that are interested in gaining English proficiency stay for at least a year. They also arrive continuously over the year.

Thus, there is a continuous pool of potential students that UC can tap.

Availability of new teaching technologies. Teaching is no longer confined to lectures and class discussions. With the advent of computerization and the internet, education has expanded to include distance learning, conferencing, and the ability to conduct research with the help of the internet. It has also enhanced presentation capabilities, like the ability to produce learning media on compact discs, and use of affordable computer-based projectors.

Threats

The opportunities likewise pose threats to UC. These threats include:

Increase in competition. Small tutorial academies have cropped up. These academies rely mostly on teachers from nearby schools and teachers that conduct tutorials for a living. These academies use usually do not have their own curriculum but rather depend on the curriculums that are brought in by their teachers. These academies rely on a face-to-face teaching techniques.

While there may be an increase in competition, UC has advantage because of its reputation for being stable and an excellent learning institution. In addition, a change in the way teaching is done and administered would address the needs of students in the locality, as well as foreign students coming to the Philippines in search of a good learning institution.

Emergence of alternative learning media. International companies focused on teaching English have also cropped up. They use the internet and teleconferencing as their means for teaching. Again, UC can be different in the sense that its teaching strategy includes the use of the latest innovation in technology, including a curriculum that address the learning styles of different types of students.

Analysis of internal capabilities and external conditions

The influx of foreign students seeking to improve their fluency in the English language has created an opportunity for traditional learning institutions such as UC, including startups, and small tutorial academies.

Analysis of Resources

As an educational institution, all resources are plowed back to the school. Revenues mainly comes from tuition fees of enrollees, endowments, donations, and contributions. These revenues fluctuate and requires constant attention.

The UC name has been established as a learning institution strong in liberal arts and nursing. This can be viewed as an excellent resource which UC can capitalize in going to other ventures.

The capital outlay for new ventures usually pose a major drain in UC’s financial resources. However, a strengthened fund raising campaign can negate the drain.

The roster of faculty members have excellent teaching capabilities and can be retooled to undertake new teaching approaches.

With the resources available to UC, it is capable of taking advantage opportunities. UC can therefore do the following:

Develop a curriculum plan using a modular system for learning. This system should focus on teaching capitalizing on the learning style of a student. Being modular, it can be used at any time, allowing students to enroll at their convenience.

Using this system, a student can finish a learning module only when he is tested to be competent. A student cannot move to the next learning module unless he is proficient in previous modules. Exposure to the community will reinforce what the student has learned in class.

Explore alternative means for housing foreign students. At present, UC depends on the availability of housing situated in the community. With the influx of foreign students, this may no longer be sufficient. Thus, UC should consider investing in a modest dormitory. In time, the community may be encouraged to likewise invest in housing facilities for foreign students. UC however, should strive to ensure that these housing facilities outside the school strictly adhere to standards and conditions imposed by the school.

Strengthen contacts with immigration authorities. This is an important feature to enable UC to attract foreign students. It should establish liaison with immigration authorities so that those interest in coming to the Philippines can do so through UC’s effort.

This has been done before and UC view this as something doable. A memorandum of agreement with Immigration authorities should strengthen this link and ensure that getting the necessary permits would be easy.

Strengthen the ability of the faculty to teach English using technological resources. Although faculty members are already proficient in teaching, they should be re-oriented towards the use of technologies and new teaching methods. Seminars should be conducted to strengthen their appreciation of using student learning styles in adapting their teaching styles.

Explore sources of funding support. All of these initiatives require funding support. UC may consider the help of alumni, and the help of local businessmen to support this initiative. The probability of getting this support is high.

Competence and Culture

Competence is achieved through a persistent effort at excellence. Continuous training and upgrading as well as constant exposure to new technologies imbue faculty members the competence needed to effective teach.

Culture likewise is nurtured throughout the life of an organization. UC has been guided by its mission and everyone practices and adheres to that vision and mission. Because of this unwavering persistence, culture is established.

7. Strategy formulation

The results of the analyses using PEST and SWOT indicate the need for a strategy to address the following:

A curriculum plan addressed to the needs of target students, using a modular system for learning. This system should focus on teaching capitalizing on the learning style of a student. Being modular, it can be used at any convenient time, allowing students to enroll at their convenience.

Using this system, a student can finish a learning module only when he is tested to be competent. A student cannot move to the next learning module unless he is proficient in previous modules. Exposure to the community will reinforce what the student has learned in class.

Adequate housing for foreign students. At present, UC depends on the availability of housing situated in the community. With the influx of foreign students, this may not be enough. Thus, UC should consider investing in a modest dormitory. In time, the community may be encouraged to also invest in housing facilities for foreign students.

Permits and visas for foreign students. Establish contacts with immigration authorities. This is an important feature to enable UC to attract foreign students. It should establish liaison with immigration authorities so that those interest in coming to the Philippines can do so through UC’s effort.

This has been done before and we do not see it as a major issue.

English teaching proficiency. Strengthen the ability of the faculty to teach English using technological resources. Although faculty members are already proficient in teaching, they should be re-oriented towards the use of technologies and new teaching methods. Seminars should be conducted to strengthen their appreciation of using student learning styles in adapting their teaching styles.

Funding support. All of these initiatives require funding support. UC may consider the help of alumni, and the help of local businessmen to support this initiative. The probability of getting this support is high.

Competition. To reduce the impact of competition on UC and to established learning institutions, efforts should be made to regulate their operation by requiring these small competitors to ally themselves with established institutions such as UC. As a result, instead of having many unregulated academies, they will be integrated with establish institutions, allowing them to upgrade their skills and resources.

Generic Strategies

A strategy that can be followed by US is standard. Using available financial, human resource, buildings, teaching materials, and online advertising media, UC can add one more course offering that uses a different method of teaching and scheduling.

8. Strategy implementation

To implement the proposed strategy, it should be done in phases, as follows:

Phase 1. Organize training team

Phase 2. Develop curriculum, construct additional classrooms, and purchase computer software and hardware. Develop training methodology, produce trainors’ guides and participants’ guides

Phase 3. Organize and train trainors. Recruit internally or from external sources, then train them on the new training approach.

Phase 4. Create awareness. Launch an advertising campaign on the web. Liaise with immigration and education authorities for the granting of student visas and permits.

Phase 5. Accept enrollees, and start of operations.

A strategy implementation schedule is shown in Exhibit 1.

9. Evaluation and control

The implementation of the plan must be scrutinized and improvements made as needed.

Evaluation and control consists of the following steps:

Establish parameters to be measured. These success parameters would include percent increase in enrollment, percent increase in revenues, positive feedback from alumni, turn around time in securing permits and visas, percent increase in English proficiency scores of students.

Critical Success Factors

To deem the modular English teaching offering, it should result in the following:

Increased revenue from foreign students. They pay a relatively high tuition for a relatively short period.

High student turnover. Because of the relatively short period that students stay, more students can be accommodated, resulting in higher revenues.

Successful visa and study permit applications. A 100% success rate is deemed successful.

Enhanced identity as an excellent and adaptive learning institution. While this may take time, it should become apparent through feedback.

Define target values for those parameters. All the parameters should have a minimum score to deem them successful.

Perform measurements. Systems and procedures should be establish to gather , analyze and report results of measurement. Results should be discussed frequently so that timely adjustments can be made.

Compare measured results to the pre-defined standard. Reports on the results of performance measures must be compared with set success standards so that appropriate adjustments can be made.

Make necessary changes. This is the most important result of the review of the results of the strategy. Negative results should highlight what failed and what needs to be done to improve. Positive results should be used as a basis for further improvements.

10. Conclusion

In going through this strategic planning exercise using Union College, students became aware of the processes that industries go through when making decisions on what to do to overcome difficulties.

They learned how to:

1. Think critically about a company, its status, and how it be profitable.

2. Develop skills in conducting strategic analysis in a variety of industries and competitive situations.

3. Use their hands-on experience in crafting business strategy; reason carefully about strategic options; use what-if analysis to evaluate action alternatives, and initiate the changes necessary to keep the strategy responsive to newly emerging market conditions.

4. Improve their ability to manage the processes related to strategies.

5. Develop their powers of judgment, that is, how to assess business risks, and understand the challenges in a global environment.

6. Demonstrate the skill to design and continuously improve strategies in changing situations.

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