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Education leaders shape the future of post-secondary education

Leaders in the field of education play a major role in shaping the future of higher education. The use of online degree programs, people retraining for other careers and the increase in diversity at higher education institutions are just a few of the major factors that leaders must be ready to address.

The demand for educators and those willing to work in administration is expected to grow over the years. Even if some college enrollment figures drop, the demand for online educational opportunities and trade school programs is expected to continue to be high.

Here are some of the many ways that education leaders shape the future of post-secondary education:

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Designing curriculum

Leaders are responsible for designing new curriculum and updating older curriculum so that it remains relevant. Designing curriculum is a very important aspect of post-secondary education. Without an excellent curriculum, a degree is just a piece of paper. Well thought out and designed curriculum is essential to providing students with the skills and knowledge they need to thrive and succeed in the future.

Planning degree course loads

All degrees have certain course requirements. Choosing which electives are offered, specializations and more, can make a big difference in the quality of a degree program. Higher education institutions are competing for students, so leaders need to consider how to make their programs more attractive or unique enough to stand out.

Offering an extensive selection of relevant electives and the option for students to specialize in a specific area of their studies can be appealing.

Managing the use of emerging technologies

Students have more technological resources at their fingertips than any generation before them. Smartphones are more powerful than state of the art computers were not that long ago. 

The use of artificial intelligence and automation has truly changed the world. Education leaders must figure out the best way to encourage students to use technology responsibly. Relying on technology too much can have a major impact on learning and retention of information.

There is also the challenge of keeping students honest. Technology has made it far easier for students to cheat on papers and exams. Online services that write papers for students are well within the means of many. The use of small or hidden technologies is another problem.

A fair and accurate grading system is more of a challenge than it should be. Education leaders need to work with staff to ensure that all students are treated fairly when it comes to grading and testing.


Leaders in education must be open to mentoring students and staff alike. This can mean keeping some office hours where students or staff can stop in and talk to you about any concerns they might have or get advice about their own studies and careers.

This means that leaders must be good listeners and have the ability to empathize with those from many different backgrounds.

Training other leaders

Leaders come and go. There are many people reaching retirement age, so that means that there are plenty of people just entering a leadership role or that are trying to gain the skills they need to assume a role when one becomes available. If you become a leader, then part of your job may be teaching others leadership and administrative skills. 

Some education leaders earn part of their salary by teaching college level education classes that are designed to hone the leadership skills of those within the field of education specifically.

Financial savviness

Educational leaders have a say in how funds are spent at their educational institutions. Leaders may need to design fundraising campaigns and donation drives. Meetings with trustees and potential benefactors are commonly attended by leaders.


Those working in educational administration need to have a good understanding of budgeting within departments and strategize on how to make the most of the funds they have on hand for operating expenses.

Some leaders may have to deal with more of the financial side of their institution than others. A more focused role can lead to situations where leaders must speak up if they notice any irregularities or see funds being spent in a manner that is not in the best interests of the school or a specific department. 

Collaboration and teamwork

Being a leader means that you must be willing to work in a team environment. In fact, you need to be really good at working in a team and sometimes leading them. 

Education leaders are constantly working with other administrators to manage and operate colleges and universities. In some cases, they may need to work with other post-secondary institutions to plan or collaborate on projects.

A good example of intercollegiate collaboration is credit exchange or reciprocal programs. If there is room at a college, a student from the partner college can take a class there and receive credit for it even of one school has higher fees than the other. This can be a great program for smaller colleges that want to offer students expanded curriculum options.

Some colleges may have exchange programs with each other that last for a full term, semester or even longer. This can even occur among universities that collaborate with each other but are located in different countries. For example, a college in the USA may have an option that allows talented students to spend a semester or a year at a college in England or France.

Managing change

As your career progresses, there will likely be a lot of change. As a leader, it is your job to help students and staff manage changes that take place at your educational institution.

Staff and professor changes occur regularly. While this may not seem like a major change to you, there are cases where a professor might have been part of the school for decades, so bringing in a replacement when that person retires can require a bit of getting used to. Expectations of a new professor may be quite high if they are replacing someone with an outstanding reputation or that other staff are simply very familiar with.

Changes in fees and tuition can be challenging too. The cost of education is on the rise, and no one knows when it will slow down. Chances are that any student will have to deal with some changes in fee structures throughout the course of their education. For education leaders, it is guaranteed that they will see increases. 

Leaders that hold an administrative role may need to help make decisions regarding when tuition and fee increases need to happen. This is a hard position to be in as no one likes a fee increase.

Decisions regarding cuts to programs are tough as well. Some universities have cut entire majors due to lack of demand or so that they can focus more on specific degree programs.

Managing the challenges of diversity

Diversity is on the rise. With increased diversity there may be some challenges that arise. It is important that education leaders recognize that they need to make an effort to ensure that their institution is welcoming to people from a variety of ethnic, social, economic and other backgrounds. Encouraging a network of student resources and support groups to help students from different backgrounds orient themselves into the academic world is important.

Leaders need to encourage cultural awareness among staff and students. Not only is this necessary to creating a good learning environment, but it prepares students for when they graduate and are seeking employment. The ability to work well and connect with people from all walks of life is a skill of immense value in the workplace.

Encouraging meaningful research

Post secondary schools are known for performing a lot of great research. In fact, there are many departments that receive a variety of grants and other aid based on their research practices. Education leaders need to look for opportunities for their institutions to take part in meaningful research. 

Students can really make a difference by taking on research projects with professors and other degree seeking students. In fact, a good research program can help a college stand out from all the others regardless of its size or previous prestige. Students should be encouraged to be innovative and come up with research ideas that advance their field of study. 

Graduate students often receive stipends for conducting research. These stipends sometimes come from businesses that want to invest in honing bright new talent. For example, a pharmaceutical company might offer funds to help pay for the research of a student in the sciences.

Online education will continue to grow

Education leaders will need to work more with professors to create online curriculum that can offer a good educational experience to those that need to arrange their studies around a work schedule. Online education not only allows more people to earn a degree, but it is also an excellent way for post-secondary schools to bring in extra income during a time when fewer people are choosing to attend traditional brick-and-mortar schools.

The rise in online education means considering different learning strategies and ensuring that professors have the tools they need to create professional quality content to provide to students. This means investing in more technology and learning tools while keeping tuition competitive.

Post secondary schools should consider diversifying

There is a demand for higher education that is not necessarily a bachelor’s degree or beyond. More people are choosing to attend trade schools that result in either a certificate or an associate degree. Figuring out if any of these programs make sense for a college to offer will be part of the job description for education leaders.

What is the best way to become an education leader?

Most education leaders start out by teaching. Gaining a teaching certificate is a great place to start if you have no previous college degree or education. 

If you have a bachelor’s degree and some education experience, then pursuing an advanced degree is the next logical step. An advanced degree may be earned online while you maintain your current job. This means you can start applying your new knowledge and skills immediately in your current work.

Is a career as an education leader right for me?

If you are already in education and are considering the best way to advance your career, then you are likely thinking about a leadership role. If you really enjoy teaching and want to continue to do so, then there are plenty of positions that can offer you that as well as the opportunity to have a larger say in what curriculum is offered at a post-secondary school.

Of course, some positions are more administration based. This means you will find yourself teaching less in the classroom and spending more time at a desk or in a boardroom.

If you are getting burned out teaching high school or younger students, then an advanced degree and entering the collegiate system may be just the refreshing change you need.

Education leaders often perform a lot of research studies as well, so if you miss that part of academia, post-secondary institutions can offer you a lot of opportunities in that regard.

What advanced degree is best?

Before you decide on which degree to pursue, you need to ask yourself some important questions about the role you want to play in the education system. Many people consider the difference between Ph.D. and Ed.D. degrees for example. A Ph.D. is best suited for those that want to play a role in teaching, curriculum planning or research. An Ed.D. degree, such as the one offered by Rockhurst University, might be a better option if you would rather be in a more administrative role throughout your career or you want to focus on providing leadership to other administrators and staff.

Experience is essential

While the right education is important, you do need to realize the value of real-world experience. Be observant in your workplace, especially if you are already working in education. There is a lot you can learn by helping out administrators or volunteering for some tasks.

Great communication skills are a must for education leaders. Most teachers have fairly good skills already but it is important to hone these skills to excel when working with people from a variety of demographics and backgrounds. Volunteering for activities that expose you to a lot of different people will help out a lot in your future career as an education leader.

Think outside the box

Education leaders need to be willing to let go of some of what was once considered an educational norm. Post-secondary education is changing, and leaders need to always be thinking of innovative ways to keep their institution and its degree programs fresh and relevant.

Attracting new students and keeping enrollment figures at desirable levels will take more work in the future. Keeping the reputation of an institution strong may require making some serious changes, including adding or eliminating some classes and majors.

With so many people going back to school to make career changes, there is more demand for majors that are most likely to offer a broad range of employment options. Fewer people are attending college just to get any degree so they can say they did. Education is more specialized and will continue to be so.

Practice your public speaking and networking skills

Being a leader means doing a lot of talking in front of others. While those with teaching experience may think they already have these skills, it can be a bit different when you are trying to talk and convince your peers rather than a group of students.

Education leaders may need to attend conferences and seminars in person and deliver presentations or lectures. Networking in person is another important aspect of a leader’s job. Taking the initiative and building your network of other education leaders is important. If you don’t have an outstanding LinkedIn profile or it needs a serious update, then taking care of that chore is an excellent place to start. 


Education leaders must be prepared to tackle a lot of challenges in the future. As post-secondary education institutions become more diverse, there will be a need for significant changes in the system. Although more people are choosing to go back to school to train for a new career, there is still a lot of competition between universities for student enrollment. Creating an innovative and interesting curriculum that stands out from the typical offering is going to be increasingly important.

As more people reach retirement age, the demand for education leaders is bound to increase. Now is a great time for those with education experience to earn an advanced degree and be ready to take on a larger role in higher education.

Choosing the right advanced degree will offer you the skills you need to fulfill many leadership roles.

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