Report: Mapping the Future of the College Presidency

College presidents have always played numerous roles within their institutions. They are chief executives, academics, fundraisers, and mentors at the same time. However, at a time when thoughtful leadership is more important than ever, the role of the college president is witnessing enormous challenges and have become more complex than ever due to social, economic, cultural, demographic and technological changes. 

Against this backdrop, the Aspen Institute, along with a task force of 35 college and university leaders, has published a new report on the future of the college presidency. The task force examined the challenges college presidents face today and what will be required to strengthen their role in the coming decades.

The report, “Renewal and Progress: Strengthening Higher Education Leadership in a Time of Rapid Change” identifies the necessary leadership skills and qualities the future college presidents should have and analyses how they could be developed.

The report outlines three focus areas to ensure a healthy supply of future talent: 

  1. Expanding and developing continuing professional development and peer learning opportunities for other leaders.
  2. Provide boards of trustees with greater and more integrated assistance so they can improve their partnerships with current and future college presidents.
  3. Advancing new and expanded ways to develop a diverse presidential talent pool.

One of the key strengths of this report is its task force. The group consisted of current college and university presidents from community colleges, liberal arts colleges, research universities, regional public universities, historically black and minority-serving institutions. These men and women worked with these three major questions:

  • What enduring qualities and conditions are critical to the efficacy of future college presidents?
  • What new qualities and conditions will be required for effectiveness in the future?
  • In light of these qualities and conditions, what needs to be done to strengthen the college presidency?

The report provides recommendations to build a robust foundation so those dedicated to the enduring task of leading higher education institutions, can work together to innovate their practice.