Learn More about the Strategic Planning Process

The strategic planning process that resulted in Higher Expectations: The Strategic Plan for the University of North Carolina System was initiated with the commissioning of a report of institutional effectiveness. The Boston Consulting Group was hired to review the structure, activities, and organizational effectiveness of The UNC System Office. 

MAY 2018

Institution Dashboards

Benchmark: Institution Data Dashboards Launched
Institution specific data dashboards launched showing progress toward priorities.

MARCH 2018

System Dashboards

Benchmark: System Data Dashboard Launched
System Level data dashboard launched with individual campus dashboards following shortly.

NOV. 2017


Benchmark: Performance Agreements Signed
Plans created and signed that build on each institution’s distinctive strengths and priorities.

DEC. 2016


Benchmark: Review, Finalize, and Approve System Level Goals
The full Board of Governors will prioritize, finalize, and approve a small set of system level goals based on committee recommendations and stakeholder feedback.

OCT. 2016

System Level Goals

Benchmark: Recommend System Level
The Board Committee should recommend 2-3 draft system level goals based on information gathered in the previous two benchmarks.
Topic: Affordability & Efficiency

SEPT. 2016

Environmental Scan

Benchmark: Evaluate National, State, and University Landscape, Strengths, and Gaps
Evaluate what is happening nationally and across the state in this strategic priority area, assess the needs of the state, and determine the University’s current strengths and gaps in relation to this landscape.
Topics: Access; Student Success

JULY 2016


Benchmark: Define the Strategic Priority
Learn about and describe the strategic priority in detail
Topics: Economic Impact and Community Engagement; Excellent & Diverse Institutions

MAY 2016

Kick Off

Kick off topics at Board of Governors Meeting.
Watch the Strategic Priorities Discussion.

Public Input Sessions

The University of North Carolina System belongs to all citizens and constituencies of our state. Recognizing its obligation to all constituencies to contribute to an improved quality of life – economically and socially – the UNC System is in the process of developing a strategic plan for guiding decision making in the years ahead.

For any strategic plan to be meaningful and successful, it is essential to understand the perspectives of as many individuals and constituencies as possible. To that end, stakeholders (faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community members) have had two opportunities to provide feedback on the draft definitions, goals, and metrics: 1) an online survey and 2) one of seventeen public forums held at each UNC System institution.

Executive Summary of Public Input Sessions and Survey Results

An executive summary provides an overview of feedback received from both the online survey and public forums.

Online Survey

A survey soliciting feedback from stakeholders across the state was open from September 22 to November 20th. Survey results captures perspectives of over 8,500 individuals.

Public Forums

Public Forums were held at all 17 constituent institutions between October and mid-November. The feedback received during each forum was summarized by constituent institution staff and can be downloaded at the links below.

Presentations to the UNC Board of Governors on a range of topics informing the strategic planning process are available for viewing.

Kick Off Topics:

Economic Impact and Community Engagement Discussions:

Access and Success Presentations:


In 2014, 37 percent of undergraduates across the system received Pell Grants, up from 26 percent in 2006. Additionally, the UNC System has a rich history of providing access to diverse populations, including six institutions that have historically served minorities. Currently, African-American and Hispanic students comprise 26 percent of total enrollment.

Ensuring that the system remained open to all was an issue raised by numerous stakeholders. Said BCG one interviewee, “The diversity of our students needs to be at the forefront of the discussion.” Said another institution leader, “I wouldn’t be here today if not for the UNC System.”


Access is the opportunity for all North Carolinians who are prepared for the associated rigorous learning experiences to pursue a university education.

Providing North Carolinians access and encouragement to pursue higher education is not confined solely to helping students gain admittance to college. It also includes: 

  • providing multiple access points into the University;
  • academic, financial, cultural, and other knowledge-based services to help all students – but particularly for those who are underserved for any reason – aspire to, enroll in, and graduate from institutions that match their interests and capabilities.



Many stakeholders referenced the state’s clear constitutional mandate for affordability: that public higher education should “as far as practicable, be extended to the people of the State free of expense.” This is a unique aspect of the UNC System; as one interviewee noted, “We are one of the few states that has the affordability of higher education in our constitution.”


Article IX, Section 9 of the NC State Constitution requires that the General Assembly shall provide that “the benefits of The University of North Carolina and other public institutions of higher education, as far as practicable, be extended to the people of the State free of expense.”  

That constitutional mandate encourages a working compact among the state’s elected officials, taxpayers, and the University to deliver the University’s multifaceted mission at the highest levels of quality in a cost-effective manner without regard to a student’s ability to pay.



A college degree is increasingly important for career success. According to a study from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, by 2020, 61 percent of jobs in North Carolina will require some form of postsecondary education and training, while between 2010 and 2020 there will be an estimated 1.5 million new job openings—two-thirds of which will require higher education.

At the same time, the “attainment gap” between white and minority students in North Carolina is one of the largest in the country; while 50 percent of white students earn a postsecondary degree, only 28 percent of African-American and 24 percent of Hispanic students do so.

Ensuring students graduate ready for their career is a critical priority for the UNC System, and there was broad agreement among our interviewees that each institution must provide a clear value proposition to students. At the same time, interviewees were quick to point out that student success takes a wide variety of forms beyond graduation rates and job prospects and should also include a sense of overall well-being. As one stakeholder put it, reflecting the diverse objectives of the system, “It’s about earnings somewhat…but also well-being, setting up for long-term personal and professional success, [and] citizenship.” Any notion of student success must also consider the diverse student make-up of the system, including non-traditional and adult students.


Student Success is a multifaceted construct of positive intellectual, personal, and social transformation facilitated by a high quality University education.  It includes:

  • The timely acquisition of a degree, and
  • The development of competencies – critical thinking, life-long learning, technological mastery, resilience, effective communication, flexibility, and collaboration, among others – for a meaningful engagement in 21st-century life, including, but not limited to the workforce.



The UNC System contributes in myriad ways to the economic needs of North Carolina. A statewide analysis released in 2015 on the impact of higher education on the state’s economy estimated that in 2013 the UNC System contributed $27.9 billion in added state income through alumni, faculty research, start-ups, and other sources, the equivalent of 426,000 new jobs.

The UNC System brings in $1.36 billion annually in research funding as well.

Several stakeholders surfaced the need for the UNC System to contribute in many ways to the state, including educating the next generation of civic leaders, partnering with employers to shape the state’s future workforce, providing leadership and innovation in health care, and supporting faculty in impactful academic research and community outreach.


Universities have an impact on state and regional economies through the students they attract and teach, the research they perform, the innovation they encourage, the people they employ, the services they offer, and the partnerships they build. The University of North Carolina can enhance that impact by focusing on graduates’ readiness to meet the state’s long-term needs; investing in foundational research; speeding the application and translation of discoveries; and deepening partnerships that strengthen local communities and the state’s economy.



The UNC system is comprised of a collection of highly distinct institutions, each with a unique mission and goals. Some of these institutions have a proud heritage of serving minorities, some are centers of excellence for the liberal arts, and one is a world-class arts conservatory. Some are top-tier research institutions, and some offer excellent education in technology and agriculture.

A successful model for the UNC System will acknowledge the strengths and contributions of every UNC System institution. It will also be important to retain the diversity of institutions within the system, a view expressed repeatedly to the Boston Consulting Group in our conversations. Said one BCG interviewee, “We need to champion individual schools. The one size fits all mentality does not work.” Said another, “Each school plays its own part in the system. And we should make sure that each school is the best at its mission.”


Institutions that, both individually and collectively as a system, are distinct and mission-focused; high-performing; and committed to the fullest development of all students, faculty, and staff.