11 Chapter 11: Policy Project Case Study “New Frontiers”

New Frontiers (College Based)


In order to grow your college, the President has announced that a new vocational satellite campus – New Frontiers – will be opened in a developing country overseas. This has been done so in partnership with a transnational mining company, Zenith Mining, who sees having a trained workforce valuable to their operations as a gold mine. As such, they are pledging to fund 50% of the $100 million (CAD) facility.


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Description of the Context

Your college has undergone steady growth over the past decade. The college’s programs and interests are predominantly focused on the local economy and community which is reflected in the most recent draft of the strategic mandate agreement (SMA) that is scheduled to be submitted to Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development in the coming months. While this direction has been successful in building the reputation of the institution within the region, it has meant that the college has not kept pace in forming global partnerships. International market development is particularly important in order to diversify the college’s financial portfolio. While the current government appears to prioritize innovation and education, this cannot be relied upon exclusively to fund the college’s growth and development. Additionally, demographic trends suggest that the population of 18-25 year olds, who represent 75% of the student population, is shrinking; this is particularly concerning as it has been recently been announced that a top-tier university will be opening a new satellite campus in your region focused predominantly on technology and engineering.

Expanding into international markets and forming partnerships with the private sector are tempting prospect to generate additional revenue streams for the college. Other colleges have navigated similar private sector partnerships; however these have typically been in collaboration with postsecondary institution overseas that already have the physical infrastructure and human resources available to support the new programs. The partnership with Zenith Mining is unique as it is exclusively between your college and the company. The relationship has been positive, but the executives at Zenith have subtly suggested that they would prefer the instructors at New Frontiers include members of their company and that their employees be given preferential admission to the programs that will be offered at the new site. In discussing these considerations, the executives indicated that similar arrangements have been important to their partnership with privately-funded colleges in the United States. Although this has been a contentious issue for the college community, there is also a countercurrent of excitement about the prospect of partnering with a transnational company. The arrangement is seen by some as an opportunity for the college to extend its expertise and influence in the science, technology, and engineering sectors which has not been possible before with the college’s limited regional focus.


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While Zenith Mining has committed to financing 50% of the overseas facility, the college is still responsible for the remaining $50 million needed to complete the physical infrastructure of the new satellite campus. Unfortunately, the college’s Advancement and Donor Relations unit has not been successful in finding additional private sponsors for this project; in fact, the Director has indicated that many of the college’s stalwart community and business partners have voiced their displeasure that the institution is shifting focus away from the local community. The Advancement team has also reported that since the announcement about New Frontiers some donors have seemed reluctant to commit to financing other projects including an innovation incubator that the college has been trying to launch for the last three years.

Task Description

You will assume one of the roles from the following stakeholder groups (number of people per role is in brackets):

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  1. Members of the Board of Governors (2-3)
  2. Executive Member of the Faculty Association (3-4)
  3. Undergraduate Student Union Executive (3-4)
  4. Sessional Instructors (3-4)
  5. Co-chairs of the Department of Science & Engineering Technology (2-3)

Week 1 – Partnership Management – It has become evident that the partnership with Zenith Mining is creating ripples in the local community. In fact the regional business association has requested a meeting with the college to discuss their concerns with this new direction. The relationship with the members of the business association is important for the college as they have consistently supported the college as financial donors and by hosting co-op placements and experiential learning opportunities for students across all programs. You have been invited to participate in the meeting with the association this afternoon. Upon arrival, you find that you know many of the members of the association in attendance through your academic and professional associations. They know you to be an honest, forthright person who speaks their mind even when it may not be popular. Once the meeting commences, the business association’s vice-president asked you for your perspective on the New Frontiers venture. Share your response.

Week 2 – Strategic Mandate Agreement (SMA) Revisited – An international satellite campus and partnership-focused programming is a significant departure from the college’s current SMA as well as its overall mission and vision which is hinged on supporting local interests and the local economy. This became quite evident at the meeting last week with the regional business association. In preparing the updated SMA for the Ministry, the President of the college has requested input from the college community on articulating the defining characteristics and strategic direction of the college. In order to lend more weight to your position, you have decided to join together with the other members of your stakeholder group to present a single statement to the President. Prepare a single, collective statement with your stakeholder group on how you see the New Frontiers project fitting into the college’s future. Do you support this direction for the college? Why or why not? What does the college and those in your stakeholder group stand to gain or lose as a result of the partnership and satellite institute? How do you propose updating the SMA to reflect your position? Share your statement.

Week 3 – New Directions for New Frontiers – There has recently been a change in the government of the country neighbouring the overseas country slated as the location for the New Frontiers campus. This has resulted in growing political unrest over the last half year. Zenith executives have assured the college that the satellite campus in located in a highly secure and stable area. They are still committed to honouring their investment and are now willing to finance 75% of the facility, plus allocate $5 million in scholarships for the college’s students to attend New Frontiers. They have also proposed a counter offer – if the college decides to relocate the facility to its home campus in Ontario, Zenith is willing to finance $20 million of the $100 million facility, however they will insist that they hold a voting seat on the college’s Board of Governors for the next decade and that 25% of the teaching staff hired for the new programs are Zenith employees. With these two options on the table, the college could still decide to walk away from the partnership entirely, or propose their own counter offer. The President of the college has already submitted the updated SMA to the Ministry which includes a commitment by the college to “grow international partnerships” (she decided to keep this language broad given the wide range of perspectives she received from the college’s stakeholders). She has asked for your input on the decision facing the college on the future of New Frontiers.

  1. Your input – Post a statement to the President outlining your position on this dilemma based on your role. Do you support one of the options proposed? If so, why? If not, what is your counter proposal?
  2. Your response – The President has sought out the opinions of many members of the college community on this decision. She has asked for you to comment on the statement made by a member of a different stakeholder group. Select a statement made by someone who holds a different role (i.e. if you are a sessional instructor, do not respond to the statement made by another sessional instructor). Does their statement align with your perspective/proposal? Where do you think you share common ground and where is there divergence?

Note that each statement can only be responded to once – if a statement has already been replied to you must select a different statement to which to respond.

Remember to keep your statement professional and not personal. If feel that in your role you would disagree with elements of the statement you may expand on this in your response; however you are not to personally attack the individual who posted the original statement.

Strategies and Resources

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You can refer to the information on College and University Strategic Mandate Agreements on the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development website for further context on the nature of these agreements.