The importance of having the house in order with a review of course architecture

The importance of having the house in order with a review of course architecture


Where resources are limited and competitors are highly motivated, the architecture of a university’s course portfolio is crucially important.

Many universities offer a diverse array of courses and degree programmes that have grown organically and been driven by opportunity or the interests and passions of academic staff. A large number of courses means plenty of choice, but it also typically means high costs for an unevenly distributed benefit.

In fact, course enrolments tend to follow the Pareto Principle – 80 per cent of students are enrolled in 20 per cent of the university’s courses. In large part, many courses represent a combination of duplicates, minor variations in course content required for specific degree programs, failed experiments and legacy courses.

It is costly to run a low enrolment portfolio and it carries a large set of opportunity costs. Plus, a diverse portfolio of courses often makes it hard for a university to articulate its value and offer to students.

The architecture of the course offer can be optimised to tell a powerful story to prospective students and the market more generally. Nous has helped universities do this on a small scale – through a review of courses – or through a more comprehensive reshaping of the portfolio of degrees and courses – a transformation of the course architecture.

A finely tuned course architecture simplifies a university’s pitch to prospective students. For instance, universities gain an edge from deeply understanding research strengths, and how the course portfolio can leverage these to create a compelling and differentiated value proposition in specific areas. A similar thing can be done with connections into industry.

Monash University, one of Australia’s most renowned education institutions, recently went through a process of reshaping the architecture of its course offer. They implemented an ambitious redesign encompassing the gamut of degrees. As Deputy Vice Chancellor Research Edwina Cornish explains, Monash was rewarded with a much more compelling story to the market and an immediate growth in admissions.

Monash University case study from Nous Group on Vimeo.

Get in touch to find out more about Nous’ work in course architecture.