Collaborating Across the Christian Higher Education Sector
There is often a spoken or assumed expectation by those outside the sector that Christian higher education institutions ought to find deeper ways to collaborate. The sentiment is affirmed by those within the sector44 and in practice institutions are generally generous about things like sharing policy, referring students to rival institutions that better suit the student’s academic aims, and offering friendship, moral support, and prayer across the aisles.
For deeper collaboration, however, it needs to be recognized that this is something easier said than done. Institutions develop unique cultures and operate with diverse academic aims and levels. Significantly, most institutions have fewer students or resources than they need – especially since COVID, and many carry debts and structural deficits. In such a scarcity environment this creates something of a “prisoner’s dilemma,” where collaboration might benefit the whole sector but at the potential cost to a few. Who budges first?
Of course, the relief of financial distress would release higher levels of collaboration – ultimately, the sector is “Kingdom-minded” and roots for rivals.45 Such relief would need to come from outside the sector, however, perhaps as outlined in the section below. But besides finances, often sentiment gets in the way of collaboration.46 As one example, several years ago Horizon offered a struggling college the opportunity to co-berth at Horizon’s facilities, sharing place and key personnel, but to retain programmatic and degree-granting autonomy. The board was split with the majority preferring that the college remain at its property and release its historic educational mandate to instead become a one-year discipleship school.