McKinsey Arts and Sciences Report

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The McKinsey Arts and Science Report recommended changes to the administrative structure of Columbia University[1]. The report was produced by the management consulting firm McKinsey & Company in summer 2011.

The controversy over the report revolved around the plan to further integrate Columbia College and other schools into the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, led at the time by Executive Vice President of Arts and Sciences Nicholas Dirks. The report was popularized among the Columbia community after Moodygate, when former Columbia College Dean Michelle Moody-Adams suddenly announced on August 21, 2011 that she would be leaving her post in wake of concerns over transformations in "the administrative structure in Arts and Sciences."[2] Before she resigned, Dean Moody-Adams warned that if the McKinsey report were implemented, it would "compromise the College’s academic quality and financial health."[3]

The report was confidential, but the Columbia Daily Spectator was able to obtain a summary of it a few months later. On April 12, 2012, editors Sam Roth and Michele Cleary published an article about the report in The Eye.[4] They also uploaded an executive summary of the McKinsey Report to Scribd.[5]

Report Content

The report summary identifies three areas of action in Arts and Sciences: 1) improving top-level coordination and decision-making by re-organizing the structure of A&S; 2) enhancing administrative support services; and 3) generating straight cash, homey.[6]

Organization Restructuring

The report's first area of concern is the structure of Arts and Sciences and the division of decision making power between the EVP A&S, the six school deans, and the 29 department heads. The report recommends either creating an operating committee for A&S so that the EVP isn't being pulled in 35 different directions; centralizing more control within A&S with the EVP; or fundamentally restructuring the University to integrate A&S directly into the central administration. The report notes that A&S used to have an operating committee before (the Policy and Budget Committee (PBC)) before, but that proved dysfunctional, and that a restructuring of the University was probably out of the question, thus leaving the goldilocks solution of centralization within A&S.

The proposed centralization structure would place control of the overall budget and fundraising strategy in the hands of the EVP, curricular decisions in the hands of newly created "Division" heads (divisions being groupings of departments, e.g. 'Humanities', 'Social Science', 'Natural Science'), and leave the school deans with control over only "care and feeding" of students, study abroad, and student activities. This structure could be interpreted as threatening the viability of the Core Curriculum, and removing the College from between central A&S and the College's lucrative and loyal donor base.[7]

Improving Administrative Support

The report identifies a number of administrative support services (specifically, HR, IT, and Finance) that would benefit from pooling and specialization across A&S. The report also proposes a framework for achieving beneficial centralization of services, such as piloting, clear definitions of expectations, and continuous feedback. The report also stresses the importance of a strong performance management process, noting the "history of suboptimal service centralization" at Columbia. Ouch.

Increasing Revenue

The third key recommendation of the report is about generating more revenue. However, unlike for the other recommendations, the slide deck obtained by Spec doesn't have slides expanding on the revenue generation proposals.[8] However, on the single-slide "Overview" of the review and recommendations, this topic takes up about two-thirds of the slide. Therefore it's not surprising that the Spectator reported that "McKinsey’s report was commissioned in part to help administrators eliminate a budget deficit that has plagued A&S for the last few years."

The report makes four proposals to expand revenue: expand offerings at the School of Continuing Education, including hybrid online courses; expand Masters degrees enrollment and offerings; reduce financial aid; improve alumni fundraising targeted at current needs. Curiously the report doesn't recommend undergraduate enrollment expansion, a time-honored method of raising cash at Columbia (e.g. during the wonderfully euphemistic "enhancement of the undergraduate experience" in the mid-90s). Perhaps this is because Columbia's An Agenda for the Future had already considered this step in 2009 report, and then implemented following the financial crisis of 2008.

Financial Aid Reduction

The most controversial revenue generation proposal was that in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008, Columbia's Office of Financial Aid and Educational Financing should consider reversing financial aid reforms implemented in 2007 and 2008 by re-instituting student loans as a part of aid packages, and raising the income level at which Columbia eliminated family contributions altogether.

Expanded Course/Degree Offerings

The report recommends expanding enrollment in six "high demand" terminal masters programs, and adding two additional offerings, in economics and interdisciplinary individual study (noting that peer schools already have these programs.[9] Note that Columbia already churns out more degrees than any of its peers, nearly doubling its closest ivy competition. The report also recommends expanding offerings at the School of Continuing Education and offering hybrid online courses.

Improved Fundraising

The report finally recommends that better faculty communication and coordination with the Office of Alumni and Development might result in generating donations better aligned with current faculty needs and goals.

See also

External links


  2. "Consultants' budget, structure recommendations at core of Moody-Adams' resignation", Columbia Spectator, 23 August 2011
  3. Dean Moody-Adams's resignation letter
  4. The Black Box: what's happening inside low library, The Eye - Columbia Spectator, 12 April 2012
  5. McKinsey Project Summary—Columbia Arts & Sciences Review | Scribd
  6. Randy Moss memories: The story behind 'Straight Cash, Homey', MinnPost
  7. Consider that during the Sovern/Rupp 1990s Campaign for Columbia, FAS overall missed many of its fundraising goals, despite the campaign overall beating its goal by 50%, and the College (whose fundraising counted towards the FAS total) beating all of its individual goals. It's unsurprising then that FAS would covet access to all "FAS Alumni" without the money filtering through the schools, especially the College.
  8. The structure of the deck suggests that these slides are either missing or were not presented on July 27, 2011. A slide titled "Overview of Columbia A&S review" appears three times in the deck, with each of the three review sections highlighted in turn, with slides expanding on the recommendations for that section following each appearance of the Overview slide. However, the third appearance of the Overview slide, the one in which revenue generation recommendations are highlighted, is the last slide in the deck. No expansion on those recommendations follows.
  9. It's unclear what 'Economics' program is being discussed here. GSAS offers a two-year Masters in Economics. Columbia Business School has been offering a Masters of Science in Financial Economics since 2011, but which was approved by the University Senate in 2010. (University Senate | MS in Financial Economics resolution))