Product Management for Higher Education

The product management function in higher education is in a unique spot in its industry. At first glance, higher education may not seem like an industry that needs a product team filled with product managers. However, universities and colleges are the perfect places to employ product management principles.

Consider it more deeply: educational institutions provide many products and services. Instead of a traditional B2B software or physical piece of hardware, their products are programs, IT services, university websites (internal and external), or even actual curricula, to name a few. These products can extend beyond traditional classroom settings to encompass a wide array of services, technologies, and experiences to enhance learning outcomes, streamline operations, and stay competitive.

Higher education and institutional goals

So, what is the main benefit of adding a product team to a university? In short, product management serves as a strategic framework that empowers higher education institutions to align their offerings with overarching institutional goals.

By adopting a product management approach, universities and colleges can systematically identify and prioritize initiatives that directly contribute to their mission, whether it’s improving student retention rates, enhancing the quality of academic programs, or optimizing administrative processes.

Through thorough market research, user feedback, and iterative development cycles, individual product teams enable educational institutions to tailor their services and technologies to the specific needs of their diverse stakeholders.

By fostering a culture of innovation and continuous improvement, product management helps universities and colleges achieve their immediate objectives and positions them for long-term success and relevance in an ever-evolving educational landscape.

Relevant stakeholders in higher education

We’ve already mentioned the “diverse stakeholders” that product serves in the higher education industry, but who are they? Depending on the product or service, these stakeholders can be:

  • Undergraduate students
  • Graduate students
  • Prospective students
  • Faculty
  • Financial teams
  • Admissions and enrollment
  • Student success
  • Campus activities and student life
  • Marketing and social media
  • IT teams

And the list goes on! Depending on the service they manage, higher education product managers must contend with and effectively serve any or all of these stakeholders. Even more importantly, they may have to code switch often depending on their product to make the experience of both their internal and external stakeholders efficient.

For example, a university-wide online portal might have a login section on its sign-in page for the wider student body and faculty. However, there needs to be a separate section for administrative employees to also be able to log in. How should shaping develop to accommodate this new need? That’s a problem that a product manager is tailor-made to answer.

Product managers drive student and administrative success

From the example above, we understand that product managers in higher education craft problem statements and collaborate across departments to align with overall institutional goals. Importantly, those institutional goals are driving toward the long-term success of the entire student body.

A deep understanding of student needs and aspirations is at the heart of effective product management in higher education. Product managers embark on a journey of discovery, leveraging data analytics, user feedback, and market research to gain insights into student preferences and pain points. Armed with this knowledge, they collaborate with stakeholders across the institution to conceptualize and refine solutions that resonate with students and support their academic journey.

Emerging technologies in higher education

Like any other industry, higher education is not immune to the effect of emerging technologies in their space. Generative AI is one such technology that is rapidly changing how students, teachers, and administrators interact with systems on campus. The University of Michigan even created its own closed AI tools for its students to utilize. This is a great example of how advanced the systems universities and colleges employ are becoming.

As the landscape of higher education continues to evolve, institutions are increasingly recognizing the importance of efficient and strategic product management to drive innovation and meet the diverse needs of students, faculty, and administrators. Most importantly, employing an effective product management strategy within higher education fosters collaboration, drives innovation, and ultimately transforms the educational experience for all stakeholders involved.

Higher education product teams need a product management platform that helps them handle the lifecycle of their entire product portfolio. Request a demo of ProductPlan today!