Environmental Scanning - The University of Scranton

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January 2007
PAIRO: Environmental Scanning Program
Environmental scanning is the process by which an institution examines its external
environments to “identify emerging issues, events, or trends that portend threats to and
opportunities for the institution” (Morrison 1985)1. At the University of Scranton,
scanning is used extensively to inform the strategic planning process. Scanning is
conducted by the Planning Office.
Planning Office Responsibilities
The Planning Office will be responsible for developing and maintaining a “library” of
environmental scanning data and literature and periodically producing reports on topics
from these resources. This environmental data/literature includes material such as
demographics, students and educational programs, technology and contemporary
legislative and higher education issues. The primary audience for the environmental
scanning reports is the University’s Planning Committee (UPC). The UPC will examine
these reports and participate in ongoing SWOT analyses, reviewing scanning material
for what they may suggest of our internal strengths and weaknesses and what external
opportunities and threats they may present. Other university committees may become
secondary audiences the office’s environmental scanning reports as well.
Environmental scanning will address macro-levels of the external environment —
focusing on broad trends that may impact the University at large, or those that are of
strategic importance to the institution. Scans will present an overview of contemporary
literature and/or data specific to the subject at hand, and will summarize potential
implications for the University. Scans will consider general trends in higher education
and will follow these general categories (with select subtopics explored as needed or
directed):

Demographics
Population trends for national, regional, and local areas; globalization

Social/Cultural
Broad societal trends that impact the publics’ attitudes toward or preferences in
education.

Economic
Trends in the finances and funding of higher education; also trends in the
national/regional labor market and occupational or employer demands for education.
1
Morrison, James L. (1985). Establishing an environmental scanning process. New Directions for Higher
Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 31-37.
January 2007

Legislative/Political/Legal
Trends in national/state legislation or regulations that will impact higher education;
other regulatory environments (such as information security and data-related legislation)

Technology
Trends in technology (computer-related or otherwise) that may impact the
teaching/learning process; security issues; business continuity and emergency planning

Competitive/Organizational
Trends in other organizations — competitors, peers, feeder organizations (like K-12
system), accrediting bodies, Catholic Church — that may impact the University.

Physical Environment
For more information, or to access past environmental scans and/or related data, contact
PAIRO at 941-6567.
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