Northeastern announces new academic plan


By Vy Thai, news correspondent

By the end of 2025, Northeastern University aims to further expand its unique educational models by magnifying the reach and impact of its global and experiential opportunities, according to a new report released by the university on on Oct. 4. Aiming for a revolution in higher education, Northeastern University’s Board of Trustees voted Friday, Sept. 30 to approve the new academic plan called “Northeastern 2025.”

The result was a report that outlined several themes that the university wants to focus on over the next 10 years, including expanding the experimental learning model to be global and lifelong and developing professional and faculty networks.

“I am delighted to announce that, this past Friday, the Board of Trustees voted to approve North­eastern 2025, an Aca­d­emic Plan for the next decade,” President Joseph E. Aoun wrote in an email to the Northeastern community. “It is a blue­print for empow­ering people to suc­ceed in an era of unprece­dented tech­no­log­ical, social and eco­nomic change.

This new plan envisions a model of personalized learning with in which “personalized networks” deliver curated content and resources matched to individual learning goals.

One of the biggest changes is that the university plans to transition from what it calls a purchase to a subscription model that promotes lifelong learning. This would bring opportunities for members of Northeastern to access the support and benefits that the university offers even after graduation and beyond Northeastern’s physical borders.

In addition to traditional learning pathways such as courses and co-ops, network members will have access to shared learning experiences through online options such as blog posts, videos, and discussion forums,” the plan says. “As students graduate and continue to participate as alumni, they will plug into a multigenerational ecosystem of lifelong learning and career support—critical to personal and professional resilience.”

The university also plans to break down the traditional barriers of academic research between institutions and disciplines, aiming for a interdisciplinary collaboration of undergraduate and doctoral research.

Northeastern 2025 envisions new Ph.D. programs in emerging fields, as well as global and experiential learning for doctoral students.

Ranjini Gosh, a graduate student studying law and public policy and the president of the Graduate Student Government (GSG), was a part of the Ph.D. Joint Task Force planning team for the new academic plan.

“The taskforce has envisioned a centralized infrastructure for Ph.D. students offering a variety of resources that would serve the academic, professional and work-life needs of students complementary to those being offered at their colleges and departments,” she said in an email to The News. “We imagined a place that would offer travel funding, professional development, mediation and/or negotiation, support to address issues of discrimination and/or harassment, and services that address the student as a holistic individual with families.”

The planning process for Northeastern 2025 began in August 2015, with a series of discussions that drew on the perspectives of faculty, staff, students and alumni, as well as Northeastern’s network of local and international partners, said Provost James C. Bean in a statement on the academic plan website.   

Earlier last year, the #TrueNortheastern campaign initiated by the academic planning teams garnered hundreds of responses on the question of how members of Northeastern would envision the university in the next decade.

“By 2025, I expect Northeastern students will routinely do at least one co-op abroad,” Ravi Ramamuti, a professor of international business and strategy, said in the campaign in February 2015. “Globalizing co-op will be our defining contribution to Northeastern’s second century.”

The academic plan also envisions the role of faculty differently: professors would be appointed to flexible and nontraditional positions across institutions and with other universities.

Julia Flanders, a professor of the practice in English and director of the Digital Scholarship Group in the Northeastern University Library, took part in the planning process to strategize the innovation of professional and faculty networks of Northeastern.

“I think diversifying our understanding of what a faculty job looks like could be an extremely significant move for the university,” she said. “It would enable Northeastern to draw more fully on a wide range of expertise and professional connections, bringing different perspectives to bear on both teaching and research. It might also help us attract and retain a more diverse body of faculty, and build stronger bonds with communities outside of Northeastern.”

Chelsea Canedy, a senior majoring in biology and political science and the president of Students Against Institutional Discrimination (SAID), expressed concerns over the new academic plan. SAID is a coalition of student groups that works to minimize systemic discrimination at Northeastern University.

Canedy said the plan has yet to address all the perspectives students brought forward in regard to diversity and inclusion on campus, despite having discussions with Provost James C. Bean multiple times last semester.

“We feel that the current proposal consists of a large amount of language with no meaningful tangible details on how Northeastern plans to achieve those goals,” she said. “We look forward to discussing tangible ways that student critiques can be integrated into these broad plans moving forward.”

Photo by Alex Melagrano