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Monday, June 20, 2011

Aspiring World-Class Universities: A Snippet On Clemson

As it becomes more challenging to compete in a global village, institutions of higher education look into their back pockets for ideas to differentiate and grow. These aspiring institutions do not need to replicate what top universities are doing, on the contrary their innovation in distinct new ways can unleash value and competitiveness.

A shining example is Clemson University in South Carolina. Clemson has been the traditional southern unviersity focused mostly on agriculture and mechanical engineering. Clemson has been able to transform its positioning and value proposition through a well articulated study of the regional economy. South Carolina had embarked on an economic development and conversion process to make the state one of the leading automotive regions in the US. Clemson formed a strategic alliance partnership with BMW [1] to recreate itself as the premier motor sports and automotive research and education university.

This transformation effort at Clemson was adopted and supported at all levels of the university - a key requirement for success - as was reflected in Clemson's vision statement [2], to be from among the top 20 public US universities. Clemson was 23rd in 2010 [3] up from 33rd in 2005 [4] and 74th when Clemson's President James Barker took office in 1999 [5]. Within a decade Clemson has been able to transform itself and achieve a new position through leveraging regional changes and collaboration with others outside higher education.

Each University will have a different catalyst for transformation and very different root-causes that challenges its aspirations. Leading universities are those who can carefully articulate their business challenges, understand the complexities of the societies and constituencies they serve, and apply the best strategies, approaches and frameworks to design an architecture that makes a lasting change.


[1] BWM, Clemson and the State Begin Historic Partnership, Clemson World, Fall 2002, available at

[2] Clemson's Vision Statement,

[3] Clemson Ranks 23rd Among Public Universities,

[4] Virginia Tech Undergraduate Engineering Ranked 14th in US,

[5] Clemson Civil Engineering in Top 20,

[6] Picture, courtesy of Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR),

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