What Makes a Great University?

This article summarises part of an OSG Thought report created in collaboration with Oxford's International Strategy Office.

The University of Yangon (UoY) used to be one of the leading universities in South East Asia but over the past few decades the university has been sidelined during the military junta and now faces limited capital and human resources. Going forward, with the gradual opening up of Myanmar, one of the key challenges is thus to revitalize the University of Yangon to return to its former glory as the leading research and teaching university in Southeast Asia. The key question is this: as UoY undergoes a reform of its strategy, how can they help to play a pivotal role in the development of Myanmar as an emerging nation?

The most important question to consider, of course, is what makes a good university? Our consultants studied the leading international universities' teaching, research, and structure to discover the five key characteristics of a great university. 

The Five Aspects of a Great University

A great university needs great academics and teaching. That means delivering a high-quality curriculum focused on outcomes, and doing it at scale.

The best universities conduct significant research, investing time and money to allow academics to conduct research and publish their findings.

Universities can't exist without infrastructure, be it teaching and housing facilities, or modern telecommunications.

People are at the core of a university, and any institution needs to foster an open and supportive environment for its faculty, students, and staff.

Last, the university needs to rely on sound governance and partnerships, receiving funding and freedom from government and contributing to and interacting with the community and economy around it.

Each of those fifteen components is essential to a great university, and to see how specific and measurable targets can be attached to each, read our full report. It's not just enough to understand what a great university looks like today, though. University leadership needs to adapt to changing trends in global higher education, and that need is even stronger for institutions facing an uphill climb, like UoY. 

Global Trends in Higher Education

We found that although technology is a disrupting factor in higher education, the largest trend - across all five key aspects - are an increase in support for learning, and a new focus on ensuring that education interacts with and works for the community around it.

For more details, and insights into Myanmar's particular challenges, see our full OSG Thought report created in collaboration with Oxford's International Strategy Office.