Universities and Hospitals Rubrics

University Environmental Scans in an Era of Unprecedented Uncertainty

Demand is up for university environmental scans because institutions need to understand the shifting landscape in which they compete. Soaring student loan debt has caused students, families, and lawmakers alike to relitigate the value proposition and financial mechanics of paying for a four-year degree. A proliferation of educational offerings and credentialing bodies has significantly crowded the primary competitive landscape in which universities operate. Growing public concern for matters of environmental sustainability, racial equity, and economic disparity has shone a particularly intense spotlight on institutions as either contributing to or alleviating these societal challenges. Two-plus years of COVID have stressed finances, created operational uncertainty, and yielded changing student and staff preferences, to say nothing of the chill put into national and international student mobility.

ESI is proud to apply economic rigor and real-world experience to its work for universities and hospitals. We welcome the chance to support you in determining what’s next, what should be next, and how to get there. The environmental scan rubric below is provided as a resource for administrators to forge that path.

Assessing What is Next and How to Get There:

  1. Consumer Market – How would you characterize who you will serve in the future, and what do available projections tell you about the growth rate and geographic location of those potential students?
  2. Competitive Landscape – Where do the students who don’t choose you end up and why, and how will that difference become more pronounced if left unaddressed?
  3. Pedagogical Models – Who is doing interesting and innovative work in your field, and what would it look like to support, partner with, or otherwise incorporate that in your academic offerings?
  4. Accreditation Trends – Where are accrediting bodies likely morphing over time and what do you need to do to adapt accordingly?
  5. Student Preferences – What do you know about what future students want to study, what platforms they prefer to access those studies, and what else they want out of the campus experience?
  6. Employer Needs – Can you articulate the fields, credentials, hard skills, and soft skills that your students’ future employers seek?


Download the full University Environmental Scan infographic rubric here: University Environmental Scan Rubric



At a university, DEI can no longer be the purview of one VP or one department. Rather, DEI is a core missional element that should permeate all facets of an institution’s operations. DEI audits are a useful way for institutions to take stock of different aspects of their operations from a DEI lens. To support the industry, ESI provides the following “DIY DEI” rubric for administrators to use as a reference for self-assessment and self-improvement.

Self Assessment and Self Improvement

Student Experience

  • Marketing materials
  • Outreach to prospective students
  • Admissions process
  • Student body composition
  • Approach to financial aid
  • New student orientation
  • Curriculum
  • Support resources on campus

Human Resources

  • Recruitment efforts
  • Building a pipeline
  • Faculty and staff composition
  • Soliciting employee feedback
  • Approach to promotions and raises
  • Support services


  • Policies
  • Organizational infrastructure
  • Data infrastructure
  • Programs and events
  • Supplier relations
  • Naming, tracking, and reporting metrics


  • Grievance procedures for students
  • Grievance procedures for employees
  • Hate speech policy
  • Approach to confronting and addressing past wrongs
  • Approach to addressing unacceptable behavior
  • Anti-racism and anti-sexism training
  • Approach to allowing space for dissent
  • Approach to campus and local police


  • Composition of senior leadership
  • Composition of governance board
  • Building pipelines
  • Putting DEI on the governance agenda
  • Public statements by leadership on DEI issues
  • Mechanisms for student voice

Community Relations

  • Service to and engagement with surrounding neighborhood
  • Investment in and connection to civic-serving organizations
  • A welcoming campus
  • Intersection points for campus and community
  • Fulfilling institutional mission through community resource/service provision
  • Exposure, education, and pathways for local students


Download the full DIY DEI infographic rubric here: DIY DEI Rubric



University Social Impact Rubric

ESI has conducted economic impact studies for over 50 universities, hospitals, or groups of universities and hospitals in the past five years. These economic impact analyses are a critical part of institutions’ messaging to stakeholders – electeds, the local business community, and its own network of students, employees, and alumni – because they demonstrate how institutions are major economic engines, generating economic opportunity at a local level and ensuring the sustained economic competitiveness of the regions they are in.

Every single one of these economic impact studies has included coverage of the social impact of the institutions. That is because universities are more than just large employers and major procurers of goods and services. Their institutional missions mean that their economic footprint accomplishes broader social purposes: lifting up a local community, strengthening the fabric of a region, contributing to society as a whole. Hence, it has been appropriate, in the course of articulating an institution’s contribution of economic output, jobs, and tax revenues, to also speak of its social impact.

Social impact has only become more important to achieve and articulate in recent times. A global pandemic, national reckoning around systemic racism, and rampant tuition unaffordability have intensified the scrutiny imposed upon universities – by students and staff, alumni, community members, and elected officials – to assess and undo their complicity in structural wrongs and to invest in a more positive and sustained social impact.

As a service to the sector and individual institutions, ESI presents this open-source rubric for social impact that universities can use for self-scoring and self-improvement. Components of this rubric have been utilized in previous ESI reports and are now presented as a collective framework for institutions to measure and monitor social impact. A brief bibliography is also presented to encourage further exploration on this critically important topic.

We strongly believe universities hold the promise for great positive benefit to be produced. It is our sincere hope that this rubric will enable an honest assessment of an institution’s social impact, for purposes of committing to strengthening strengths and shoring up weaknesses. Our communities, our regions, and society as a whole hang in the balance.

Serving the Immediate Community

  1. Service to / in the Community
    • Being a “good neighbor” through volunteer service (and mitigating against potential negative effects on community)
      • Volunteer service hours
      • Service learning course
      • Pro bono services
      • Anti-displacement measures
  2. On-Campus Resources
    • Investing in the campus being an amenity for the immediate neighborhood
      • Recreational Facilities
      • Green Space
      • Educational Opportunities
      • Cultural Programming
  3. Public Safety
    • Working with community to prioritize and invest in safety
      • Public safety infrastructure investments (e.g. lighting, call boxes
      • Emergency calls handled by institution rather than locals

Strengthening Community Capacity

  1. Building Civic Infrastructure
    • Strengthening local-serving institutions
      • Direct payments and in-kind contributions to neighborhood-serving non-profits
      • Mechanisms for regular interface with community on issues of shared interest
  2. K-12 education
    • Investing in local schools
      • Direct payments and in-kind contributions to local schools
      • Area-wide teacher training and curriculum development
  3. Public Health
    • Investing in community wellness
      • Direct provision of medical, dental, and other services
      • Educational resources for community members

A More Just Society Starts on Campus

  1. Affordability/accessibility
    • Ensuring that a college degree is more broadly available
      • Scholarship and financial aid
      • Analysis of return on investment and income parity among alumni (particularly for under-represented groups)
  2. Economic opportunity
    • Operating footprint is being used to address economic inequalities
      • Utilization of minority and women owned firms in procured goods and services
      • Employee recruitment efforts for under-represented populations
  3. Diversity and inclusion on campus

    • On-campus realities reflect desired societal values
      • Racial/ethnic make-up of students and employees
      • Support resources for under-represented populations

A More Robust Society

  1. Innovation and competitiveness
    • Regional economic competitiveness through innovation activity
      • STEM majors/graduates
      • Research budget
      • Invention disclosures, patents, licensing agreements
      • Business start-ups, venture capital attracted
  2. Environmental sustainability
    • Operating footprint is mindful of contemporary ecological challenges
      • Carbon footprint
      • Energy efficiency
      • Recycling initiatives on campus
      • Fossil fuel usage
  3. Societal thought leadership
    • Intellectual activity advances society
      • Spiritual or otherwise values-led research and scholarship
      • Leadership participation on contemporary social issues


Download the full Social Impact infographic rubric here: University Social Impact Rubric


Lee Huang | [email protected]

Lee Huang is  President & Principal of Econsult Solutions. Lee brings over 20 years of experience in economic development to his public, private, institutional, and not-for-profit clients. His economic inclusion work has included analyses of the utilization of minority- and women-owned businesses in municipal contracts in Philadelphia, as well as examinations of home lending, business lending, and branch location patterns in Philadelphia, Washington, DC, and New York City.

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