Citing the Amer­ican rail­road industry’s failure to grasp changing trans­porta­tion trends, North­eastern Uni­ver­sity Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun said that uni­ver­si­ties must inno­vate amid changing times and evolving demands.

They thought of them­selves as being in the railway busi­ness; they didn’t think of them­selves as being in the trans­porta­tion busi­ness. So what did they miss? They saw the air­plane rev­o­lu­tion, but they didn’t make a move,” Aoun said during his annual briefing to the Fac­ulty Senate yes­terday. “We cannot iso­late our­selves from reality. Reality is saying we need your knowl­edge, we need your exper­tise, we need to be versed in the fields uni­ver­si­ties are creating.”

Pres­i­dent Aoun said that North­eastern is at the fore­front of a shift in higher edu­ca­tion by launching a new system of regional cam­puses. Last month, the uni­ver­sity opened a regional campus in Char­lotte, N.C., the first of sev­eral loca­tions across the United States that allow North­eastern to align the needs of the regions’ emerging indus­tries with Northeastern’s teaching and research strengths.

The new cam­puses will allow North­eastern to partner with regional busi­nesses on research that aligns with the university’s strengths, par­tic­u­larly in areas of health, secu­rity and sustainability.

The grad­uate degree pro­grams, Aoun stressed, will be taught by North­eastern fac­ulty – both online and in the class­room – according to the same stan­dards of excel­lence as courses offered in Boston.

There’s no dif­fer­ence and that’s crit­ical, because quality is not nego­tiable. No matter what we do, it has to be at the highest level,” Aoun said, empha­sizing that North­eastern is bringing the full force of the uni­ver­sity to the regional cam­puses, including a wide range of dis­ci­plines and faculty.

In addi­tion to the oppor­tu­ni­ties afforded through new regional cam­puses, Pres­i­dent Aoun said North­eastern is begin­ning its Insti­tu­tional Master Plan process, an exciting oppor­tu­nity to chart its future in Boston.

The Master Plan is really not driven by the city, it is not driven by reg­u­la­tions,” Aoun said. “It is driven by our aspi­ra­tions: How far do we want to go and how will we accom­plish our dreams?”