International Spotlight: Trends in Institutional Research Around the World

As conversations about higher education become more global, institutional researchers benefit from shared learning about the challenges and opportunities facing colleges and universities around the world. In advance of the International IR Caucus to be held on Sunday afternoon at the Forum in Long Beach, eAIR asked AIR International Ambassadors (who serve as discussion leaders for the Caucus) to reflect on changes they anticipate for institutional research in their countries in 2013. 

Jan Botha
Senior Director of Institutional Research and Planning, Stellenbosch University, South Africa 

The national Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) is expected to publish a whitepaper on post-secondary education and training in 2013, setting out the policies and procedures for a significant expansion of the Further Education and Training College (FET College) sector and the integration of the public post-secondary education and training system as a whole. A massive increase in enrollments in FET Colleges over the years to come is foreseen. Better articulation routes for successful candidates from FET Colleges into the university system have to be developed. Currently, the Higher Education Management Information System (HEMIS) covers only the public university sector. Institutional researchers, as well as government-based information system experts, will be tasked to enhance the current FET College information system (which has many gaps), and to develop a comprehensive management information system covering the post-secondary education and training system as a whole. Furthermore, the government has also announced significantly expanded reporting requirements for public universities; the preparation will add to the workload of institutional researchers. There is a concern that the stricter government control will impinge on the institutional autonomy of universities.    

Stefan Buettner
Researcher and Doctoral Student, School of Business & Economics, University of Tuebingen, Germany 

Over the past few years, resulting from the Bologna process intending to make the European Higher Education Area more comparable, increasing competition through the ‘Excellence’ initiative and increasing funding issues have created activities that fall into the field of institutional research. Whilst IR is not being done to the extent and in the way it happens in the U.S., more activities are taking place to serve accountability and first re-accreditation of programs converted into Bachelor/Master some years ago. Whilst long-term strategic planning using IR techniques is still to come, ‘new public management’ and ‘higher education management’ are more visible across the board,  and the oldest association of higher education research has almost doubled its membership over the past two years. Among key themes in 2013 are quality and governance (especially finance/estates/autonomy), differentiation and change, teaching excellence and learning outcomes, and diversity and access. There are lots of challenges and opportunities for the 82 public and handful of private research universities (and many other universities and colleges).

F. Mauricio Saavedra
Director of Institutional Research and Research for Social Sciences and Humanities, Universidad Internacional del Ecuador

Accreditation—extremely increased activity in data reporting. Ecuador’s higher education system is going through a process of accreditation in which colleges and universities are continuously asked to report data on a variety of indicators. Data requests are made not only by the nation’s accrediting agency, a public entity created and instituted within Ecuador´s latest higher education law of 2010, but also by government offices such as Secretaría Nacional de Educación Superior, Ciencia Tecnología e Innovación - SENESCYT (Higher Education Ministry), and Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos - INEC (National Institute of Statistics and Census). Much of the universities’ time is spent in collecting, centralizing, and reporting data.

Cameron Tilson
Assistant Director, Institutional Planning, Concordia University, Canada

In Canada, institutional researchers and planners are currently helping our senior administrators deal with drastic cuts to institutional operating grants (in most provinces and territories). This is made worse by pressure to minimize tuition fee increases, and at the same time, increase capacity and access, while continuing to offer high-quality programming.

Public interest in how institutions are utilizing increasingly scarce resources has never been higher, and our offices are again on the front line for this purpose. We also continue to be somewhat disadvantaged in that we lack a national, up-to-date data collection system dedicated to post-secondary education—as a consequence, we must rely on ad hoc solutions to track our performance relative to other institutions across Canada.

What global trends influence your perspective, and what unique challenges do you face in your work? Share your thoughts and questions below.   




To add a comment, Sign In
Total Comments: 3
Jessica posted on 4/11/2013 8:16 AM
In reading this, I am struck by the number of common issues that IR professionals are dealing with around the world. It would seem to open the question of how we can collaborate more intentionally around these common issues.
Emily posted on 4/11/2013 10:49 AM
I've honestly been pretty oblivious regarding what non-US IR professionals are dealing with, so this was quite interesting!
Rob posted on 4/11/2013 1:47 PM
Thank you for providing these perspectives on current influences in the work conducted by IR offices and occurring at institutions around the world; we share much in common. These comments indicate clearly that education is at an apex for change, regardless of the country within which it resides. Gratefully, IR professionals are at the crux of the strategic thinking necessary to help their institutions and to help governmental agencies make informed and long-range oriented decisions on complex policies, practices and programs.