Studies and Reports

The Association for Institutional Research (AIR) conducts research, assessment, and evaluations on a variety of topics of interest to IR professionals and is committed to making data and resources available to AIR members and the greater higher education community. This section of the website provides links to papers, research, and reports about the field.

Analytics Can Save Higher Education. Really.


AIR partnered with EDUCAUSE and NACUBO in early 2019 to work collaboratively to elevate data-informed decision making at higher education institutions. The result was ultimately this joint statement. All three associations stand together with a strong sense of urgency to reaffirm higher education’s commitment to the use of data and analytics to make better strategic decisions. Higher education must re-energize its efforts and unleash the power of data and analytics across higher education to support students and institutions.


National Survey of Institutional Research Offices

2018, 2015

The National Survey of IR Offices, first administered in 2015, established a baseline of IR office capacities. This inquiry sought to document the characterizations of IR offices as they existed in 2015, including the scope of work, reporting lines, staffing, and fiscal resources.

National Survey

Institutions’ Use of Data and Analytics for Student Success: Results from a National Landscape Analysis


AIR partnered with NASPA and EDUCAUSE on a national survey to gain a better understanding of higher education’s use of data and analytics for student success and institutions’ readiness to expand the use of information across functional areas. Nearly 1,000 IR, student affairs, and IT professionals across public, private, two- and four-year U.S. higher education institutions responded to the survey.

Report Cover

Envisioning the National Postsecondary Infrastructure in the 21st Century


America's students, policymakers, and institutions need better information about our postsecondary system, especially in this era of rising college costs and stagnating completion rates. To address this problem, the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) convened an expert working group to develop targeted recommendations for improving the national postsecondary data infrastructure. As a result of this working group, AIR published a paper entitled Institutional Research Capacity: Foundations of Federal Data Quality. The paper is one of six in the series authored or co-authored by AIR members. The entire series consists of 11 policy papers designed to inform state and federal data policy conversations.


A New Vision for Institutional Research


Are data and reporting burdens a product of the prevailing structure of institutional research? Can a new model for IR address the real-world management needs of modern postsecondary education? These questions are addressed in a newly released Change magazine article produced by AIR entitled A New Vision for Institutional Research. The concepts presented in this piece are not a prediction of some distant future, but rather, a reflection of the current environment in higher education.


Statement of Aspirational Practice for Institutional


The Statement of Aspirational Practice for Institutional Research is a new vision of effective IR in support of student success. This vision represents a hybrid approach for IR that recognizes student success as one of several critical aspects of higher education.
Statement of Aspirational Practice for Institutional Research

Defining Institutional Research: Findings from a National Study of IR Work Tasks: A Focus on Senior IR/IE Leaders


AIR sought to identify the tasks involved in the work of IR across all titles and variations represented in its membership. Position descriptions and announcements for vacant positions—contributed by AIR members—were used to create a draft typology of IR work tasks. The collected tasks were shared with AIR members in a survey format to determine the relevance of the tasks and the frequency with which the tasks are done, and to identify who does the work entailed with the tasks. The first in-depth exploration of the data from this study focused on the tasks relevant to the work of senior IR and senior institutional effectiveness (IE) leaders.


System Office Role in Institutional Research


AIR partnered with the National Association of System Heads (NASH) to conduct research funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to examine public system/campus roles in institutional research. NASH coordinated the project and AIR assisted with the development of two surveys that addressed the organizational structure and major functions of IR offices, as well as how systems and campuses collect and exchange data. Data were collected using surveys of over 100 questions delivered electronically to the senior IR professional at 48 systems and 361 campuses in the United States.