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  • German A. Ramirez

Every University Must Have a Data Strategy

Photo by Stephen Dawson on Unsplash

In this month’s post, we emphasize the need for universities to have a data strategy that contributes to the achievement of the institution's strategic objectives. A sound data strategy will determine how to use data to better understand the market and its trends, along with the university constituents’ needs and expectations, which, in turn, can inform better decision-making facilitating the achievement of such strategic goals.

Based on our experience running and advising universities worldwide, we have identified five areas in which sound data management can render positive results:

Academic excellence: The prestige and reputation of a university is forged upon its performance on key factors that are synonyms of quality across the higher education sector, such as the level of research activity, the faculty credentials, and the accreditations (institutional and programmatic) achieved, which signal commitment to abiding by rigorous academic and operational standards. By monitoring and analyzing data on such dimensions, universities can ensure being faithful to their brand positioning in the marketplace.

Learning outcomes: At the core of every institution’s mission, there is its ability to deliver on the promises made to its students, helping them acquire the knowledge and skills specified in the programs offered and, ideally, seeing those students earn the corresponding credential that attests to the possession of such knowledge and skills. A university needs to measure how effectively its cohorts are progressing and if its retention and completion rates are within admissible ranges, as measured against its own track record and against other institutions with similar institutional characteristics. Data on student and faculty performance can give a complete picture on how learning is occurring and allow for different analyses that aim at improvement of processes and results.

Student experience and satisfaction: Nowadays the relationship between institutions and students tends to be less hierarchical, and students are generally treated as clients. It is in the institutions’ best interest to gauge student satisfaction, and to the extent possible, anticipate their needs providing better services. This requires a deep understanding of the student population, and its perception on aspects like the inclusiveness or the internationality of the campus, the availability of internship opportunities, the functioning of career centers, the effectiveness of alumni networks, the quality of the facilities, etc. Over the past decade, net promoter score (NPS) has emerged as a reliable instrument to measure student satisfaction, and if well administered it can provide useful insights upon which develop improvement plans. Good data analysis in this realm can lead to targeted investments that can render excellent ROI via higher student satisfaction and retention.

Access and outreach: This area includes social responsibility. Private institutions (particularly for-profit) are interested in demonstrating in a genuine way that they are good citizens in pursuit of the common good and act coherently in aspects like sustainability, diversity or ethics. On the other hand, the highly regulated environment in which universities operate, make it imperative to implement government engagement mechanisms as a means to participate actively in the policy-making process and interact with the different regulatory instances where decisions on rules are made. Tracking data on these external activities and its impact will prove to be extremely helpful.

Graduate employability: Finally, for many colleges the employment rates of its graduates are a measure of the acceptance of the university and its brand name in a given market. By compiling, analyzing and publishing data on how graduates are doing in the labor market (including salaries and ROI of their degree) institutions can enhance their institutional appeal.

Time goes fast and Q1 of 2019 is almost over. If your institution doesn’t have yet a data strategy or wants to revise its current one, at GRG Education we’d love to help. Contact us.

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