Using Data to Improve Higher Education

Edited by Maria Menon, Dawn Terkla and Paul Gibbs

In recent decades, higher education systems and institutions have been called to respond to an unprecedented number of challenges. Major challenges emerged with the phenomenal increase in the demand for higher education and the associated massive expansion of higher education systems. In response universities were called to adopt planning and research methods that would enable them to identify and address the needs of a larger, more diverse student body. Higher education institutions began to place greater emphasis on planning and marketing, seeking to maintain their position in an increasingly competitive higher education market. Under the current economic downturn, universities are under pressure to further cut costs while maintaining their attractiveness to prospective students.

As a result educational policy makers and administrators are called to select the ‘right’ alternatives, aiming for both efficiency and effectiveness in delivered outcomes. This book provides insights into the use of data as an input in planning and improvement initiatives in higher education. It focuses on uses (and potential abuses) of data in educational planning and policy formulation, examining several practices and perspectives relating to different types of data. The book is intended to address the need for the collection and utilization of data in the attempt to improve higher education both at the systemic and the institutional level.

“In a fast changing world of Higher Education, valid, reliable and meaningful data assume increasing importance as a factor in effective leadership and management. The wide ranging selection of essays provide state-of-the-art consideration of the technical and policy issues which underpin effective decision making in universities.” – Professor Sir Howard Newby, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Liverpool

“This new book edited by Menon, Terkla and Gibbs will be an important resource for those of us in higher education for whom acquiring, reporting, understanding and most importantly using data have become a required core competency. This volume should also be useful to policy makers who are attempting to develop appropriate metrics for assessing institutional performance. While not avoiding the practical limitations and workloads associated with academic data, the editors’ orientation is positive as evidenced by their chosen title – Using Data to Improve Higher Education. The ensemble contributions of an impressive collection of chapter contributors navigate a balanced path of demonstrating the power of good data tempered by the caution that having good data is only a necessary, not a sufficient condition for robust decision making. The book’s final chapter of conclusions and policy implications employs an underlying theme of mission. This is insightful in that I am convinced that authenticity of institutional mission and the manner in which mission is used to develop and assess people and programs will be critical if the academy is to demonstrate its worth to an increasingly skeptical public.” – Professor Vincent P. Manno, Provost and Dean of Faculty, Professor of Engineering, F.W. Olin College of Engineering

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