Institutional_research

Institutional research

Institutional research is a broad category of work done at colleges and universities to inform campus decision-making and planning in areas such as admissions, financial aid, curriculum, enrollment management, staffing, student life, finance, facilities, athletics, and alumni relations.

Institutional researchers collect, analyze, report, and warehouse quantitative and qualitative data about their institution's students, faculty, staff, curriculum, course offerings, and learning outcomes. They are involved in collecting and reporting information to government bodies (e.g., the United States Department of Education's Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System) and various college guide publishers (e.g., U.S. News & World Report and College Board). On occasion, institutional researchers share data with one another to compare their own practices and outcomes against those of similar institutions. Organizations that facilitate this sort of cooperation include the Association of American Universities, the Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium, the Consortium on Financing Higher Education, and the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources Finally, institutional research is the source of much of the information provided to regional and national accreditation bodies to document how institutions fulfill the standards for accreditation.

More information about institutional research can be found at the Association for Institutional Research (AIR) There are also a number of regional and state associations of institutional researchers in the United States and around the world. Links to sites related to institutional research are available from AIR.

Becoming an Institutional Researcher

Due to the need to provide data to the federal government and other entities, nearly every post-secondary institution has offices that fulfill the institutional research function. At some colleges and universities this function is centralized in a single office of institutional research, while at others it is more de-centralized. There is no single academic degree that qualifies one to be an institutional researcher, but suggested strengths include a knowledge of statistics, research methods (e.g., survey research and focus groups), and computer-based reporting tools (e.g., SPSS, SAS, Microsoft Access, Microsoft Excel, and SQL). Other important assets are strong written and oral communications skills, attention to detail, and knowledge about how institutions of higher education operate. Several American universities offer graduate certificate programs in institutional research, including Ball State University, Florida State University, Indiana University, University of Missouri, Penn State University, and San Diego State University.

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