Skip to content
November 17, 2022 | Institutional effectiveness

How to Improve Your Institutional Effectiveness Strategy

Institutional effectiveness in higher education has had its difficulties. We previously discussed the 3 challenges impacting institutional effectiveness in higher education in another blog, which are:

  1. Decentralized or insular decision-making
  2. Failure to make connections between investments and outcomes 
  3. Lack of metrics, or an inability to define success

If your institution is struggling with these same challenges, you may be asking yourself: what now? How do I navigate this important but difficult road?

How Has Institutional Effectiveness Changed in Higher Education?

Today's colleges and universities face dramatic shifts in the higher ed market. The cost of a college education has tripled in the last 20 years. Parents and students are questioning the value of a degree and asking to see evidence that their investment will lead to employment. Meanwhile, institutions are dealing with cost containment on their campuses as they navigate higher operating costs and staffing constraints. And all of this is happening while shifting to virtual or hybrid models in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many colleges have had to close their doors or seek out acquisition to survive.


To add even more pressure, accreditation agencies are adjusting their requirements to respond to this market shift. With stricter accreditation conditions, colleges and universities can’t just show their commitment to academic achievement. They need to prove their financial sustainability and that they’re preparing their students for life after graduation—factoring in loan repayment rates, future employment, licensure passage, and other career-focused markers when they evaluate student success.


It’s clear that the higher ed landscape has changed and, ready or not, a new era is upon us.

3 Ways to Improve Your Institutional Effectiveness Strategy

There are already higher ed leaders taking a more holistic view of accreditation and sustainability, centralizing their IE offices, and connecting their academic and administrative data. 


Here are 3 ways you can level up your institutional effectiveness strategy:

1. An actionable strategic plan

Most colleges and universities already have a strategic planning process in place to guide evaluation, assessment, improvement and innovation initiatives. But unless that plan is actionable, achievable, and driven by reliable data, it won’t achieve the necessary results. The most effective strategic plans enable an institution to measure how well it is fulfilling its mission and achieving its goals, and offer insight into the path ahead.

2. A centralized Data Infrastructure

How do you know if you’re meeting the goals established in your strategic plans? A critical part of this new era of institutional effectiveness in higher ed is a comprehensive data infrastructure—which means colleges and universities need a central system to capture, analyze, measure, and report on metrics across the entire institution. Questions like “Are we recruiting students who will be most successful at our institution?” or “What percentage of faculty are meeting or exceeding their teaching requirements?” can only be answered by looking at data gathered across various departments and units. 

3. Visibility to data across functional units

Improving your data infrastructure alone will not provide the holistic view needed to drive true institutional effectiveness. Institutional effectiveness today also requires an understanding of institutional relationships within and across functional units. The final puzzle piece is to strive for unified visibility across academic and administrative functions to inform cross-functional decision-making and broad use cases. Once unified visibility is achieved, institutions can start to ask—and answer—even bigger questions like “is our spending aligned with our mission” or “what is the probability of hitting our desired enrollment target?” 

Once these three components are in place, along with plans to review them on an ongoing basis, you can accelerate your path to long-term sustainability and consistently deliver on your mission.


Improve Institutional Effectiveness with Institutional Performance Management

Higher education right now is a rocky sea, and the stakes are high as pressure grows from all sides. Institutions need to invest in a new approach if they want to weather the storm.  

Institutional Performance Management is a discipline borrowed from the most successful institutions and organizations. It provides a methodological approach to achieving your mission by making your strategic plan actionable, answering critical questions using data, and ensuring you (and your stakeholders) know what success looks like holistically on your campus. It works because it is grounded in ​​recognizing the interconnectedness of mission, student outcomes and financial sustainability — a mindset institutions need to adopt in order to effectively implement institutional effectiveness.

Learn more about Institutional Performance Management and achieve success in this new high stakes era of institutional effectiveness.


On the left, an aerial view of a university campus. On the right, the text reads: "Get the blueprint to navigate today's high stakes moment with Institutional Performance Management."

Up next...

Check out these blogs for ideas and best practices to enhance your data analytics, financial intelligence, or assessment efforts.