Academic Vital Signs

Aligning Departmental Evaluation with Institutional Priorities

Explore 14 analyses to guide department-level strategy, root-cause diagnostic tools for academic unit leaders, and guidance for implementing regular departmental review processes.

Academic Vital Signs Cover

From faculty hiring to course scheduling to promotion and tenure, academic departments make or influence myriad decisions that affect the strategic priorities of institutions of higher education. These priorities include cost efficiency, enrollment growth, student outcomes, scholarship, and faculty diversity and inclusion. Improving on these goals requires a more data-informed approach to decision-making and resource allocation at the department level. Unfortunately, the metrics and goals that apply at the institutional level do not help departmental and faculty leaders understand how their regular responsibilities and decisions drive institutional change.

Typical program review processes range from narrowly focused disciplinary reviews that view each department in isolation to overly reductive “prioritization” processes that rank all programs on a rigid set of criteria. To create meaningful and sustainable change, academic leaders need a mission-aligned approach to assessing program “health” and to equip department chairs with actionable information about their role in advancing institutional goals.

This study will help you translate institutional goals into 14 department-level analyses that direct unit leaders toward clear actions aligned with higher-level priorities. Also included are six principles to creating the infrastructure for a sustainable departmental evaluation and planning process. Finally, root cause diagnostic tools will help departments identify specific best practice case studies to guide improvement efforts.

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