October 23rd, 2017

Institutional Research and Information Management: A Return to Chile

DPM partner Victoria had the opportunity to teach a two-day seminar on institutional research (IR) and information management in Santiago, Chile. Sponsored by CINDA and Universia, participants came from offices in IR, planning, and IT from private universities, along with members from the Ministry of Education (MINEDUC). It was interesting to return to Chile one year after having completed our nationwide assessment of IR offices in 2016 and to have the space to chat with university representatives that participated in the study. 

Upon returning, we were pleased to find that the study has triggered some important changes at the institutional level that will help contribute to the advancement of IR in the country. For instance, one of the value-added results from the project, particularly for those universities and institutes that are privately funded, was the realization that they are not alone; their peers are facing similar challenges. This realization creates an occasion for increased collaboration and networking. Currently, while there are different university networks in Chile, there is no national IR association. There are rarely professional development opportunities available (such as conferences and seminars) and institutions- particularly those that are not public universities- feel isolated. As a result, several IR directors showed interest in having more opportunity to highlight to their senior administrators the benefits of networking, information sharing, and collaborative work. 

A second benefit of the study was the realization that perhaps not all the information currently produced by IR offices is relevant or even used. One IR director started a mapping exercise of all reports and indicators currently produced, measuring these reports against their purpose or function (such as accreditation or international operations). This analysis will be the basis of an overall review of the IR office priorities and will influence how resources are assigned to different tasks.

Efficiency and resource allocation were also recurring themes during the more recent seminar. Participants were keen on learning about organizational models for IR and identifying the best fit for their institution. Feeding into the ongoing discussion regarding the benefits of centralization- as described by Volkwein et al (2012) versus the benefits of a decentralized IR model- similar to what Swing (2016) proposes- it was of interest to learn that several Chilean universities and institutes have pursued the decentralized model successfully. This is an area that would warrant further exploration, and would be a good excuse to visit Santiago again.