Modern Day Challenges in Academia
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Modern Day Challenges in Academia

Time for a Change

Edited by Marilena Antoniadou and Mark Crowder

Examining the modern day challenges faced by academics throughout their working lives, this timely book investigates the ways in which academic careers are changing, the reasons for these changes and their potential future impacts. Contributors with insider experience of both traditional research focussed universities and newer institutions with an emphasis on teaching, utilise theoretical and empirical methods to provide international perspectives on the key issues confronting modern day academics.
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Chapter 18: Institutional research: unintended consequences in higher education

Bernard Longden


The proposition explored in this chapter is the relationship between the increased complexity of higher education and resultant demand for increased institutional research (IR). Policy formation might be expected to rely heavily on IR. However, it is proposed that evidence from examples of unintended consequences indicates that this may not be the case. The field of IR, in one form or another, is over 50 years old, embedded globally in nearly every college and university. IR professionals provide the support to senior leaders and policymakers in institutional planning and fiscal decisions. Despite their contribution to policy formation and implementation, their insights may often be disregarded. The confidence in and limitations of the interpretation of data may play a part in causing unintended consequences. An analysis undertaken by Merton (1936) provides a framework for an understanding of how unintended consequences may arise. Finally, exemplars of unintended consequences from across higher education, with examples drawn from both the UK and USA, are considered.

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