Time for a Change
Edited by Marilena Antoniadou and Mark Crowder
Chapter 18: Institutional research: unintended consequences in higher education
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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