A common theme throughout this report is the University’s decentralized structure. The University of Michigan is made up of eight executive officer areas; nineteen schools and colleges; almost 190 academic departments, programs, centers and specializations; and multiple institutes, libraries, units, and offices. In such a complex organization, there is no one-size-fits-all for institutional research and evaluation. Moreover, there is no single office at the University with responsibility for planning across the campus. Instead, there are several key offices and people on campus whose responsibility is to assist units and offices in their planning and evaluation, as described below.
To prepare for the future, the University continuously engages in three types of activities that are closely interwoven. People make plans, gather and consider information related to our activities, evaluate or assess our efforts, and then, coming full circle, commit to a plan. Some of the basic questions that drive this process are these: What are we doing? How well are we doing it? What’s going on inside and outside the University that’s of interest? What more information do we need? Should we continue to do what we’re doing, or should we be doing something else or something more? Units across the University, the offices of executive officers, the schools and colleges, and the academic and non-academic units on campus carry out this planning and assessment cycle from the micro level to the macro.
At the micro level, individual faculty and staff members engage in the planning cycle on a day-by-day basis. At regular meetings of University faculty and staff in the hundreds of offices across the University, leaders at all levels imbed this planning process and cycle into group discussions. Toward the macro level, many offices and units on campus engage in more formal planning processes that take place on a schedule. This type of formal activity, too, happens at many different levels, as this section describes.
Planning and Assessment
In the section on Mission we touched upon some of the key planning activities, especially at the central leadership levels of the University. Here we will provide additional examples of planning efforts at various levels of the University, as well as activities that are geared specifically to assessment. Units undertake these activities to stay informed of changes both inside and outside the University and to modify what they do accordingly.
Assessment of Schools and Colleges
As mentioned earlier, each year the provost initiates a strategic assessment of two academic units and two non-academic units. The purpose of the strategic assessment process is to ensure that each unit periodically takes a critical look at its intellectual directions and priorities, its strengths and weaknesses, and how it compares to other institutions. Such an assessment can guide the unit’s future decisions and initiatives in a way that promotes the pursuit of academic excellence. The assessment is also an opportunity to identify points of potential contact between the unit’s agenda and the strengths of the University of Michigan, as well as possible synergies and collaborations. Finally, these assessments provide the opportunity for faculty and staff in the unit and the University’s academic leadership (president, provost, and executive vice president for medical affairs) to achieve a shared understanding of the significant intellectual choices and trade-offs facing the unit. An example assessment is located in the Resource Room.
At the level of the schools and colleges, there are two main mechanisms by which formal reviews take place. Eleven of the nineteen schools and colleges (see below) are accredited by their professional organizations and undergo a formal review periodically for reaccreditation:
In addition, some programs and departments within the schools and colleges receive formal accreditation. A few examples are programs in the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning (i.e., accreditation of the Program in Architecture by the National Architectural Accrediting Board, and of the Program in Urban Planning by the Planning Accreditation Board), the Athletic Training program in the School of Kinesiology (Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education), and the Department of Dance in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance (National Association of Schools of Dance).
Assessments of Departments
The schools and colleges and the Rackham Graduate School conduct formal reviews of the departments within their purviews. For example, LSA conducts formal reviews of its departments on roughly a ten-year cycle. As part of each review, the department presents a long-range plan, and the college conducts a thorough external review of all aspects of the department. These reviews are shared with the provost’s office . The goal of the complementary Rackham Graduate School Program Review, which follows a four-year review cycle of all Rackham programs, is to assess and improve graduate education at the University of Michigan. For each review, Rackham, the dean’s office, and the graduate program work collaboratively to identify opportunities and to share ideas and promising practices related to graduate education. Examples of these reviews are available in the Resource Room.
As a common starting point, the Rackham review compiles and shares a significant set of comparative data, tailoring both the data they provide and the conversations they hold to the program being reviewed. These data include the indicators below:
During the review, Rackham also surveys the current graduate students in the program about such aspects of graduate education as orientation, communication, advising, mentoring, financial support, and climate. Also, Rackham faculty and staff members meet with the program’s leaders to discuss the quality of the program, any areas of concern, strategies for specific aspects of the education the program provides, future directions for the program, and how Rackham can provide expertise or services to help the program initiate any new faculty initiatives. Examples of LSA and Rackham reviews are available in print form in the Resource Room.
Assessment in Other Units
Annually, staff members in most units meet with their supervisors for an annual performance evaluation and planning meeting. In some units, supervisors ask staff to submit comments in writing before the meeting, which is likely to include a self-assessment by the staff member of his or her performance, accomplishments from the previous year, and future goals. In addition, some staff members engage in what is called a 360-degree evaluation, in which the staff member and his or her subordinates, peers, and supervisors evaluate the staff member’s job performance.
At the unit level, many unit leaders convene staff and/or faculty for formal planning sessions or planning retreats, commonly once a year. In addition, University leaders may take the initiative to develop an annual report of activities or respond to such a request from his or her supervisor. Links to examples of such annual reports are provided below:
The strategic planning process of the Division of Student Affairs (DSA) is an example of the formal planning and review process that is used in several units. Through this process, the DSA creates and implements a set of longrange, division-wide goals that are meant to plan the next five to seven years. Evolving continually, the process brings together strategic planning steps, a reflective process, prominent assessment throughout, and a group process approach to supporting individuals’ growth in helping to change the organization. This model has advanced the division’s direction by allowing the leadership to manage operations from an informed perspective and to establish a shared vision. Ongoing assessment helps to establish and define division-wide goals and use research findings to help the division form goals for the strategic process.
People engaged in institutional research at the University gather, analyze, and distribute information to meet external reporting requirements, to communicate activities both within and outside the University, and to help faculty, University leaders, and staff to plan and make decisions in all areas of the University. These areas include budget, student enrollment, faculty and staff, instruction, student life, residence hall life, facilities, athletics, and University alumni. At the University of Michigan, institutional research is carried out by University-wide offices, by offices within the larger units at the University, and by staff members for whom institutional research is one their responsibilities. Offices at all these levels collect data and prepare reports on a regular basis. For example, the deans of the schools and colleges collect and disseminate information to department chairs, associate deans, and to the faculty. Below we will briefly describe major data gathering and report efforts, satisfaction surveys, and sharing of best practices.
The Office of Budget and Planning
The Office of Budget and Planning (OBP) is the University’s central office for institutional research whose role is to enhance the general knowledge and understanding of the University and its activities to help administrators and others to manage the institution and plan for its future.
Under the direction of an associate vice provost and executive director and with oversight by the vice provost for academic and budgetary affairs, OBP produces detailed information about the University budget, including budget planning workbooks; enrollment projections; and tuition attribution data for the schools and colleges. The office also handles data and reports about the faculty, staff, and students on the Ann Arbor campus. The office presents institutional data in an electronic and partially protected format on their Facts & Figures website, providing an efficient way for relevant campus units and individuals to access this information. OBP also administers and analyzes student surveys, both internally and in collaboration with other institutions, and studies of higher education (e.g., with the Association of American Universities). By analyzing the results of these surveys, The University is constantly seeking to improve the experience of its students, faculty, and staff.
One example of the work of OBP is a summary profile of each school and college, which is updated annually. These (password-protected) profiles contain 10-year data on the unit’s General Fund budget, the unit’s budget sources (by category of use), the number of instructional faculty (by type); the number of staff; the number of student applications, admissions, and enrollments; the number of Fiscal Year Equated Students (FYES) and the average number of FYES for each instructional faculty member (based on formulas that allow the University to compare enrollments fairly across the schools and colleges); the number of student credit hours that the unit’s students elected; the number of credit hours the faculty taught; and the number of degrees the unit conferred. A printed example of these profiles is located in the Resource Room, and an example comparison that shows student headcount per faculty member in each unit is below.
The OBP also prepares an overview for each school or college that provides the unit’s current tuition and fees by level of enrollment, the current percentages of tenure-track or tenured faculty by gender and race/ethnicity, information about fall term student headcount, degrees conferred by level, percentage of underrepresented/minority/ domestic students by level, faculty and staff headcounts by fund type, all funds revenue, sponsored research expenditures, fund balances, and Net Assignable Square Feet grouped by type of room.
Behind these profiles and overviews are critical points of inquiry. What are student enrollments over time? How is the overall fiscal health of the school or college? How many students complete their degrees? How much teaching are faculty members doing, both for students enrolled in the school or college and other students at the University? These documents assist the provost in assessing such factors (often with cross comparisons) as a school or college’s faculty, staff, and student composition; its teaching activity levels; its financial status; and its space usage.
The OBP also maintains the College Resources Analysis System (CRAS), which measures such factors as teaching loads, course offerings and enrollments, class size, and teaching salary cost per credit hour for academic departments or programs. These data sets are specifically produced to help each unit plan effectively and to make decisions aligned with its mission and goals, and they also reflect the University’s institutional values as described in Mission .
Several other offices collect data and offer assessment tools that typically meet their particular areas or fields of interest. Examples are below.
Numerous units at the University, in the schools and colleges as well as other units, conduct institutional research on the levels of satisfaction among the people they serve. Below are three examples.
Sharing Ideas and Practices
A key aspect of institutional research is for members of the campus community to have the opportunity to share and discuss their work, compare ideas, and explore best practices. In previous sections we emphasized the availability of data and analysis on websites of the units involved in data mining and planning activities. Opportunities for other discourse are also available at the University and beyond, as described in two representative examples below.