Four new research areas could revitalize universities

A new report breaks down emerging research areas that could place universities on a fast-track to success among the competition.

universities-researchAs universities strive to stand out and attract talented students, a new report predicts that some of higher education’s top priorities will focus on ensuring post-graduation success and building online learning programs–and new research into these areas could help ensure success.

A new higher-ed market leadership report from Hanover Research identifies emerging research and innovations that are likely to influence universities, and their administrative decisions, in 2015.

In introductory remarks, Cam Wall, Hanover Research vice president of content, notes that “peer higher education institutions are making data-driven decisions to address challenges faced by college and university administrators in a rapidly-changing field.”

Looking at the research landscape in 2015, Hanover researchers identified several areas in which they feel universities will focus attention this year.

(Next page: Four research focus areas for universities in 2015)

1. Ensuring post-graduation success: Defining credentials that could be awarded through certificate programs; reviewing best practices in career services organizational structures; and examining how universities can best support career pathways for graduates of broad undergrad programs.

2. Calculating student value: Conducting environmental scans and program pricing and tuition sensitivity analyses to model the enrollment effects of tuition reductions, and developing and analyzing student surveys to understand the potential responses to tuition and financial aid changes within an institution’s summer programs.

3. Developing online programs: Evaluating market saturation and demand factors for online expansion; benchmarking online program faculty compensation, marketing budgets for online programs, and online degree admission requirements; and gauging student satisfaction with MOOCs and evaluating general trends in online course delivery.

4. Identifying student success factors: Identifying academic and non-academic factors that most accurately predict persistence and graduation by analyzing student variables such as high school GPA, demographics, and first-year academic performance; and linking institutions’ National Survey of Student Engagement data with educational outcomes, such as persistence and GPA, to provide a more nuanced understanding of how student self-assessments of satisfaction and engagement correlate with important success indicators.

Top research trends in 2014 included academic program management, recruiting and marketing strategy, resource management, institutional effectiveness, and community and alumni engagement.

Within those categories, various trending topics emerged:

  • Academic program management: New program development, program review, programs for special populations, alternative program formats, and curriculum.
  • Recruiting and marketing strategy: Enrollment management, marketing effectiveness, brand performance, tuition management, and new campus feasibility.
  • Resource management: Operational support, faculty and staff management, finance, planning, faculty research, and peer list development.
  • Institutional effectiveness: Student success tracking, student support, student satisfaction and engagement, and support for special populations.
  • Community and alumni engagement: Alumni engagement, community brand awareness and perception, local and regional partnerships, local and regional employer needs, and economic impact assessment.

Laura Ascione