Higher Education Reform Requires University Institutional Research
Higher education is not immune to global competition. Only two Japanese universities cracked the top 100 in the 2018 Times Higher Education World University Rankings, considered to be the most prestigious university ranking in the world. The University of Tokyo dropped from 39th in 2017 to 46th. It may seem that the global presence of Japanese universities is fading. In contrast, other Asian countries are increasing their presence. Notably two Chinese universities are ranked among the top 30.
To strengthen competitiveness overseas, Japanese universities need not only increase the acceptance of foreign students but also provide a learning environment that develops world-class talent with the creativity to produce new value and things and possess multilingual communication skills.
The challenges are to ensure the quality of higher education and reform school management to feature region's and schools' unique characteristics. To address such issues, Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology has been sponsoring the Comprehensive Support Program for Private University Reform since 2013 to lend intensive support to private schools that work on school-wide higher education reform. The program provides subsidies to highly rated schools.
Five types of reform are defined in the program: qualitative educational transformation, regional development, cooperation with industry and other universities, globalization and platform building. Universities are rated and given scores for various check points and schools with high scores receive a subsidy.
One of the key check points in qualitative educational transformation, for which the largest number of schools are rated, is the activities of University Institutional Research (IR). University IR activities include gathering and analyzing data objectively for improving university management and education as well as planning and implementing measures and policies based on the analysis.
Among various University IR activities, Japanese universities especially need Education and Learning IR, which includes admissions support, assurance of educational quality and student and career support.
Student-oriented Data Analysis Drastically Changes Entrance Examination and Student Support
In what areas can we utilize University IR specifically? Fujitsu has been providing universities Education and Learning IR applications that help to improve entrance examination systems, quality of education and student and career support. In these areas, it is difficult to identify and analyze challenges based solely on the data individual departments or offices have. The data that exists school-wide needs to be consolidated.
For example, let's take a look at entrance examination system. To implement reform, a university needs to assess whether the current entrance examination system conforms to its admission policy, and if not, it needs to review the system.
Analysis for this purpose requires cross-sectional examination of data, such as the year of enrollment, the type of admission system (common first-stage exam only, first- and second-stage exams, AO admission or admission on recommendation), subjects, high school performance and grades, and final GPA.
By analyzing the data, a school may find tendencies like "Although there is a strong correlation between the result of common first-stage exam and final GPA, correlation between the result of second-stage exam and final GPA varies from year to year." Based on the analysis, the school is able to change its entrance examination system objectively. For example, it may eliminate second-stage exams and use only the results of common first-stage exams.
Moreover, in the area of student support, a university may study key attributes of students dropping out and devise a solution. As for career support, by incorporating data outside of school, such as performance in a company after graduation, it may be able to find some clues on school reform.
However, lack of human resources knowledgeable in University IR makes it difficult for some universities to effectively analyze and evaluate. They also require visualization tools and know-how on which data to combine for analysis.
Fujitsu's Unified-One Concept Strengthens Unique Features of Individual Universities
Fujitsu offers Unified-One Concept for universities. Unified-One Concept integrates Fujitsu's own and external ICT resources for utilizing student data. In order to add new value to educational researches and university management and strengthen unique features of each university, schools need to develop a database that allows school-wide analysis.
Fujitsu's Unified-One Integrated Database for University IR consolidates various pieces of data dispersed across a university in one place to help visualize challenges and speed up management using University IR.
Moreover, the Tableau analysis template, which contains Fujitsu's accumulated know-how in the education business, enables intuitive operation for viewing and analyzing the newest data.
In addition to education and learning, universities will need IR information platform in the fields of school management and operation, such as for finance and research.
Going forward, universities taking on the challenge of utilizing various types of information, both internally and externally, to continuously reinvent themselves will be vital for university management.