Higher education institutions are some of the most data-rich entities in the world. Postsecondary leaders need high-quality, consistent and accurate insights to make the best decisions for their institution, students and constituents.

Data governance is a topic that may seem technical in nature and perhaps important to only the IT department. However, a sound data governance strategy is the foundation that allows access to the data needed to make timely organizational decisions.

Data governance and higher education

Higher education faces one of the biggest challenges in obtaining data and interpreting it in a way that can be used to lead to positive business and academic outcomes.

Implementing a data governance strategy means engaging individuals from institutions in managing, determining, interpreting and safeguarding relevant data. Creating formal data governance processes helps to ensure data is entered carefully and defined, codified, and interpreted consistently throughout the institution.

Without a data governance plan, there would not be uniform rules for data storage, integration, retrieval and analysis of that data across an institution or system. All colleges and universities can use data governance to guide institutional strategies.

A sound data governance strategy encompasses areas such as:

Data quality and integration

Data governance and data quality are often viewed independently, but they are complementary.

To ensure quality, institutions gather data from internal and external sources to reduce errors and inconsistencies.

Optimal data quality requires a solid data governance strategy. Without it, college and university decision-makers can’t trust the data or ensure data quality.

Data management

While data governance establishes the policies and procedures around data, data management enacts those policies in a way to effectively use that data to make decisions. In higher education, institutions can efficiently manage data with consistent policies and processes that track data lineage.

This would ensure conformity with established education policies and accreditation requirements. With proper data management, colleges and universities can capitalize on important drivers of growth and innovation.

Data protection

Successful data governance involves satisfying data security and privacy requirements. Higher education institutions are increasingly reliant on data from students to drive decisions on policymaking and are adopting platforms to handle massive amounts of such data.

Data collection often requires knowing sensitive personal information, such as contact information or medical history.

Protecting that data means colleges and universities must fully understand and monitor the state of their education data. It is imperative to comply with FERPA, COPPA, HIPAA and other regulations necessary for keeping students and education data safe.

Data preparation

Using analytics to prepare data for reporting and analytics in a self-service environment for institutional leaders allows them to spend less time organizing data and more time analyzing it.

Good data preparation offers effective analysis and limits errors in processing the data to make it more accessible to users. Analytics tools can greatly automate this typically manual and labor-intensive process, freeing up time to analyze the data.

Data governance in practice

The University of North Texas harnessed the potential of analytics and implemented a data governance strategy to fundamentally reengineered the institution’s data landscape. This use of analytics helped fuel policy and procedure changes that reduced costs by more than $1 million.

The effect had a positive influence on enrollment and student success. Moreover, the project inspired trust in the data. Now, hundreds of business users at UNT can make decisions based on the university’s enterprisewide data and analytics program. People now ask value-added questions instead of questioning the value of the data.

Using analytics to create a sound data governance plan can help higher education institutions progress further along the digital transformation journey. With these tools, colleges and universities are empowered to quickly find the data that they need to drive positive business and academic outcomes.

Learn more about executing a data governance strategy in our Ask the Expert Webinar “How Do We Make Our Data a Trusted and Reusable Asset?”


About Author

Brock Matthews

Advisory Industry Consultant

Brock Matthews is an Advisory Industry Consultant at SAS. In this role, he builds public-private coalitions between institutions of higher education, federal and state government agencies, and private sector partners. Brock works with a network of postsecondary education alliance partners to provide analytic solutions to higher education’s most pressing issues. During his 21 years working in higher education, Brock forged partnerships and relationships with individuals and academic institutions across the country in various disciplines, including admissions, advancement, career services, human resources, finance, academic affairs, student affairs, and research. Prior to joining SAS, Brock worked for both public and private institutions including Duke University, Emory University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In his most recent role, he served nearly eight years as the Assistant Dean of Advancement and the President of the Foundation for the NC State University College of Sciences. Brock holds a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies from UNC-Chapel Hill and received his MBA from Emory University.

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