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Institutional Research

Institutional Research (IR) is the term used to describe research undertaken within an institution to support an evidence-informed approach to decisions about policy and practice.

IR as a coherent and valued professional function is a developing concept  in the UK. Much IR is undertaken in areas like planning, management information, Registry, academic development, marketing and external liaison, educational development, skills units, research units and academic departments. For example, IR is used to evaluate and make decisions about:

  • Student recruitment, progression and achievement
  • Students’ learning and their experiences of learning
  • The quality and performance of academic programmes
  • The monitoring and review of collaborations and partnerships
  • Strategic planning and repositioning of Higher Education Institutions
  • Assessing the effects of institutional policies like widening participation
  • To support large scale development and change

Institutional Research seeks to bring these often disparately - held peices of information together to inform organisational priorities. Whilst IR is carried out within constituent departments, the focus of IR tends to be at supra-departmental level.

Methods and Tools

  • Performance. All kinds of organisational data is used to inform decision making already. For example Student performance , research performance, and performance in terms of attracting external funding are all measured. But are these measures integrated into planning of student support, staffing, training, deployment, and resourcing?
  • Benchmarking is widely used in the public sector as a way of making transparent the relative effectiveness and efficiency of different organisations or departments.
  • Surveys: Survey results, for example of satisfaction, can be highly informative in prioritising the deployment of financial and other resources.


The Institution