University of Virginia (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2018 Proceedings
Publication year: 2018
Page: 6384 (abstract only)
ISBN: 978-84-697-9480-7
ISSN: 2340-1079
doi: 10.21125/inted.2018.1503
Conference name: 12th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 5-7 March, 2018
Location: Valencia, Spain
This paper provides postsecondary leaders in colleges, universities, accrediting agencies, and policy organizations with a succinct summary of the complex field of higher education accountability. It combines the seven accountability approaches in a single model that highlights their differences, relationships, and persistence. The seven silos within higher education accountability are: assessment, accreditation, institutional research, institutional effectiveness, educational evaluation, educational measurement, and higher education public policy.

The model aims to clarify the relationship of these accountability approaches by visually mapping the complex accountability terrain; it also provides leaders with two strategies—integration and consolidation—they can employ when faced with multiple accountability demands. A further understanding of higher education accountability will help postsecondary leaders make more informed decisions about the specific areas they oversee.

The accountability demands to which a university must adhere are complex because they originate from numerous external sources such as accrediting bodies, federal and state agencies, rankings publications. The lack of coordination and integration across accountability stakeholders leaves administrators with the difficult task of making sense of a complex network of external groups and agencies that each require its own specialized system of data collection and reporting.

At the same time, the lack of coordination across monitoring systems in the external environment has produced considerable internal complexity for colleges and universities as leaders made decisions as to how to respond to outside agencies. The inherent tension between myriad external monitoring agencies and the internal responses of universities has resulted in an unspoken irony in the field of higher education accountability. That is, the broader system that emphasizes the effectiveness of individual organizations is one that is, itself, characterized by inefficiency and a lack of coordination.

Integration and consolidation are two strategies that must be considered if the inefficiencies and lack of coordination across the field of higher education accountability are to be addressed. University leaders can begin to address inefficiencies in accountability processes within their own areas by thinking about integration. An integration mindset seeks to have a single activity strategically designed at the local level to be usable for more than one purpose. In some instances university leaders may not be able to change redundant accountability structures that are governed by broader agencies. In these instances leaders can strategically focus on the processes, or the organizational response that aims to maximize efficient actions while still being embedded in a broader system.

While integration focuses attention on the processes within redundant structures, consolidation focuses attention on the multiple structures and their elimination. Consolidation seeks to eliminate redundant structures within an environment where one has the authority to change such structures. As university leaders work to consolidate accountability structures at the organizational level, those providing leadership over broader systems and associations can collectively work toward consolidation to eliminate redundant structures of accountability.
Assessment, Accreditation, Institutional Research, Institutional Effectiveness, Accountability.