Planning and Assessing Institutional Effectiveness

Greater Kashmir

It has become quite fashionable for higher educational institutions (HEIs) in the country to have a well crafted vision and mission statements. It is good, rather quite essential to have a very realistic vision and mission as it enables institutions to define the processes and strategies needed to achieve their goals. Vision is aspirational in nature in the sense that it describes the futuristic aspirations of an institution. It constantly keeps reminding everyone in the organization where they want to be in future. Whereas, mission is a purpose statement of an organisation and describes what processes and operational strategies are needed to achieve the envisioned milestones. But unfortunately HEIs by and large have failed to translate their vision and mission statements into reality by using them as a guiding philosophy for achieving their intended goals. The vision and mission statements are not merely to be printed in official publications or displayed on the walls of the institution but these need to be used as a means to seek continuous improvements in institutional performance. By doing so, it defeats the very essence of having a vision and mission for the institution which otherwise are aimed to plan and control performances at all levels in the organisation by defining answers to the following pertinent questions:

  • What kind of goals do we want to achieve?
  • When are we going to achieve the intended goals?
  • How are we going to achieve our short term and long term goals?

As per the requirements of National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), universities in the country have established full-fledged Directorates of Internal Quality Assurance (DIQA) with a mandate to assure quality educational pursuits. But unfortunately DIQAs by and large have misconstrued their roles to the extent of either publishing annual reports or the conduct of “Evaluation of Teaching” by the students that too for fulfilling the requirements of NAAC accreditation process rather than for seeking improvements in teaching. These directorates of great significance generally comes into action only when accreditation of a university by NAAC is near the corner. To realise the milestones specified in the institutional vision in today’s complex and dynamic environment largely depends upon effective ‘Performance Planning and Control Systems’. Organizations which have proper performance management systems in place, are more than twice as successful as similar organizations (Phadnis, 2002). But unfortunately, HEIs in India are largely operating in a vacuum i.e. without tracking the performances of individual faculty members and departments/ centres based on ‘Peer Benchmarking or Best Practices Approach’. As such, the huge public funding that goes into HEIs largely fails to yield due dividends. In fact, the failure to govern in a systematic manner is being considered one of the prominent reasons for HEIs to have failed to perform well. Until and unless our HEIs lays due emphasis on the management of institutional effectiveness like their counterparts in the western world, we will fail to capitalise the potential with which our institutions are endowed. Some HEIs have started to audit academics but unfortunately in an unplanned manner which is sure to fail to make any headway in the academics rather will undermine its utility once for all. This sadly reflects intellectual/ professional bankruptcy of such institutions which otherwise are expected to help and guide other institutions in effective governance by offering improved systems and solutions.

The fact of the matter is that the DIQAs have a significant role to play in seeking continuous improvements in academics and other related pursuits in line with the stated vision and mission statements of the universities. This calls for the DIQAs to operate a system of “Institutional Effectiveness Mechanism” to provide leadership, guidance and support to each unit in the university by planning, assessing, analysing, and reporting processes that contribute to the achievement of university goals. One of the most prominent best practices of HEIs in the western world has been making “Institutional Effectiveness Mechanism” an integral part of the governance system to foster continuous improvements in academics. According to SACSCOC Resource Manual, “Institutional Effectiveness is a systematic, explicit, and documented process of measuring performance against the mission in all aspects of an institution.” It is a whole process of aligning departmental vision and mission statements with that of an institution; in line with the goals, set performance targets for each faculty member, department/ centre, school, and student support centres; measure actual performances and compare the same with the standard performance to find out variations if any and propose corrective actions to be taken to plug the gaps in targeted performances.

The first step in the implementation of “Institutional Effectiveness Mechanism” is to establish long term “Institutional Strategic Plan,” the duration of which may vary from institution to institution, depending upon the constraints of visibility and milestones to be accomplished. NEP-2020 has also recommended that each HEIs will have to make a strategic ‘Institutional Development Plan’ (IDP) on the basis of which institutions will develop initiatives, assess their own progress, and reach the goals set therein, which could then become the basis for further public funding. A “Strategic Planning Committee” will need to be constituted for framing a ‘Strategic Plan’, mainly consisting of few Subject Experts’ Selected Administrators & Deans and Student representatives. Given the interconnectedness of the ‘Institutional Strategic Plan’ with those of teaching departments, schools, and student support service centres, while framing plans, the strategic committee is required to use “Top-down & Bottom-up Approach” which calls for prioritisation of strategic processes and programmes at all levels in the university. However, to align and realign the planning process successfully, among other things, the strategic committee would require to have ongoing dialogue and feedback from all Depts/schools/centres. These inclusive discussions are based on “Living Plan Philosophy”, where the reliable information and insights are available to the ‘Strategic Committee’ to make informed decisions about new initiatives.

The ‘Strategic Plans,’ at the institutional and other levels in a university shall have to be based on ‘Vision & Mission Statements’, therefore, to ensure very effective planning at all levels in a university, such statements need to be very realistic. But the fact is that many of the HEIs in the country formulate their vision and mission statements just for the sake of formality, thus generally are not realistic, plausible and specific. Therefore, the first step while establishing ‘Institutional Strategic Plan’ would be to rewrite the institutional vision and mission statements in a manner that reflects the achievements that can be accomplished. Equally important would be to align the vision and mission statements of all the departments, schools and student support centres with that of the institution. However, the vision and mission statements should clearly reflect their core activities with measurable goals.

The second step in the implementation of “Institutional Effectiveness Mechanism” is to decide about the intended outcomes for the core activities for each Dept./school/ centre to act as ‘Standards of Efficiency’. At a teaching department level, the intended outcomes are required to be set at the level of individual faculty members and for the department as a whole. At the level of individual faculty member, for Teaching Performance; Research Output; and Participation in Conferences, Seminars, & Workshops, intended outcomes need to be set, while as at the departmental level, outcomes need to be set about the Quality of Academic and Research Programmes; Quality of Course Curriculum; Teaching-Learning Environment; Implementation of Academic Calendar; Co-Curricular Activities; Placements and Extension & Outreach Activities. It would be highly essential that the outcomes need to concentrate only on key areas. Most critical would be that the outcomes are consistent with the vision and mission statements & overall goal of a department/centre and are set after debate and discussion with the concerned. It is also essential to avoid setting too many performance goals, only critical measures should be used to control performances. By doing so, making continuous improvements will receive impetus from the enthusiastic support of all in the organization.

The establishment of indented outcomes proceeds with the measurement of actual performance of each faculty member, and Dept./school/centre, generally on yearly basis. Multiple measurement methods are necessary to assure reliability and validity of the data, however, direct methods are preferred to measure the performances. Wherever, actual data cannot be measured quantitative, Likert Type Scale should be used to convert a qualitative phenomenon into quantitative. Apart from other sources, surveys like Evaluation of Teaching by the Students, Course Objective Survey, Peers Evaluation, Self Evaluation, Graduating Student Survey, Campus Survey, Parental-Perception Survey, Employers Survey, Exit Survey, Alumni Survey, Student/ Faculty Survey of Administration can be employed to generate data to assess different parameters of performances. So key in the generation of data will greatly depend upon how well the instruments for these surveys have been designed and administered to the respondents.

Once the actual data has been collected, the next step is to find out the variations in performances by comparing actual accomplishments with standard outcomes. Before preparing an ‘Reports of Required Actions,’ all variations whether positive or negative are discussed in detail with the parties concerned to arrive at meaningful conclusions. To foster continuous improvements in the performances, everything will depend upon the ‘Reports of Required Actions,’ prepared which provides a complete blue print of actions needed to be taken to plug the gaps in performances. Therefore, all the care will be required to be taken to devise ‘Reports of Required Actions,’ which should be feasible in terms of time and resources available. The ‘Reports of Required Actions,’ generally includes corrective actions which may include, infusion of further resources, reorientation of existing processes and strategies, or at times management reshuffle and recognition of excellence by awarding and rewarding the best performers.

In addition to “Strategic Planning Committee”, the successful implementation of institutional effectiveness mechanism requires to constitute “Institutional Effectiveness Committee” whose sole responsibility will be to decide about the measurement methods to be used to generate and collect data, design instruments for data collection, collect and analyse data to find variations if any in the institutional effectiveness. The “Institutional Effectiveness Committee” should mainly consist of Director DIQA, Deputy Director DIQA, & Accreditation Liaison Officers. The assessment reports prepared by the effectiveness committee based on the comparison between actual performances and expected performances will have to be reported to the ‘Institutional Strategic Planning Committee’. It will be the responsibility of this committee to debate and discuss assessment reports with the concerned Depts/ schools/ centres and to decide about the ‘Reports of Required Actions’. Feed back to each unit/person about their scorecard performances delivers both a reading on current headway and message about future expectations. Thus, it is highly desirable to report the headway on each performance parameter with necessary recommendations for realignment of future actions.

The “Institutional Effectiveness Mechanism” is surely a panacea for all the ills which impedes the achievement of excellence in contemporary HEIs as it helps in getting all crevices ironed out. Among other things, it enables to translate vision and mission statements into strategic plans and measurable goals, planning and assessing performance at all levels, evidence based decision-making, efficient resource allocation, and supports accreditation activities & requirements. Most notable outcome of institutional effectiveness mechanism is that it ensures greater transparency and accountability, which in turn results into a competitive work culture throughout the organisation. Since it makes everybody in the organisation accountable for whatever they do, therefore, there is every possibility that people may resist this changing work environment. Generally organisations fail to incorporate new systems of governance successfully because of the resistance from the employees for one simple reason that it may push them out of comfort zones. It would be unwise to push the change without seeking clear understanding of everybody about its usefulness both to the organisation and its people. Sometimes new systems fail to yield desired results due to the failure of the management to plan and organise its implementation seamlessly, because the team responsible to manage the new system struggle with the change itself for not having understood the essence of the new system. Stephen Covey Says, “Begin with the end in mind i.e. starting with an objective statement is a wonderful way to understand what processes you are trying to establish, how you are going to go about it, and what results you are trying to achieve.” At the top of everything, the commitment of top management which they will have demonstrate visibly and consistently, would be key to the success of the new system.

Author is Professor in the Dept. of Commerce, University of Kashmir.