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The new partnership between academics and finance in higher education

Worldwide Industry Marketing Leader, Government & Education, IBM Analytics

There has always been a strong interaction between the academic side of higher education and the finance or “business” side of higher education. The academic side had lofty goals for establishing new degrees programs and new ways of recruiting students, while the finance side needed to balance out the financial realities of revenue and cost, weighing academic goals against financial realities. With all this considered, it could be a stormy relationship. The new partnership between academics and finance in higher education

But that has begun to shift radically in recent years, and today we are seeing a tighter relationship between the academic and financial parts of the institution. In 2012, the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) published a paper called The CBO–CAO Collaboration Opportunity Cycle. In that study, they laid out how the relationship between academics (the chief academic officer in this case) and finance (the chief budget officer) is built on four key factors:

  1. Dialogue and trust
  2. The dissemination of information
  3. Interpretation and communication
  4. Action

Having a strong data and analytics strategy helps to facilitate those four factors.

For the chief academic officer, having a comprehensive view of the student is critical. By aligning many different data sources together, the CAO can look at each student as an individual and deliver learning to them based on their needs. In addition, it is easier to align the data so that the academic side can predict and target the needs of students more accurately and then modify the learning delivered. The institution can also match programs and resources to meet highest-priority student needs, ensuring that no student is left to dropout.

For the chief budget officer, having insight into academic needs helps to position resources focused on high-priority service areas, ensuring that those students most at risk are served. Lowering the costs of delivering learning without compromising efficient delivery and student services ultimately benefits the chief academic officer.

For the chief budget officer, having a view of all data around programs and budgets at all levels of education helps to ensure that the institution is aligned around the academic goals and results, tying that to budgets for a true measure of performance and results.

As we see analytics and data evolve in this critical relationship, it helps to eliminate “silo” views of academic programs and initiatives, tying into finance, leading to better decision-making and the improved outcomes for the institution. This type of engagement between the CAO and CBO also gives the institution headlights into what future program needs may be and adapt policies and programs for changing student demands. This leads, in the end, to improved performance in financial and operational governance and a reduction in risk.

Today the promise of analytics-driven decisions in education is real and happening every day. Learn how you can leverage analytics in education.