Why care about data at all?

Statistics suggest that as much as 90% of data in the world today has been created in the last two years.  Yet despite this it is estimate that most companies ignore almost 90% of the data they have and it is estimated that of all the data in the world as little as 0.5% is actually analysed or utilised.

The OED defines data as “Facts and statistics collected together for reference or analysis” but what does this really mean for colleges and universities? In an education context data can be far ranging; estates data, enrolment data, library data, research data, assessment data, the list goes on.

Historically human resource was seen by organisations as their greatest asset but increasingly organisations are listing data as the asset of most or at least equal value.  One of the things to understand however, is that it is not data itself which is of value. On its own data has very little intrinsic value and actually costs money to store and process.  Data attains value when it is utilised effectively and even more so when utilised innovatively.

Undisputedly data plays a crucial role with in colleges and universities when it comes to compliance with regulations and reporting. In addition to this reporting role though, data can be also be used for a college or university to learn more about itself, what it does well and not so well, what are its strengths and its weaknesses.  Once these areas are identified data can then be used to underpin any decisions made by the college or university to improve those areas that need improvement and promote those they already do well.

Data can be used to help institutions understand and improve processes and practices, leading to greater efficiencies, costs savings and improvements in students’ satisfaction and wellbeing.  It can help in institutional problem solving, support strategy and promote transparency.  At its best data is intrinsic to innovative practice for an education sector seeking to be forward facing.

All these potential benefits to the correct use and application of data across an institution it helps to illustrate its importance to universities and colleges.

Jisc is exploring the current and future role of data in education, and the ways in which Jisc can best support colleges and universities to make the most of their data both for today’s business as usual and for tomorrow’s education innovation.

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