2019 Trends in Higher Ed

New Grant Thornton report looks at data analytics, artificial intelligence, and other factors affecting universities.

Audit and tax firm Grant Thornton LLP has released its eighth annual report on the state of higher education, written by professionals at the firm and directed at leaders and board members of higher education institutions. Included in the report are articles on using data analytics in new ways, supporting students who have mental health challenges, using artificial intelligence to transform operations, employing nontraditional approaches to filling talent gaps, and founding a national university system.

For instance, in the article “Effecting greater change through data analytics,” authors Claire Esten and Natalie Wood, both of the firm’s not-for-profit and higher education practices division, note that schools can use data in ways that go beyond promoting student success and enrollment growth. They write that universities can use data analytics to predict fraud and even identify instances of noncompliance, such as determining whether a professor is giving preferential treatment to student athletes. Data also can help institutions detect fraud related to student financial aid by analyzing patterns in online applications and related activity.

Esten and Wood go on to discuss new pedagogical technologies that track the pace of learning, flag potential plagiarism, and highlight when specific students are struggling with coursework.

The co-authors admit that educators and administrators can feel overwhelmed by the flood of data. They advise users to start small, with readily available and reliable data; to focus on one topic at a time instead of launching initiatives across the university; and to start with an area like finance before expanding into other realms of the institution.

Access the report.