Using Workforce Data to Plan Higher Education Degree Programs

Published in: Handbook on the Politics of Higher Education, Chapter 16, pages 280-297 (June 2018). doi: https://doi.org/10.4337/9781786435026

Posted on RAND.org on February 12, 2020

by Charles A. Goldman, Diana Gehlhaus

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Governments and employers in many countries are concerned that graduates of higher education institutions are not fully meeting workforce needs, whether in terms of the quantity of graduates in various academic disciplines or in the skills they develop during their higher education studies. Governments can take various political actions to shape degree programme decision-making, including influencing, regulating and offering incentives to promote alignment to workforce development needs. Political and institutional decisions can be informed by a wide variety of workforce data sources. Public statistical data, commercial services, and interactions with employers and individuals all can provide evidence of workforce demand. As data sources improve measurement of the workforce, the authors describe some tools that can model workforce demands and translate them into needs for higher education. These data can be used for strategic planning at the national, state, regional and institutional levels, but the authors' project work and interviews suggest that such top-down strategic planning is less commonly a source of new programmes compared to bottom-up programme ideas that arise from individual faculty, departments and employer interactions. These institutional processes can be heavily affected by organizational politics. Governments and intuitions could shift toward proactive data use through regular strategic planning.

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