Summary of Findings and Suggestions

The Working Group on Using Assessment for Institutional Effectiveness (WGIE) found that the fundamental elements of Standard 7 are met and that the assessment processes in place are both effective and sustainable. The working group also found substantial evidence that assessment is now part of the culture of the University of Pittsburgh.

The WGIE report states that the University’s planning and budgeting system has clearly identified goals and processes that are broadly communicated. The system itself has been formally assessed and improved over time.The annual planning process is transparent, promoting a dialogue among the central administration; the individual responsibility centers; and the broader faculty, staff, and student communities.Through feedback and assessment, the annual planning process has been adapted over time to better serve both the University and the individual units. Benchmarking at the University level is conducted in a systematic fashion, and schools and departments have increasingly incorporated internal and external benchmarking into their planning processes. Planning and benchmarking activities yield data that are meaningful and useful and have clearly impacted decisions and resource allocation. Specific planning, budgeting,and benchmarking activities have been designed to allow responsibility centers some flexibility in goals and processes to reflect their individual needs while at the same time providing a framework to ensure that unit activities align with overall University goals. A culture of assessment is clearly evident within the planning, budgeting,and benchmarking activities of the University of Pittsburgh.

WGIE also found evidence of effective assessment in institution-wide infrastructure investment, as documented in the areas of information technology, facilities, the University Library System, international activities, and budgetand finance. The University has articulated a low-cost, real-time, and systematic culture of assessment within its regular information technology operations. The University also has effectively used assessment as a tool in facility planning for a number of years, as can be seen in the number of formal facility planning documents, both past and present, and their implementationin a sustained process that can be seen all the way through to activities and initiatives that are currently under way. An explicit commitment to assessment at every level and a high level of sophistication in planning have been demonstrated by the University Library System. It is poised to continue in an organized, systematized, and sustained assessment effort that generates useful results. In addition, WGIE found that assessment in budget and finance is clearly useful, cost-effective, reasonably accurate and truthful, planned, ongoing, organized, and sustained.

Throughout the WGIE report on institutional effectiveness, specific suggestions or areas of improvement were noted along with a few broad suggestions:

  • The annual planning process, while effective, can be resource-intensive for units to prepare. A well-designed online system could facilitate the task, although the diversity of relevant data across the many different units of the University makes it challenging to develop a single standardized reporting system.
  • External benchmarking data can be quite valuable in terms of providing the information necessary for setting objectives and assessing progress, but there is some unevenness across the University in terms of the quality of the available data and the ease of gathering the data. Thus, it may be useful to examine benchmarking practices across the University to determine whether there are opportunities for improving the effectiveness of benchmarking. However, University resources are limited and will be further taxed due to proposed reductions in the level of support received from the commonwealth. Thus, any new endeavors must be balanced against competing needs and cost/benefit evaluations.
  • The University should continue to explore ways to assess faculty interest and involvement in research and other partnerships outside the United States, as called for in the International Plan Framework.
  • The University should continue on its path of developing a robust financial data warehouse and its use of advanced analytical tools that ultimately will provide additional efficiency and speed for the administration as well as the unit levels. However, such endeavors require resources, and the University will need to channel its resources to the most exigent needs given pending budget constraints.