Data Governance, Management and Protection in Higher Education

We are bombarded with data. Higher education institutions have no shortages of data and experience daily influxes from diverse streams. From confidential student and institutional information to sensitive research data sets, it becomes increasingly crucial that higher education institutions enforce and regulate stringent data protocols and practices to ensure proper data control, data management, data protection and data privacy. As pressure increase for higher education institutions to do more with the resources they have at hand, paying attention to these issues are imperative for their sustainability and continued success.

With the increasing power and capability of data, there is so much that can be done using data-driven initiatives to enable improved outcomes and effective decision making in higher education. Data can be used strategically to achieve greater impact in higher ed. decision-making that better meet the goals and outcomes of the institution, departments and student affairs. The key remains in properly controlling and leveraging the data to achieve these desired outcomes. EDUCAUSE [1] recommends that for higher education institutions to implement effective “data management and governance practices” they should:

    • Learn: Read about higher education data management and governance topics and find proven practices that helped other institutions implement data management and governance.
    • Plan: Benchmark their current data capabilities and lay the groundwork for their data management and governance strategic direction.
    • Do: Implement data management and governance practices and validate their forward progress.[1]

Furthermore, there exists many data quality problems from the vast array of data sources, but higher education can utilize data governance to help continuously mitigate this problem in order to ensure quality data for strategizing and planning initiatives such as those that help to drive student success.[2] Hayhurst claims [2], “The success of any data-driven initiative depends on that data being relevant and trustworthy.” Universities can ensure high-quality data by ensuring these “key attributes” that include:


      • Completeness: Related data must be linked from all possible sources.
      • Accuracy: Data must be correct and consistent, with no misspellings, for example.
      • Availability: Data must be available upon demand.
      • Timeliness: Current data must be available. [2]

Most recently, my colleagues and I, have been receiving many spam and phishing emails from administration in my department. This calls into question the issue of data protection and the necessity for heightened data protection measures. The ability for cyber-criminals to manipulate email accounts and transcend network security protocols poses a serious threat to higher education operations and trust. Cyber experts emphasize that, “It is critical university leaders consider whether their cyber protection governance is sufficiently robust.” [3] University officials must work intently to ensure that their valuable data is protected with the highest level of protection. Some critical questions that higher education providers need to ask include:

    • Who has access to data?
    • Are regular vulnerability scans performed as part of vulnerability management?
    • Do attack monitoring and mitigation systems cover the right cyber-attacks?
    • Are staff and students trained in information security awareness to spot fraudulent attacks?[3]



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