Dr Cay thinks back on AAIR 2010

14 February 2011

The AAIR Forum 2010 in Geelong was my first ever in Australia, and one of the best in Institutional Research (IR) that I have attended, since my appointment in this field 14 years ago. Although I had been considering this conference for years and my submission of an abstract had been at the last minute, the many hours spent on the paper and travel arrangements were well worth the investment.

All the requirements spelt out on the website and e-mails were crystal clear; the company organizing the forum did an excellent job; but it was the personalised communication, from Dave Marr and others, that set the tone of warmth and professionalism. Having occupied most portfolios on the SAAIR executive, including hosting a forum in my hometown, I was really appreciative of all the behind-the-scenes work that leads to a successful event such as this.

The program was an eclectic mix of what is basic to IR, yet reflected the topical trends that are discernable at Forums of AIR, EAIR and SAAIR. Currently papers on Data Warehousing (beyond MIS), for greater integration of data and information, from production systems, surveys, etc.; predictive models for student success; or “at risk” triggering, etc. are prevalent.

Constant themes like quality, faculty aspects (scarcity, salaries, supervisors, etc.), student admissions, university funding, university types, who may offer what programme, research, etc., remain – yet the contents are up to date and the emphasis is more on the strategic inclusion of findings for use in Business Intelligence i.e. higher education is showing a greater application of IR in its management of institutions and systems.

Unfortunately I missed some of the best presentations (clashes of choice between parallel sessions). With my diverse interests, I love the variety and confluence of issues as well as the difference we (IR) can make to student and institutional success. The latter was clearly illustrated by the small sample of great work being done in Australia and New Zealand, and the willingness to share best practice.

The USA has been groundbreaking in IR, but the academic literature is overwhelmed by American publications. Information searches yielded very few references to IR publications from other continents. One reaction is indignation, since IR forums, like AAIR, show that excellent projects and research are carried out everywhere!

The professional way in which colleagues at AAIR shared valuable advice and resources with me or invited my participation in SIG’s, was sincerely appreciated. It goes to show that personal socializing (surrounded on all sides by the sea!) and networking cannot be supplanted by all the electronic communication media.

My daughter and I crammed in some sight-seeing, like a full-day trip along the Great Ocean Road and a lot of walking in Melbourne central city. My “Australian experience”, dear editor, was well worthwhile, and fun on top of it.

Any delegates or AAIR members, like Ms Palermo, who are interested in visiting South Africa or participating in an SAAIR forum (usually late September) are most welcome to contact me or the executives of SAAIR. We would love to return the hospitality we enjoyed – thanks again!

Dr Cay van der Merwe
Central University of Technology
South Africa

colorswathe   © Australasian Association for Institutional Research Inc. 2010 kindleman