Dr. Francisco Cigarroa, chancellor of the huge University of Texas System, says he is determined to drive accountability and to share that information with the public.

In partnership with SAS, the UT System went online last week with a high-tech, web-based “dashboard” that enables taxpayers to see how their statewide system, its teachers and students are performing.

In what a SAS spokesperson describes as an “exercise in transparency,” the UT System launched its “Productivity Dashboard” for the world to see. It tracks nine different focus areas from student success to research, information technology to philanthropy, and more.

Multiple Goals 

Financial terms for the project were not disclosed. However, it is the first project on such a scale for a university system by SAS, according to the company. The dashboard incorporates a variety of SAS business intelligence and data mining products, including Enterprise BI Server, Enterprise Data Integration Server and Visual Data Discovery.

Goals of the dashboard according to the UT System include:

• Improve data access and transparency.
• Improve data consistency.
• Provide customized, user-built views of the data.
• Report data on metrics that assess productivity and impact.
• Support decision- and policy-making.
• Track progress towards institutional- and system-level goals.
• Provide performance comparisons to relevant benchmarks and peer groups.

The new initiative was unveiled by Dr. Cigarroa in May and launched in June. The UT System turned to SAS for the project based in part with a long-term relationship. The organization was among the first 100 customers for SAS software dating back to 1976, according to SAS spokesperson Trent Smith.

“We’ve been used in the institutional research office since 2004,” Smith added. “The dashboard grew out of a couple related efforts. The Office of Strategic Management was already looking at ways to share accountability data last year. That effort dovetailed in 2011 with the Chancellor’s Framework for Advancing Excellence.”

More Data Coming

The dashboard unveiled at this point represents the first phase. Other data and metrics will be added over time, Smith said.

The UT System described the dashboard as providing “unprecedented” access to performance critera. The system covers 15 campuses.

“The dashboard is a national model for transparency in higher education,” Cigarroa said in a statement. “An easily accessible public dashboard will assure the effective implementation and comprehensive measurement of UT System initiatives. Instead of waiting for annual reports on graduation rates, research expenditures and faculty workload, Texans will see real-time snapshots of these productivity measures across the UT System.”

Data sources include the UT System, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and others.

“The dashboard significantly advances the UT System’s efforts to publicly report productivity and demonstrates our commitment to transparency and accountability,” UT System Board of Regents’ Chairman Gene Powell said. “The Chancellor’s framework action plan aligns the efforts of the institutions, system administration and the Board of Regents to provide the most cost-efficient means for producing graduates while increasing the quality of education.”

The UT System has some 215,000 students and an operating budget of more than $13 billion.

More than 3,000 educational institutions in 126 countries utilize SAS.

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