The role of the academic registrar is one of higher education’s most foundational functions, dating back to medieval times, according to Kansas State University. In today’s changing technological landscape and models of education, the registrar’s office maintains a pivotal contributor to an institution’s governmental process on advising proper academic policy and curriculum-management policy. However, institutions may be overlooking it.
A new survey published by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers Research (AACRAO Research) surveyed over 300 institutional stakeholders, the majority of them being institution-wide registrars across 49 states. It found that institutions whose institutional governance/decision-making models are in a state of flux are creating a barrier for the academic registrar from having an impactful voice.
“Some institutions appear to be in a state of transition, with roles, responsibilities, and governance models evolving,” read the report. “This has impacted the role of the registrar in many ways. In some cases, a registrar’s role has been elevated, while in others, the role has been diminished.”
Why the academic registrar plays a pivotal role in today’s digital landscape
The proliferation of new academic models and credential types is breeding a new era of quality assurance in higher education, grounding the registrar’s office as a pivotal institutional role in academic policy and process. With the proliferation of micro-credentials in higher education, some universities, such as the University of Colorado, Boulder, are placing that function in the registrar’s office.
As higher education continues to make sense of alternative credential pathways to attract more students, AI has broken into the landscape in a big way. Students are increasingly using ChatGPT, and teachers are increasingly interested in interfacing with it to keep in step with their students. However, only one in four college professors say their institution has a proper policy in place that guides their use, according to Intelligent.
The expertise of the academic registrar to enforce policy and guide curriculum as higher education breaks into micro-credentials and AI can ground schools with a pragmatic and ethical approach while satisfying student needs.
What’s barring the registrar for realizing its potential in institutional decision-making?
Most respondents agreed the role of the institution-wide registrar is configured to support effective engagement of that role in institutional governance/decision-making, according to the survey. However, when AACRAO Research analyzed open-ended comments provided by respondents, some common themes arose on the registrar’s limited efficacy.
In events in which institutional policies changes or when the registrar was not given a formal role in the decision-making process with clear authority, stakeholders often overlooked their data-driven insights. This rang especially true in committees run by faculty who may not have a strong consideration of the technical and administrative implications of the vision they support. While the academic registrar’s strong understanding of today’s best practices and industry standards could help these committee leaders, their expertise might be overlooked due to a lack of self-advocation or relationship-building.
But the onus cannot fall completely on the registrar for not championing themselves or networking their full potential. The report found that one of the most common weaknesses shared by respondents on their institution’s decision-making process was that those who lacked a clear, consistent model could potentially cause organizational conflict. This could ring particularly true for institutions that are in a state of transition. Secondly, many respondents felt their institutions’ functions were siloed from one another, inhibiting effective collaboration.