The Higher Education CIO: Portrait of Today, Landscape of Tomorrow, 2011

The 2011 ECAR study of higher education IT leadership and the IT workforce and leadership illuminates the findings from three recent EDUCAUSE research initiatives and several related studies. The EDUCAUSE initiatives include the 2010 EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research (ECAR) survey of higher education IT leaders and the IT workforce staff (3,400 responses from over 1,000 institutions), five years of data from the EDUCAUSE Core Data Service, five years of data from the EDUCAUSE Current Issues Survey, and 24 interviews with sitting CIOs from research universities, liberal arts colleges, and community colleges, among others. This research is an unprecedentedly thorough and thoughtful examination of the CIO role.

Key Findings

The CIO role in higher education continues to inspire, perplex, and fascinate those who examine it. The 2011 ECAR study of information technology leaders in colleges and universities spotlights the CIO role, past, present, and emergent. It integrates findings from the 2010 ECAR survey of IT staff and leadership, the EDUCAUSE Core Data Service, the EDUCAUSE IT Issues Panel's Top-Ten IT Issues, and interviews with sitting CIOs from research universities, liberal arts colleges, and community colleges. The study gathered quantitative and qualitative data from 3,400 IT professionals at 1,053 institutions of higher education.

  • 113 senior-most IT leaders plan to leave that position within 6 years; 420 individuals aspire to fill those roles.
  • 36% of people aspiring to be a CIO have a mentor, and they are more satisfied with their development opportunities by a factor of 2 to 1 over those who do not.
  • 100% of survey respondents rate communication skills as important for CIO success. 31% rate technical proficiency as important for CIO success.
  • 45% of leaders responsible for their institution's primary IT organization have the title of "CIO"; 70% of primary IT leaders in doctoral institutions have that title.
  • 80% of current CIOs have an advanced degree; 25% have a PhD, most commonly at doctoral institutions.

ECAR Recommends

Especially now, when colleges and universities are faced with economic challenges and the impending retirement of baby-boom generation CIOs, it is important to focus on growing the next generation.

  • Provide aspiring IT leaders with opportunities to gain background and skills in both technical and management disciplines.
  • Prospective CIOs should consider which type of institution provides the best match for their skills and aspirations; the CIO experience differs greatly across institutional types.
  • Expose potential leaders to institutional functions and priorities that senior leaders must understand.
  • Encourage potential leaders to take advantage of professional networking and leadership development opportunities offered by organizations such as EDUCAUSE.
  • Act as mentors and encourage qualified aspirants to pursue the CIO role.