women in business attire with paperwork, feedback for campus administrators and leaders

Managing Executive Feedback in Higher Education

Tips for handling feedback for campus administrators and leaders.

One of higher education’s most serious recurring problems is the evaluation of campus leaders.  Part of this issue can be attributed to the significant periods of time between evaluations.  When leaders are allowed to operate for too long without oversight, institutions often discover a lack of ability or integrity after it’s too late.  A lack of feedback is also damaging even when you have effective, honest administrators.  Without consistent evaluations, higher education institutions are unable to bolster these administrators’ strengths while addressing their weaknesses.  So, this raises the question: How can higher education institutions provide effective feedback for campus administers and leaders?  Here are some of the approaches to consider.


An in-house approach where a group, usually a mix of administrators and faculty members, gathers data and creates a report on a president or provost.  The committee will provide a final report that details the executive’s strengths, weaknesses, and sometimes a recommendation for contract renewal.

  • Pros:
    • Affordable.
    • Committee members have the advantage of knowing the culture of the institution better than an external evaluator.
  • Cons:
    • Bias can influence what the committee emphasizes and what it neglects.
    • Internally designed evaluation surveys can be too narrow in scope.

External Review

An approach where institutions hire an external consulting firm to conduct a review on the executive and create a report of its findings.

  • Pros:
    • Ensures a cleaner, less-biased perspective.
    • Generally, more efficient than internal reviews.
  • Cons:
    • Can be expensive.
    • Outside evaluators might overlook the subtleties of an institution’s internal culture.


360-Degree Evaluation

This approach collects validated data anonymously on an executive’s performance.  Evaluators, as well as the leader under review, complete a questionnaire that includes both scaled and open-ended questions about the leader’s performance, ability, and behaviors.  The anonymity of the process allows evaluators to be completely honest and also allows the executive’s own perceptions of themselves to be compared to others’ opinions.

  • Pros:
    • More affordable than an external review.
    • The anonymity of the process allows for more honest feedback.
    • A validated tool ensures that the questions and methodology are sound.
  • Cons:
    • No oral reviews are used.
    • Because the process is anonymous, every respondent’s view is weighted equally—even if the evaluator’s knowledge of the executive’s work is intimate or distant.


A hybrid approach combines elements of different evaluation models to maximize each approach’s strengths.  A common hybrid approach is using a 360-degree evaluation model and supplementing it with oral interviews conducted by an internal committee or outside firm.

  • Pros:
    • The combination of methods allows for more data.
    • Hybrid approaches allow the institution to customize their evaluation process depending on the unique campus culture or situation.
  • Cons:
    • A poorly planned hybrid approach can produce unclear results.
    • This approach demands clear expectations of ownership, process, and deadlines.

These are some of the evaluation approaches that higher education institutions can use to provide feedback for campus administrators and leaders.  Are you interested in more higher education management advice or looking for a consulting firm with experience with higher education institutions or medical centers?  Then don’t hesitate to contact the professionals at McKnight Associates, Inc.  We are ready to offer you hands-on human resources consulting for colleges, universities, medical centers, and organizations of all sizes.