Higher Education Institutional Capacity Assessment Tool (HEICAT)

Higher Education Institutional Capacity Assessment Tool (HEICAT)

Higher Education Institutional Capacity Assessment Tool (HEICAT)

HEICAT One-Pager

Contact rward@irex.org for more information.

Data is a powerful resource for higher education reform. Without data and analysis, education leaders lack sufficient information to recognize problems, prioritize improvements, and make the case for change. IREX offers an adaptable tool and customized technical assistance to address these needs, to maximize institutions’ potential to achieve positive outcomes in the higher education system, and to position them as a central actor for country development.

IREX developed the Higher Education Institutional Capacity Assessment Tool (HEICAT) to enable education leaders to recognize and prioritize performance improvement needs, foster organizational learning, and support strategic decision making. IREX adapts each application of the HEICAT to its setting, taking into account the higher education system and the key performance objectives of the institution and intervention.

Through multiple applications and adaptations, IREX has developed a bank of questions and evidence lists designed to support assessment of over 200 practice criteria, across 12 major categories of university function and operations, which can be adapted and configured as needed. Comprised of facilitator guidance, a comprehensive questionnaire, and a scoring matrix, dashboard and report template, the tool adopts the following principles:

Contextualized to Higher Education Institutions

Designed to align with typical HEI structures and functions, informed by international accreditation frameworks, and tested and adapted with professionals in over 30 higher education institutions.


Provides maximum flexibility to tailor to institutional priorities, available time and resource, offering both expansive review across all functions, or deeper dives into specific areas. For example, our Research

Management 360 and Career Center modules enable an institution to unpack over 100 sub-criteria dedicated to research management practice and career center operations.

Reflective Self-Evaluation

To promote institutional autonomy, self-reliance, and ownership of performance goals, the approach encourages universities to self-assess using a collaborative process.

What Can IREX Offer to Higher Education Institutions and Their Partners?

Are you a university seeking to enhance performance or a Ministry aiming to strengthen the higher education system? Are you a development partner seeking to support these aims, or planning to work with universities for the first time, but unsure what capacities they have? Drawing on our experience supporting organizational performance improvement across a range of sectors and decades of working with universities, IREX can:

  • Facilitate partner engagement to identify assessment objectives and define the scope, indicators, and ratings for the tool, whether as a broad institutional assessment or in a focused functional area such as research management or career center services;
  • Facilitate or coach partners through the assessment process, including interviews, focus groups, observation and document review, and support analysis and capacity reporting;
  • Develop recommendations for organizational performance improvement and use the HEICAT to track progress.

Contact rward@irex.org for more information.