Transparency of university missions and performances
Quality assurance reports contain a wealth of information, but they do not provide comparisons. The European Commission supports a series of pilot projects to explore ways to enhance the transparency and comparability of the missions and performance of higher education institutions. The outcomes of these pilot projects will help students, parents, employers and policy makers to make informed choices between different institutions and their programmes. It will also help institutions to better position themselves, improve their development strategies and find the most suitable partner institutions.
One important project in this context which the Commission is supporting is the classification project ‘U-map’. In this project the diversity of higher education institutions has been mapped against five missions: education, research, innovation, regional involvement and internationalisation. It builds, in part, on the US Carnegie Classification. The Internet tool which has been developed allows for comparison of institutions with similar missions.www.u-map.eu
This classification project forms the basis for the feasibility study on the ‘design and testing of a multi-dimensional global university ranking’ www.u-multirank.eu, which began in May 2009 and will deliver its final results in May 2011. The Commission has launched this study in response to growing frustration over the simplistic and mono-dimensional character of existing rankings, which focus on research alone and on entire institutions and their reputation rather than at programme and discipline level. The aim of this pilot study which will focus on the engineering and business studies sectors is to develop a multi-dimensional ranking framework, which covers the different missions and performances of institutions and their programmes, and which is independent, global and user friendly. In the ranking model to be developed, users will be able to select their own priorities and construct a ‘tailor-made’ personal ranking.
As regards education performance, it is worth noting that OECD is carrying out a pilot project on the Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes (AHELO). The Erasmus supported project ‘Tuning Educational Structures in Europe’ is involved in this exercise. This type of assessment could, in due course, contribute to the ranking of educational performances of higher education institutions.
As regards the ‘third mission’ of universities, i.e. knowledge diffusion and interaction with society, the Commission is supporting a project, which develops indicators for benchmarking excellence practices and ranking in three fields: lifelong learning, science parks and international cooperation. The project will report in 2011.
And finally the European Commission has launched a feasibility study for the creation of a ‘European University Data Collection’ to provide the foundation for a coherent and integrated European statistical information system on all activities conducted by universities, including education and research.