Leader: In search of a yardstick

September 15, 2006

International comparisons based on academic tests have caused regular furores at school level, with whole national systems changing in response to poor results. Germany was the prime example, where the traditional school day was lengthened when 13-year-olds did not come up to scratch in the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment. An extension of the programme into higher education was probably inevitable at some stage, but the organisation's researchers will be under no illusions about how difficult it will be to agree on a format. There are no core subjects of the sort that lend themselves to school tests and much less uniformity about higher education systems and the institutions they contain. There is no reason in principle for universities to be exempt from international comparisons of this sort, but no one should expect early outcomes.

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