Reservations about the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s attempts to measure what students learn at different universities around the world have to come from two directions (“Bid to judge learning blocked by ‘oligopoly’”, News, 6 August).
First, what is being measured and how? We already know that the research excellence framework in the UK is distorting research behaviour to the detriment of good long-term research, so a teaching equivalent is bound to have a similar effect. Second, the statement by Hamish Coates reflects a very Anglo-Saxon view of higher education, in which fees are paid for universities and there is a focus on parents wanting to know about the cost of their children’s education and whether it is worth it. Perhaps we should begin by considering the purpose of a university within society as a whole and thus assess how higher education contributes in a multiplicity of ways rather than start another narrowly focused measuring exercise.
Finally, any such exercise will inevitably have a homogenising effect on teaching content and methods around the world as institutions battle it out to climb (or avoid falling) in any such league tables.