Hardly anything is known about what French students learn during their higher education, according to a report that recommends standardised evaluation tests and training academics to assess graduates' knowledge.
The study, by Marc Romainville, professor of education and technology at the Belgian university of Namur, was commissioned by the Haut Conseil de L'evaluation de L'ecole.
It investigates how much is known about students' knowledge when they finish their studies; university evaluation practices; weaknesses and gaps.
It also suggests how to improve matters.
The report says that "very few facts were available on the subject either at local level or national level".
Evaluation practices are little known even though they "occupy a considerable place in academics' work, and a large part of students' learning depends on them", it says.
It notes the "absence of standardisation of systems, procedures, demands and criteria".
It adds that the great diversity of evaluation practices increasingly contradicts the state's claim to offer diplomas of national value and standards.
There is no way of comparing graduates' skills with those required by employers, who are in turn unable to find out what applicants' abilities are.
With the creation of the European area of higher education and greater mobility and global competition, universities must be clear about the education and skills they offer, the report says.
In the absence of official reference points, academics have difficulty determining the standards their students are required to meet.
The report proposes the introduction of standardised tests, through academic collaboration between universities or at national level.
The kinds of skills university courses provide should be identified.
Universities should develop evaluation skills, with training for academics, as part of an institutional culture of quality, it says. The state should ensure that evaluation of students' knowledge takes place in universities "in a manner that is valid, reliable and credible".