Indicators fail to perform well

October 13, 2000

The article on performance indicators on widening participation demonstrates the limitations of quantitative measures ("Paisley puts the elite to shame", THES, October 6).

Many Russell Group institutions fail to meet targets for "social inclusivity goals" and have low dropout rates. But what do these figures mean? The two phenomena might be connected: better-off, more able (in terms of exam results) and more privileged (in terms of financial support) students go to more selective institutions. They are under less economic pressure to take part-time work. But this is a working hypothesis. The problem with performance indicators is that they become goals: thus, meeting Hefce dropout or inclusivity targets becomes more important than understanding why dropout or exclusion happens and how they can be addressed.

Gary Craig. Professor of social justice. University of Hull

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