The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development believes that its project to measure student learning outcomes around the world – billed as a university equivalent of its Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) tests for schools – could have gone ahead if the UK had signed up.
Andreas Schleicher, the OECD’s director for education and skills, confirmed to Times Higher Education that the Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes project would not be launched at present.
Mr Schleicher said that “resistance” to Ahelo “particularly from elite institutions, is very high”.
He continued: “There is an insufficient number of governments, at this point, [who are] willing to take this on.
“The fact that Britain, which was very interested in Ahelo, then also shied back, has had an impact on other countries.”
Greg Clark, the Westminster government’s former universities and science minister, chaired a meeting of nations interested in Ahelo in February, where plans to move to a “main study” were discussed following the completion of a feasibility study.
But in July, after the OECD asked member nations to say whether they would support a full project, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said that England would not take part.
Mr Schleicher said: “We have four, five countries really keen on this at the moment – it’s not enough to build enough of a momentum. That being said, we were in this situation with Pisa for a long time and then we started it.”
He added: “If we had had a country like the UK signing on, I would have gone with the current core – but if it’s just Norway, Finland, China, that is not sufficient at the moment. But we’re going to keep pushing this agenda.
“Our next step is going to be to look at other players who have developed comparative assessments,” said Mr Schleicher, noting that countries such as the US and Germany have undertaken in-nation projects on learning outcomes.
Earlier this month, it was announced that the European Union would fund a feasibility study on the pan-European Measuring and Comparing Achievements of Learning Outcomes in Higher Education in Europe project, known as Calohee. Mr Schleicher has criticised this project as “each institution setting its own framework” rather than being a genuine comparison of outcomes.