Pearson audit to ‘challenge’ universities on learning outcomes

Firm will detail effectiveness of its courses by auditing products

Education publishing company Pearson is to introduce an “efficacy framework” that will detail the effectiveness of its courses and learning materials in the same depth as its financial accounts.

Sir Michael Barber, chief education adviser to Pearson and a former aide of Tony Blair during his time as prime minister, said that by auditing its products and publishing the results, the company was “challenging schools and universities” to be more transparent about the learning outcomes of their courses.

“There’s a global trend towards focusing on outcomes,” he told Times Higher Education, pointing towards the publication of university rankings, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s “Pisa” ranking of school pupils’ performance, and US president Barack Obama’s recent call for a more outcomes-based assessment of higher education institutions as examples.

“Universities need to be much clearer about the learning outcomes that students should be able to expect [from their studies],” he said. “We are throwing down a gauntlet to people and saying let’s focus on outcomes, because that’s what’s important for our customers, and for learners.”

Pearson’s higher education offerings include Pearson College in London, which offers degree validated by Royal Holloway, University of London (among others), and a large range of online courses.

By 2018, the firm will publish audited learning outcomes measures and targets for all of its products alongside its financial accounts. These reports will recommend how products can improve learner outcomes by using data analytics and digital technology.

“When we publish our annual report five years from now, we will, in a rigorous and externally audited way, be able to report on the progress we have made in improving learner outcomes,” said chief executive John Fallon.

“To achieve this, we will need to collectively agree on the learner outcomes that we will track, measure and strive to achieve.”

Already registered?

Sign in now if you are already registered or a current subscriber. Or subscribe for unrestricted access to our digital editions and iPad and iPhone app.

Register to continue  

You've enjoyed reading five THE articles this month. Register now to get five more, or subscribe for unrestricted access.

Most Commented

Universities to scale back liberal arts and social science courses

  • David Humphries illustration (24 September 2015)

A Russell Group tagline rap is further proof that we need to reform the academy’s approach, argues Philip Moriarty

  • World University Rankings

US continues to lose its grip as institutions in Europe up their game

  • World University Rankings 2015-2016 methodology

Change for the better: fuelled by more comprehensive data, the 2015-2016 rankings probe deeper than ever

  • protest, street, march

Even in the academy, your class background will always be a factor in how you are seen, says LSE’s Lisa Mckenzie