Performance indicators reprieved

June 22, 2007

Performance indicators for universities and colleges are to go largely unchanged despite strong reservations about some of them expressed by institutions and other stakeholders in a nationwide review.

A report on the review by the Performance Indicators Steering Group concludes that only minor changes are needed to the current set of indicators and that none of them needs to be dropped.

It also recommends the introduction of some new measures of performance, covering students’ background and employment, and extending some of the present ones to cover more categories.

Performance indicators, first introduced eight years ago, help institutions, prospective students and their parents and government agencies compare universities on a range of measures relating to student recruitment and retention, graduate employment, widening participation and research.

A consultation exercise begun last summer asked institutions and other interested parties to rate the various indicators according to how useful they were, and to say whether they thought they should be retained, dropped or amended.

Of all the current performance measures, those designed to show how well institutions do in research were considered to be the least useful.

Nearly all pre-92 universities responding to the review called for these indicators to be dropped. But with about two thirds of all respondents saying they should be retained, the steering group has decided to maintain them for the time being. Nearly two thirds of respondents also called for changes to the graduate employment indicator, arguing that checks on what jobs former students are doing should be carried out 18 to 24 months after they graduate, rather than six months.

The steering group recommends continuing work to replace the current postcode indicator used to measure participation among students from low-participation neighbourhoods with a more sophisticated version.

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