Photo of Chinese students in Tipperary by @topgold.
THE IRISH HIGHER EDUCATION AUTHORITY plans to publish "data to compare third-level bodies", explains Dick Ahlstrom in the Irish Times. "The performance of each of Ireland's third-level institutions can be compared in unprecedented detail".
The "performance-profiling system" effectively distills into another sort of league table for Irish third level institution. But that wasn't the goal of the new rating system, according to lead author Muiris O'Connor of the HEA's statistics unit. He told the Irish Times, "We felt that the best way to achieve the appropriate balance between institutional autonomy and accountability was to focus on the transparency of performance throughout the third- level education system."
One of the most popular referrer strings to my InsideView blog is for items I post about relative standings of third level institutions. Those kinds of results are based on reputational surveys, not evidential data. The HEA's new product might produce a different perspective on how various Irish third level institutions stack up against each other.
The HEA study, called Towards a Performance Evaluation Framework: Profiling Irish Higher Education was authored by O'Connor, Vivienne Patterson, Abigail Chantler and Jasmin Backert. It includes a review of international assessment methods and incorporates a first attempt at developing a performance-evaluation system, offering a profile for each of the higher education institutions. It will be interesting to see if the dashboard analytics revealed by the HEA framework will percolate down through the faculties at various institutions. If so, individual departments might be able to instantly assess how they measure up against the average and against the best performances in 14 categories.
Here's what's on that dashboard:
-- Student/academic staff ratio
-- The number of students who drop out between first and second year
-- The number of mature students
-- The number of PhDs per 10 academic staff
-- International enrollment.
The Irish Times glanced at the data from the 2010-2011 academic year and reasons to carefully comb throught the data. For example, University College Dublin has 7,000 postgraduates of all kinds, 4,146 students using online learning, the citation impact of its research papers and the age profile of its staff (46 per cent are between 20 and 39). In the same data set, Trinity has 4,776 postgrads, 1,924 students using online learning and 44 per cent of its staff are between 20 and 39. As O'Connor told Ahlstrom, "The figures are not weighted to take account of UCD's much larger student and staff cohorts, so direct comparisons do not necessarily reveal much."
But these kinds of data exercises are helpful in providing a level of transparency on measurements that matter. It will be interesting to see how this new HEA data set is used when comparing institutions of higher learning in Ireland during future reviews of the third level landscape.
[Extracted from the Irish Times by Bernie Goldbach using Kindle.]