03 April 2009

OECD Questions HE Rankings

Global tables of universities are all the rage, and we have featured some of the more popular ones (such as THES, ARWU ) here at Japan HEO Blog, while noting how they seem to be slanted towards Anglophone countries, especially the US and UK. Recently the OECD has been critical of such rankings--criticizing their arbitrary and superficial aspects but especially warning against the weight given to and the use people put to the rankings.

What the OECD is really moving towards, though, is placing the organization as a leader in global evaluation and accreditation of higher education worldwide. In which case, as is so often the case with elite organizations run by and for elites, the issue will still be: who evaluates the evaluators and their methods?

The OECD's emphasis on 'learning outcomes' appeals strongly to common sense--to anyone who has experienced higher education as a student, a researcher, a teacher or an administrator. However, translating such concepts across so many individual country's and regional blocs and their higher education systems is going to be a lot easier to conceive than to achieve. So the OECD has set for itself a very ambitious learning outcome indeed.

Here is an OECD reading list, with links and some indicative excerpts.


>>The OECD Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes (AHELO) study aims at determining whether it is possible to make meaningful statements about the education provided in universities in different countries, taking into account different “strands” of competence: skill in a chosen discipline, and generic skills such as critical thinking or the ability to apply knowledge practically. If successful, AHELO will provide institutions with analysis to help them improve their own performance, and will provide data that will help students assess the suitability of the institution for their own needs.<<


>>The OECD Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes (AHELO) is a ground-breaking initiative to assess learning outcomes on an international scale by creating measures that would be valid for all cultures and languages. Between ten and thirty-thousand higher education students in over ten different countries will take part in a feasibility study to determine the bounds of this ambitious project, with an eye to the possible creation of a full-scale AHELO upon its completion.<<


>>The factors affecting higher education are woven so tightly together that they must first be teased apart before an accurate assessment can be made. The AHELO feasibility study thus explores four complementary strands....Generic Skills Strand....Discipline-specific Strands in Engineering and Economics....Learning in context....The Value-Added Strand....<<

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