Skills beyond school

Enhancing higher education system performance: Benchmarking higher education system performance


Many countries share common concerns about the performance of their higher education systems and would like to learn how well their systems are performing in comparison to others.

Cross-country comparisons through the international benchmarking of different higher education systems will enable countries to learn more about their strengths and weaknesses and provide ‘a laboratory for others’ by identifying what works in higher education.  

The OECD benchmarking higher education system performance strand of work will provide a better understanding of the performance of higher education systems by looking at the reasons behind the metric data through policy and practice benchmarking. This approach will provide countries and the OECD with a deeper understanding of higher education systems and the impact and effectiveness of different policy levers.

Higher education systems performance will be benchmarked regularly, providing up-to-date data and information on a rapidly evolving sector. This work will provide an enhanced OECD evidence base and a comprehensive framework for policy dialogue, enabling the OECD to provide more robust policy advice and opportunities for countries to learn from each other.



Benchmarking higher education system performance: types of benchmarking
  • Metric benchmarking: Metric benchmarking presents performance information. Countries will be able to use this information to identify the strengths and weaknesses within their own higher education systems and compare their performance against other countries.
  • Policy benchmarking: Government policy is a key driver of the performance of higher education systems. The benchmarking exercise will analyse policies to better understand the linkages between policies and outcomes. The comparison of policies and outcomes between different systems will help countries learn from each other and develop new policies for improved performance.
  • Practice benchmarking: Higher education practices in education, research and engagement are driven by the inputs (financial and human resources) allocated to the system. The outputs of higher education – what it delivers (e.g. graduates, publications, start-up companies etc.) – are the product of these processes. Practice benchmarking will facilitate a better understanding of the reasons behind these output measures. It will also help identify effective practices, which can be shared among countries and stimulate performance innovation and what works in higher education.


Benchmarking higher education system performance: Conceptual framework and data

The benchmarking report is guiding the benchmarking higher education system performance exercise in 2017-18. The report presents an account of higher education today, the debate around the performance of higher education regarding its contribution to economic, social, cultural and environmental development, and the conceptual framework for the benchmarking higher education system performance project, including its data architecture, and the benchmarking data to be used. The report has benefited from discussion and advice from the OECD Informal Working Group on Higher Education and the stakeholder dialogue initiated with the inaugural OECD higher education stakeholder forum in 2016.



Participating countries (2017-2018)

  • Belgium Flanders
  • Estonia
  • The Netherlands
  • Norway


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Enhancing higher education system performance

In-depth analysis of higher education topics

Stakeholder dialogue

Why we are doing this work now

OECD higher education



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