Abstracts: Value for money and efficiency in higher education


What’s the difference? A model for measuring the value added by higher education

Author:   Dr Hamish Coates, Principal Research Fellow, Australian Council for Educational Research, Australia


Measures of student learning are playing an increasingly significant role in determining the quality and productivity of higher education. This paper evaluates approaches for estimating the value added by university education, and proposes a methodology for use by institutions and systems.

The paper argues that value added measures of learning are important for quality assurance in contemporary higher education. It reviews recent large-scale developments in Australia, methodological considerations pertaining to the measurement and evaluation of student learning, and instruments validated to measure capability, generic skills, specific competencies, work readiness and student engagement.

Four approaches to calculating value-added measures are reviewed. The first computes value added estimates by comparing predicted against actual performance using data from entrance tests and routine course assessments. In the second, comparisons are made between outcomes from objective assessments administered to cohorts in the first and later years of study. Comparisons of first-year and later-year students’ engagement in key learning activities provide a third and complementary means of assessing the value added by university study. Feedback on graduate skills provided by employers is a fourth and independent perspective on the quality of education.

Reviewing these approaches provides a basis for their synthesis into a robust, scalable and practical methodology for measuring the value added contribution of higher education. This methodology is advanced, along with its implications for instrumentation, sampling, analysis and reporting. Case studies are presented to illustrate the potential of the methodology for informing comparative analyses of the performance of higher education systems.

Minimizing  the number of data to evaluate completion rates in academic programmes

Authors:   Adrian Verkleij and   Piet Vingerling, VU University of Amsterdam


Student completion rates and time to degree are widely discussed in each university in the Netherlands. Data gathered by institutional research offices are used in periodical meetings of Deans of faculties and the Board of the universities. The effectiveness of these data is limited. Factors as are for instance lack of confidence in the reliability of the data, disputes about the meaning and relevance of the data,  a continuous need for more detailed information and, at the same time, lack of time by university leaders and managers to digest all the information produced.
At the VU university Amsterdam we introduced a system to increase the effectiveness of the use of institutional data about the educational process:
a) Debates about (lack of) consensus about purposes are separated from debates about the quality of the data.
b) Only data about homogeneous student groups are produced, covering 80-90 percent of the total student population, leaving out all details about the remaining 10-20 percent of the students.
c) Much attention is given to visualize student performance in  a simple way by using pictures and diagrams more than using tables and figures.
d): Discussion rules are formulated indicating which questions are allowed and which are not.
Simultaneous introduction of these four activities greatly contributed to the effectiveness of the debate between deans and the university management  as well as to the efficiency of the data gathering

Reliable, Repeatable Assessment for Determining Value and Enhancing Efficiency and Effectiveness in Higher Education

Authors: Professor Helen M. Garnett, Charles Darwin University; Professor Göran Roos Intellectual Capital Services, London and Dr Stephen Pike, Intellectual Capital Services London


Charles Darwin University is a regional public university in a rapidly developing part of Australia, which aims to develop local capacity and through its research and community engagement to solve complex problems of relevance to its region.  It is critically important to the University that it addresses the expectations of society, that it continually strives to improve quality and that it is seen as delivering value for money in all its endeavours. 

It therefore sought to use rigorous, reliable and repeatable measures to establish a baseline for the ‘value of the research output’.  During the early stages of the planning, stakeholder engagement indicated that, from their perspective it was inadequate to simply measure the value of the output, and that it was important that the ‘value of researching at CDU was measured’.  This was accepted and conjoint value hierarchy measurement agreed as the methodology.  This approach generated a clear picture of what is deemed important by the stakeholders, how CDU performed and where small improvements would generate significant improvements in the value of the outputs and thereby value for money and efficiency.  The results provide a basis for a focus on improvement and for a funding compact with government, or other funding bodies, whereby performance can be monitored and the value for money optimised.

Budgeting - A Powerful Tool for Enhancement of Quality and Efficiency in Higher Education

Authors: Steven G. Stav, Director General of the Israel Council for Higher Education, and Galit Eizman, Council for Higher Education (CHE) of Israel


One of the major challenges facing higher education systems today is to maximize the quality of outputs in an efficient manner. In the quest for meeting these challenges, we emphasize that budgeting models are not only tools for allocating public funds to the higher education institutions in an equitable fashion, but rather function as powerful tools for attaining these challenging goals. Budgeting mechanisms offer incentives that influence organizational behaviour in a manner that directs the institutions towards realizing preplanned accomplishments. Consequently, maximum quality of outputs can be achieved by efficient methods, without compromising the autonomy of the higher education institutions. In constructing a budgeting model, policymakers should avoid the pitfall of utilizing an unbalanced model, whereby too much emphasis is given to obtaining quantity outputs at the expense of  achieving efficiency goals or vice versa. The current budgeting model utilized in Israel is exhibited in this paper as a test case for demonstrating our theory. The initial goal of the Israeli budgeting model was to improve the quantity of output in an efficient mode. Unfortunately, the impact of the Israeli model on the quality of the outputs is not completely clear yet, and quite probably was counterproductive. In this paper, we develop a new proposal for a budgeting model, which takes into account simultaneously both quality and efficiency in higher education.     

The Case for Advancing Sustainable Development in Higher Education: an Economic Perspective

Author: Nizar Abdallah, Student member of the Presidio School Board of Directors, Presidio School of Management


Sustainable development is becoming high on the political agenda due to global warming concerns. If we are to meet the environmental challenges of this century, we must deepen environmental awareness across the globe. The most effective way for promoting sustainable development is by developing the capacity of all stakeholders across the world through education. Under these requirements, universities and colleges seem to be in a unique position to take a leadership role on sustainable development. As leaders, they can strategize towards a global solution; as centers for learning, they can educate and empower students to address issues related to climate change, energy, and sustainability in its general definition.
The business world is also acknowledging the prominent role of the environment. Yet, managers admit lacking a conceptual framework that allows them to integrate the environment into their decision making. At the same time, the complexity of the environmental issues requires a new generation of scientists and researchers with more cross-discipline skills including communication and systems thinking capacities.
This paper explores the economics of higher education in developed countries and more particularly the demand and supply for integrating environmental issues into higher education programs. The paper shows that there is a market push and a high return-on-investment opportunity given the current and future needs for building up graduates equipped with an adequate conceptual and scientific framework for addressing the world challenges when they enter the workforce.

Pedagogy, Technology and Value: Creating High-Tech Efficiencies in Higher Education

Author: Nancy Knowlton, SMART Technologies


ICT is having a profound effect on universities and other higher education institutions around the world. On one hand, there exist the sheer number of technological devices, the speed of their introduction and the complexities that come with interoperability and integration, especially in the complex learning environments of higher education. On the other, there exist the very real challenges associated with training faculty and administrative staff on their use. And pulling us all into the future at a breathtaking pace is the sense that we must keep up or drop out of the race entirely. In this presentation, Nancy Knowlton of SMART Technologies brings 21 years of experience implementing ICT in primary and secondary schools, in higher education institutions, and in nations around the world to bear on these questions and, in the process, sets our sights once again on ICT as a means to an end, not an end in itself.