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Metrics in universities – good or bad?



There is a wide contradiction on whether to have or not performance measurements in universities and to what extent should they be applied, in the event of them being used. Peter Scott, professor of Higher Education Studies at the Institute of Education, University of London argues that everything is now reduced to a simple number and this may be harmful to students and staff alike.

It is important to use numbers, as they help keep an accurate record of the things we manage daily. Universities must rely on correct numbers regarding grades, salaries, income projections, cash positions.

It is essential to measure the extent to which the students that leave the university can or cannot find a job, or whether their academic activities are sustainable or not. It is also important to know if the students are attending classes and if they find the subjects interesting enough and practical for their future career. These are good metrics, essential metrics to be taken into consideration.

However, there are some measurements that are not as highly regarded by academics as one may think. Metrics immediately become criteria for which people can be placed under the category of “losers” or “winners”.

This is highly harmful to the well-being of diversity: aspects like ethnicity or gender can be seriously damaged unless handled properly. Why can metrics contradict diversity? Mainly because they create unnecessary hierarchies.

The second aspect Scott discusses is the fact that metrics are likely to encourage corruption. He believes that it is more important to evaluate your own work and that this evaluation should not be taken on account of others. One’s work is good or bad, however, it does not change its value according to other works. It does not matter if others do a better or worse job than me, my work is what it is, and does not increase or decrease in value according to other works.

The importance of tests should not be passed by, some tests are primordial in assessing students’ performance. Key performance indicators should be very well established in order to achieve the desired results. These are very sensitive in the education sector, as they may involuntarily place labels on students, labels that are very hard to get rid of later on.

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