Research Handbook on Quality, Performance and Accountability in Higher Education
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Research Handbook on Quality, Performance and Accountability in Higher Education

Edited by Ellen Hazelkorn, Hamish Coates and Alexander C. McCormick

As higher education becomes a key determinant for economic competitiveness, institutions face increasing pressure to demonstrate their fitness to meet the needs of society and individuals. Blending innovative research with richly contextualised examples this unique Research Handbook provides authoritative insights from around the globe on how best to understand, assess and improve quality, performance and accountability in higher education.
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Chapter 38: Measurement of postsecondary performance in Canada: moving beyond inputs and funding to outputs and outcomes

Harvey P. Weingarten and Martin Hicks


Assessing the value, performance and contribution of a public postsecondary system is important to government, students, institutions and the public. As part of its legislated mandate, the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) evaluated the performance of the Ontario postsecondary system by comparing it to those in Canada’s other nine provinces. The primary purpose of this chapter is to describe the thinking that went into the design of that report, entitled Canadian Postsecondary Performance: Impact 2015. These design considerations resulted in a publication that was innovative in its analysis and data presentation, with 34 different indicators, focused largely on outcomes. It also provided a clear assessment of the role of funding levels in the performance of Canada’s postsecondary systems. We believe these design considerations are important, instructive and relevant to any jurisdiction seeking to assess the performance of its postsecondary system. The major findings were that: (1) postsecondary education is linked positively to labour market success, individual earnings, citizen engagement and contributions to the economy but every province had areas that could be improved, and (2) postsecondary system performance varies among Canada’s ten provinces but performance levels had no correlation with funding levels. The key contributions of this national performance report card were: (1) to identify specific areas where jurisdictions could focus to improve their postsecondary systems, (2) to highlight important data gaps where better and more meaningful measurements were needed, and (3) to reinforce that performance regimes should concentrate on outputs and outcomes, rather than inputs – particularly to refocus the discussion from how much institutions get to what outcomes are achieved.

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