Judge European Universities by added value, EUA urges

Policy-makers are too narrowly focused on measuring the progress of the European Universities Initiative by quantitative measurements rather than by the real added value university alliances bring to higher education staff and students and wider eco-systems, claims a new policy paper.

So far, discussions on the development of ‘an indicator framework’ to measure the achievements of the European university alliances have centred on quantitative measurements, instead of taking a holistic approach to show how the initiative, backed by the European Union’s Erasmus+ programme, has benefitted teaching and learning and transnational cooperation, says the European University Association (EUA).

In a recently published policy input paper, the EUA, which has 850 members and represents universities and national rectors’ conferences in 49 European countries, offers its ideas for assessing what has been achieved in the four years since the European Commission (EC) invited European universities to form the first alliances under the Erasmus+ banner and how progress should be monitored in the future.

Anna-Lena Claeys-Kulik, EUA deputy director for policy coordination and foresight, told University World News: “Our policy paper is targeted at policy-makers, notably the European Commission and EU member states’ higher education ministries, but also members of the European Parliament.

“We feel they have been too focused on quantitative measurements rather than taking a holistic approach which considers the real added value for universities and their communities.”

Measure more than numbers

The policy brief from the EUA comes as the Erasmus+ 2021-27 programme is undergoing its mid-term review by the EC and stakeholders are currently being consulted for their views. Claeys-Kulik calls the EUA’s new paper “a timely reminder to policy-makers to measure more than numbers when it comes to the progress of the alliances”.

She said initiative is still a work in progress; she recognises the “temptation” for policy-makers to want to see the early impact to justify their investment, but they “need to realise that transnational cooperation takes time and the change process is difficult to measure. Importantly, not everything that can be counted should be measured.”

So, instead of just looking at the number of joint degrees and programmes launched so far by the 44 existing university alliances involving around 340 higher education institutions in 31 countries, policy-makers should be considering how to overcome the barriers and obstacles that universities have faced in developing deep, transnational corporation, said Claeys-Kulik.

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