Indicators we live by? On the quantity-quality dilemma

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Author(s)Johan Falk
In modern times the use of performance and quality indicators has become more and more pervasive in HE. The models for strategic planning and follow-up by means of indicators have increasingly copied other processing activities, in use in industry, business and administration. The aim of this contribution is to analyze some of the more problematic aspects of indicators, such as the selection, purpose, representativity, validity and reliability of indicators used in HE. Arguably, due to the fact that indicators have to be operational in order to be reliable, quality assurance systems in HE tend to overuse quantitative parameters. The computerized culture we live in feeds the idea that quantification is the solution. Awareness of the in-built conflict between quality and quantity is important when selecting indicators and interpreting outcomes. It seems indicator systems firmly rooted in quantification are nowadays giving way for a more qualitative approach. This tendency is noticeable at different levels of HE in Sweden, even in the models used for allocating resources to education and research. The Strategic Planning System at Stockholm University is goal- and indexed-based. General goals – specific goal – indicators – target values – measures form a chain where the indicator has a key position in the monitoring process. The qualitative rooting of the indicators is one of the central issues of the planning system.
CategoriesQuality of HE » 2009 4th EQAF