Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg

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Metrics in Higher Education: Perspectives of Academics from England and Germany

promoted by the British Association for International and Comparative Education (BAICE)

Term 10/2017 - 11//2018

Overview

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Project Manager

Dr. Roland Bloch in cooperation with Dr. Catherine O’Connell (Liverpool Hope University)

Contact

Zentrum für Schul- und Bildungsforschung
Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
Franckeplatz 1, Haus 31
06099 Halle

phone: +49 (0)345 / 55 21702

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Content

Higher Education has been subject to measurement on a myriad of parameters such as research, teaching, levels of internationalisation and often a combination of these factors. The increased use of national and international metrics within higher education has influenced institutional practices and, in turn, may influence the professional trajectories and values of academics. A series of normative claims are converging in the literature around the negative influences of research and teaching metrics upon organisational practices. However, the impact of metrics on institutional and individual behaviour within higher  education is not always negative. In the case of the English HE research metrics, empirical studies highlight how differing institutional management strategies can mediate the effects of national policies. At institutional level, the value of the accountability frameworks that  draw upon metrics is identified in increasing the quality and impact of research (as discussed in the Stern Review of the UK Research Excellence Framework (REF)). Metrics and indicators may serve institutional interests but also individual ones, heightening individual prestige and marketability for academic staff. Therefore, there is value in identifying the differing institutional and individual responses to metrics and how these shape professional practice to lead to positive or negative professional outcomes.

Several analyses point to an increasing isomorphism in national higher education policies and attribute this to an increasing institutional orientation to international rankings and metrics. It is undeniable that national higher education policies have had a significant impact on institutional and individual practices over the years. Therefore, there is value to a comparative approach in recognition of the different national policy contexts which further mediate institutional and individual responses to metrics to better understand how we can generate positive institutional and individual outcomes in the current metrics driven environment.

Therefore, for the purpose of this study we intend to compare the impact of various teaching and research metrics in two countries, England and  Germany. The comparison between the two countries is appropriat considering the differences in their approaches to metrics. The English HE context is under increasing influence of various metrics. The REF is acknowledged as the driver of institutional and individual research agendas. Over the last two years, the pedagogical sibling of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) is increasingly influencing the teaching agendas of institutions. On the contrary, historically Germany has not favoured the vertical differentiation of universities by any kind of metrics driven agendas. However, the recent Excellence Initiative, a competitive funding scheme emphasising research concentration, is seen as reflective of increasing concern with  international metrics. This comparative study will examine differences in the influence of institutional and individual research and teaching  practices in England where metrics-driven agendas are well  established and Germany, which has only just entered this arena. The study will help to illuminate the individual and institutional impacts of the two environments where metrics vary in pervasiveness with the hope that lessons can be learned as to how professional practices can be recalibrated as academics face these changing contexts.

The study uses a sequential mixed-methods approach involving an online survey and interviews. Firstly, the survey will determine the parameters affecting the views on academics on the impact of metrics on their individual and institutional practices and their notional merits/demerits. Sociodemographic data such as gender, age, length of HE experience, type of HEI, their disciplinary area and  the nature of employment contract, adds valuable context to the  analysis. Additionally, qualitative data will be collected using open-ended questions on the different kinds of institutional, national and international metrics and of these which ones they find helpful/unhelpful in promoting quality of various institutional and individual practices. Follow-up interviews from a sample of the survey participants will be used to investigate their views further and  explore how institutional and individual practices have been positively/negatively influenced due to the increasing ‘metricisation’ of higher education across the two countries.

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