Thursday, June 12, 2008

Evaluating Universities

Managerial ideology rarely mixes well with the things of the spirit. I'm sure that the senators who were commissioned by Valérie Pécresse to come up with a way to evaluate university performance with an eye to funneling money to les plus performantes meant well. How could they not, when they named their system "Sympa": système de répartition des moyens à la performance et à l'activité. (The managerial ideology is inordinately fond of acronyms.) But their proposal is to measure university performance by ascertaining the employment rate of graduates at 6 months and 3 years post-graduation (correcting for post-graduate study). It's a short-sighted standard because it fails to control for many possible explanatory variables. If a temporary downturn in the electronics industry slows hiring of newly minted engineers, for example, a school with a high engineering enrollment will be penalized.

One understands the desire for objective criteria. But subjective judgments are essential in education. The objective measures should be designed as a control on subjectivity, to ensure fairness and comparability, but not as a mechanical substitute to compensate for a fundamental lack of trust. Le système Sympa n'est pas sympa.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Isn't a school whose graduates get jobs even during downturns doing a better job than one whose graduates only get hired during good times? The Pecresse criterion is basically correct, as long as allowance is made for differences in the quality of the entering students.

Unknown said...

No, because different universities weight different specialties differently, so employment performance will be affected by which sectors are affected.

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