The European University Association (EUA) is an organisation of over 800 European universities that seeks to represent higher education with regard to EU policies on education, research and innovation.
Last month the association published a report, Exploring higher education indicators by Tia Loukkola, Helene Peterbauer and Anna Gover, that looks at the indicators relating to education, teaching, and learning used in external quality assurance, funding mechanisms, and university rankings.
The analysis of the indicators used in rankings is based on seven global rankings included in the IREG Inventory of International University Rankings plus the Times Higher Education Europe Teaching Rankings. Research only rankings are not included.
Ten education indicators are named. The most frequently used are student and staff numbers and internationalisation statistics. The other indicators include student surveys, reputation surveys, graduate employment, student progression, international elements in programmes, gender balance, and contact with work environment.
U-Multirank uses all of the indicators with the exception of reputation surveys. The other rankings employ between one and six.
A key finding of the report is that the indicators have only a tenuous relationship with quality of education and that there is still a tendency to rely on research output and quality as a proxy for educational excellence.
The report concludes that these indicators cannot replace qualitative or descriptive methods such as qualification framework, peer review or performance contracts but might be of value if the two types of assessment are used together.
Exploring higher education indicators, European University Association