Professor Hall is absolutely right – the value that is inherently expressed through a superficial glance at the KPIs is nothing short of painting over the cracks of a problem that is entrenched not just within the sector, but within the consciousness of the populace at large.
The financial reforms to the sector put funding in the hands of the student. But relatively little thought has been given to how the decisions are made that result in a student choosing where it is that they go to study – and therefore where the funding is allocated.
The KPIs follow concerns from many parts of the sector that there is not enough information to satiate the inevitable demand from prospective students and their parents. They seem to be made up of a variety of different surveys and statistical data that are already in existence without consideration about whether those sources need to be adapted at all.
Professor Hall makes a good example from the KPI about ‘student satisfaction’ being similar to the National Student Survey in only being based on the opinions of final years. Why not others? When you are a college student applying do you care about the opinion of third years? Perhaps. Perhaps not. It’s for the ‘not’ that data should be collated.
The discussion of SROIs is interesting – though I feel slightly uncomfortable with the unconscious assumption that the quality or value of higher education can be accurately summarised in monetary terms. Social mobility? Money. Employability? Money. It suggests an expectation that this is one of the most crucial factors to market when attempting to attract students. Can we not encourage a system or a tool of evaluation that expresses the value of higher education not in purely financial terms but in a format not totally subservient to the presumption that money matters more than education?
SROIs are interesting as a measure, though as with KPIs I think we have a way to go before either of them accurately provides the sort of rigorous detail that new students may require.
Is this reflex symptomatic of a guilty sector and a cautious government?