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Project Title:

Measuring Higher Education Productivity: Conceptual Framework and Data Needs
PIN: DBASSE-CNSTAT-09-04        

Major Unit:

Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
Policy and Global Affairs

Sub Unit: Committee on National Statistics
DBASSE Board on Testing and Assessment
Board on Higher Education & Workforce
Center for Education

RSO: Mackie, Chris

Subject/Focus Area: Behavioral and Social Sciences

Project Scope
An ad hoc panel will conduct a study on issues in measuring higher education productivity.  The panel will develop a conceptual framework for measuring higher education productivity and describe the data needs for that framework.  The framework will address productivity at different levels of aggregation, including the institution, system, and sector levels. 

An overarching goal of the study will be to catalogue (and not side-step) the complexities of measuring productivity and monitoring accountability in higher education.  In particular, the panel will take into account the great variety of types and missions of higher education institutions in the United States, ranging from open admission colleges to major research universities that compete on an international scale.  The panel will also address the necessity to consider quality issues when attempting to measure productivity.  Since the quality of inputs to and outputs from higher education varies greatly across institution types and, indeed, within them, the panel will highlight in its report the pitfalls of using simplistic metrics based on insufficient data for evaluating the performance of higher education.

One objective of the study will be to provide guidance to institutions and policymakers about practical measures of higher education productivity that can be developed for the purposes of institutional improvement and accountability.  However, to the extent that the differences in inputs, outputs, and institution types within higher education (along with inadequate data) make the development of comprehensive productivity measures impossible, the panel will assess the strengths and weaknesses of the various alternatives in providing evidence on different aspects of the input-output relationship.

At the conclusion of its study, the panel will issue a report with findings and recommendations for developing the conceptual framework and data infrastructure and that provides an assessment of the strengths and limitations of alternative approaches to productivity measurement in higher education.  The report will be written for a broad audience that includes national and state policymakers, system and institution administrators, and higher education faculty.

The project is sponsored by the Lumina Foundation for Education.

The approximate start date for the project is June 1, 2009.

A report will be issued at the end of the project in approximately 24 months.

Project Duration: 24 months    

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Committee Membership
Committee Membership

 Meeting 1 - 10/30/2009
 Meeting 2 - 01/28/2010
 Meeting 3 - 04/09/2010
 Meeting 4 - 07/22/2010
 Meeting 5 - 11/11/2010
 Meeting 6 - 02/03/2011


Reports having no URL can be seen
at the Public Access Records Office
Improving Measurement of Productivity in Higher Education