, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 79-94

Benchmarking Academic Standards in the UK

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Abstract

The Dearing Report in the UK supported the use of benchmarking in higher education, taking as its stimulus the use of benchmarking in industrial and commercial contexts. The UK Government's concern regarding academic standards has raised the question of whether benchmarking could be applied to them.

This article reports on a pilot study of the benchmarking of academic standards in the UK, and demonstrates -- with reference to empirical data -- that benchmarking in this context needs to be approached differently from benchmarking in industrial/commercial milieux, since it requires a combination of finely-drawn comparisons and professional judgements if valid conclusions are to be drawn. It is argued that the complexity which underpins academic standards is inimical to the production of statements about standards that will be applicable across the span of a diverse national system of higher education. The argument presented can be applied, mutatis mutandis, to systems of higher education beyond the UK.