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Performance Measurement and Strategic Goals


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  • 1. Performance Measurement and Strategic Goals Sean Wellington Acting Head of Research and Information Unit [email_address] +44 (0)23 8031 9826
  • 2. Overview of presentation
    • Key issues and challenges
    • Performance measurement: HEFCE and CUC perspectives
    • Existing practice: UK higher education institutions
    • Implications for policy and practice
    • Concluding remarks
    • Questions and discussion
  • 3. ‘ I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely in your thoughts advanced to the state of Science , whatever the matter may be.’ Lord Kelvin (Sir William Thomson), 1883
  • 4. Key issues
    • The sector continues to experience considerable turbulence and change
    • Mission differentiation – no single definition of ‘success’
    • Measures are hard to define and often quantify past or current performance, rather than give an insight into the future
    • Goals and indicators of success should be externally referenced
    • Monitoring information is needed by:
      • University leaders and managers
      • The governing body (often in the form of Key Performance Indicators)
    • Goodhart’s law - ‘When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure’
  • 5. ‘ higher education’s most critical goals are difficult, if not impossible, to measure’ (Birnbaum, 2001, p.84)
  • 6. ‘ If you want to fatten a pig, you don't keep weighing it.’
  • 7. Funding council guidance (1)
    • Strategic planning in higher educations: A guide for heads of institutions, senior managers and members of governing bodies (HEFCE, 2000)
    • Advocated a three stage planning process:
      • Planning – environmental scanning and assessment of internal resources, leading to the generation of ideas and decisions, typically to undertake new activities, make improvements or discontinue selected activities;
      • Documentation – document the plans;
      • Implementation and monitoring – action must be taken to achieve the agreed goals, monitor progress or non-achievement in order to adapt the future strategy.
  • 8. Funding council guidance (2)
    • Outputs from the planning process include:
    • A long-term plan (the Strategic or Corporate plan) which includes the overall vision and strategy, long-term objectives and how these are to be achieved;
    • An operating plan (or statement) which distils the actions required in the year ahead;
    • Actions necessary to effect implementation;
    • Monitoring reports and information to indicate progress or non-achievement.
  • 9. Funding council guidance (3)
    • Monitoring should take place at various levels within the organisation, with the nature and frequency of reporting determined in advance
    • Monitoring should include an overview of progress towards meeting the strategic goals, it is suggested at least annually, reporting to the senior management team and governing body
    • Monitoring information should provide the appropriate level of detail and avoid unnecessary duplication. Information may be provided in a variety of ways, for example verbal or written reports from the senior manager responsible
    • The monitoring system itself should be subject to periodic (and perhaps independent) review
    • The role of governing body will depend on the instrument and articles of government
  • 10. CUC guidance
    • CUC Report on the Monitoring of Institutional Performance and the Use of Key Performance Indicators (CUC, 2006)
    • Top-level summary indicators (“super KPIs”)
    • 1. Institutional sustainability
    • 2. Academic profile and market position
    • Top-level indicators of institutional health
    • 3. The student experience and teaching and learning
    • 4. Research
    • 5. Knowledge Transfer and relationships
    • 6. Financial health
    • 7. Estates and infrastructure
    • 8. Staff and Human Resource Development
    • 9. Governance, leadership and management
    • 10. Institutional projects
  • 11. HEFCE performance indicators
    • Published for all UK higher education institutions and cover four main areas of importance to the funding councils:
    • widening participation
    • progression and retention
    • research output
    • employment outcomes
    • External performance indicators are unlikely to align fully with institutional goals and ‘tend to be disconnected from the internal life of institutions’ (Watson and Maddison, 2005, p. 57)
  • 12. Review of existing practice (1)
    • Based on a sample of UK university corporate plans:
    • Emphasis on league tables, for example:
      • ‘The University has a clear and simple objective; to move by 2010 from being in the top thirty in the UK to being in the top twenty.’
    • Some poor alignment between strategic goals and measures or indicators of success, for example:
      • ‘To enhance our relationship with employers with which we are already in partnership focussing on building the reputation of the university’
    • Large numbers of high level objectives (HEFCE recommends between 8 and 12, each with 3 or 4 operating tasks)
  • 13. Review of existing practice (2)
    • Assigned responsibility (individual or group) for delivery of component strategy objectives
    • Objectives have success indicators
    • Interim indicators of success stated and used to monitor progress towards the strategic goals
    • Embedded arrangements for monitoring progress
    • Embedded arrangements for review and update of the corporate plan
  • 14. Good practice
    • Establishing a relatively small number of strategic goals;
    • Employ interim milestones to help monitor progress and provide impetus for change;
    • Monitoring takes place at various levels and measures pervade the organisation;
    • The nature and frequency of reporting is determined in advance, while the monitoring system itself is subject to periodic review;
    • The information collected is used to enhance institutional performance and inform decision-making;
    • Information about progress against strategic goals is routinely and regularly shared with stakeholders.
  • 15. Concluding remarks
    • Strategic goals in higher education are difficult to define and measure, however each institution should identify its own key indicators of strategic success, relative to its competitors and comparator institutions
    • League tables based on (arbitrarily) weighted combinations of performance indicator scores do not provide a sufficient or adequate basis on which to assess university performance
    • Any measurement system will be imperfect, with continued care needed to guard against unintended consequences
  • 16. References Birnbaum, R. (2001), Management Fads in Higher Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. CUC. (2006), Report on the Monitoring of Institutional Performance and the Use of Key Performance Indicators. Sheffield: Committee of University Chairmen. HEFCE. (2000), Strategic planning in higher education (2000/24). Bristol: Higher Education Funding Council for England. Watson, D. and Maddison, E. (2005), Managing Institutional Self-Study. Maidenhead: Open University Press.