The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario was pleased to present a lecture in Toronto by Walter Sudmant, director of planning and institutional research at the University of British Columbia.
During a presentation to decision makers from Ontario’s higher education sector, Mr. Sudmant offered his perspective on British Columbia’s accountability framework for colleges and universities. This is an area in which Walter Sudmant has significant firsthand experience, having been a member of the sector working group that was assembled to offer advice to the Government of British Columbia on the development of key performance indicators for postsecondary institutions.
Mr. Sudmant discussed the history, objectives and outcomes of British Columbia’s current accountability measures. He also raised important questions about how performance indicators should be used to accurately gauge institutional and system performance and encourage significant change and improvement.
“Citizens, government, journalists . . . have a right to ask some reasonable questions about the [postsecondary education] system,” he said. Mr. Sudmant suggested that these questions – related to capacity, accessibility, efficiency, quality and relevance – should be the starting point of any discussion on performance measurement in higher education, including:
- Are there sufficient spaces and resources in the system and individual programs?
- What financial and non-financial barriers are impeding access to postsecondary education?
- Is the system operating cost-effectively and with the right mix of institutions/programs?
- Are students being adequately prepared for further education or employment?
- Do programs reflect the demands of students and the labour market?
In acknowledging that British Columbia’s performance indicators offer some valuable information in these areas, Mr. Sudmant cautioned that they should not be expected to provide a complete account of system or institutional performance. Instead, he proposes that other measures, such as results from the National Survey of Student Engagement, teaching evaluations and graduate surveys, be used together with performance indicators to identify areas and approaches for improvement.
The discussion of British Columbia’s experience offered valuable lessons for Ontario as it works to develop its system of Multi-Year Accountability Agreements with institutions.
The Council wishes to thank Walter Sudmant and all those who attended the lecture.