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Conference Papers Year : 2021

The Meaning of Assessment in Higher Education and Research

Michel Robert


Universities today have to take up many challenges: massification of higher education, excellence in research and innovation, resources, attractiveness, rankings, impact, societal expectations ... The question of the autonomy of universities is essential: the articulation between the responsibility of states and that of institutions is the subject of much debate. It is therefore important to note a different practice of institutional autonomy depending on the country, as well as varying positions on the subjects of accreditation or performance measurement. The construction of the European higher education area that began some twenty years ago (Paris Sorbonne, Bologna) has led on the one hand to harmonizing national systems (graduate, post-graduate, PhD) to encourage mobility (ECTS credits) and on the other hand to promote quality assurance policies in training courses and universities. This is what led to the creation of assessment agencies based in particular on the same framework: the standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG). These agencies can cover a national or regional scope and are themselves periodically assessed by Enqa (Eqar register). This is the case in France with the HCERES (High Council for the Evaluation of Research and Higher Education). Faced with these different challenges, the question of assessment is central and is taking on an increasing role. The context of the organization of an evaluation is complex and alternates several parameters ranging from internal to external, from global to local, from qualitative to quantitative, from subjective to objective. The relationship between reviewers (peers) and institutions should be based on trust and lack of interests. The distance between assessment and decision-making, as well as the interface and mediation role of the assessment agency are essential. The evocation of “evaluation” leads to tensions because of the sensitive terms linked to our history, our culture and our practices: measurement of individual or collective “performance”, academic freedom and risk-taking... Don't researchers spend too much time being evaluated or evaluating articles in journals or conferences, projects, training courses, laboratories, institutions ... other researchers, given the load induced by this "Industrialization" of a very large number of expertise (several hundred for a university in France every five years). The definition of the evaluation grain, that is to say of the components to be evaluated within a university (diplomas, faculties and schools, laboratories and research teams) can vary according to the countries and the practices. The assessment of institutions has a cost and must have a recognized effectiveness. Attentive to these difficulties, the presentation will situate the role of evaluation, its organization, its usefulness and its effectiveness: does the assessment serve the chosen objective? Is it accepted by the assessed communities? What is its impact? What are the relevant grains in the evaluation of a structure? What new practices can we consider? There is no one-size-fits-all ideal model for implementing an assessment. It depends on the history and the national context, the political issues and the specificities of the institution. The definition of the evaluation grain, that is to say of the components to be evaluated within a university (diplomas, faculties and schools, research entities) can vary according to the countries and the practices Taking into account different expectations from self-management to centralized national control approaches, the choice of an assessment method depends on the maturity of the higher education and research system considered. After a presentation and analysis of the main principles and limits of evaluation systems in the field of higher education and research (ESR), new alternatives will be proposed to better meet current expectations:
Recommendation 1
A visiting committee for the institution, and one for each department for research and education (graduate)
Recommendation 2
For research assessment, public authorities can organize national thematic panels by disciplinary fields based on shared indicators, and expert committees.
Recommendation 3
Implementation of Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) in each department (or equivalent) piloted by the university, following the procedures of the assessment agency. The institution then performs an analysis to compare the results with its strategy and internal processes, in its self-assessment report.
Recommendation 4
The use of a shared information system to analyze certified data updated each year is essential to evaluate certain activities such as undergraduate programs (student success and professional integration).
Recommendation 5
Develop a culture of internal quality assurance at all levels: a shared value; a collective responsibility of the whole community including students and administrative staff; a lever for harmonizing and coordinating practices within an institution (subsidiarity).
Recommendation 6
“A successful self-assessment for a useful external assessment”. The assessed institution must position itself. What is your strategy? What demonstration do you make of its implementation and effectiveness? Situation and comparisons to other institutions?
Recommendation 7
The essential role of independent assessment agencies, and the opening of borders to foreign agencies to stimulate and harmonize international good practices.
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lirmm-03279878 , version 1 (06-07-2021)


  • HAL Id : lirmm-03279878 , version 1


Michel Robert. The Meaning of Assessment in Higher Education and Research. SBC/SBMicro/CASS-RS Special Event, IEEE CASS Rio Grande do Sul Chapter, Jun 2021, Rio Grande, Brazil. ⟨lirmm-03279878⟩
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