Analytic Quality Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2004-21, Analytic Quality Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 18 June, 2021 , © Lee Harvey 2004–2021.


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core definition

A benchmark is a point of reference against which something may be measured.

explanatory context

In the higher education context a benchmark is usually either (1) a level of performance, resources, or outcome against which an institution or group might be compared, or (2) the specification or codification of comparable processes.


Benchmarks may be (1) defined for an institution (or sub-institution unit) as targets, possibly on continuous basis (2) the basis of comparison between two or more institutions (or sub-institutional units) (3) specifications of processes that can be compared as a basis for identifying, for example, optimum effectiveness, efficiency or transparency.


Benchmarks’ are sometimes specified in ‘contracts’ such as student charters (for example in the UK). They tend to be quantifiable and restricted to measurable items, including the presence or absence of an element of service or a facility. Benchmarking tends to be a voluntary activity engaged in by institutions.

analytical review

The UNESCO definition of benchmark is:

A standard, a reference point, or a criterion against which the quality of something can be measured, judged, and evaluated, and against which outcomes of a specified activity can be measured. The term, benchmark, means a measure of best practice performance. The existence of a benchmark is one necessary step in the overall process of benchmarking. (Vlãsceanu, et al., 2007)



Benchmark: A reference point or criterion by which to measure something. (Campbell & Rozsnyai, 2002, p. 131)

associated issues

related areas

See also


benchmark statement


Campbell, C. & Rozsnyai, C., 2002, Quality Assurance and the Development of Course Programmes. Papers on Higher Education Regional University Network on Governance and Management of Higher Education in South East Europe Bucharest, UNESCO.

Vlãsceanu, L.,  Grünberg, L., and Pârlea, D., 2007,  Quality Assurance and Accreditation: A Glossary of Basic Terms and Definitions ( Bucharest , UNESCO-CEPES) Revised and updated edition. ISBN 92-9069-186-7, available at , accessed 19 June 2019

copyright Lee Harvey 2004–2021

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