Analytic Quality Glossary

 

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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2004-17, Analytic Quality Glossary, Quality Research International, http://www.qualityresearchinternational.com/glossary/

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 2 January, 2017 , © Lee Harvey 2004–2017.

 

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Benchmark statement


core definition

A benchmark statement, in higher education, provides a reference point against which outcomes can be measured and refers to a particular specification of programme characteristics and indicative standards.


explanatory context

This usage derives primarily from the UK, Subject Benchmark Statements, developed under the auspices of the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA). With few exceptions, subject benchmark statements refer to the bachelors degree with honours.


analytical review

The Quality Assurance Agency in Higher Education (QAA), in 2004, described benchmark statements as follows:

Subject benchmark statements provide a means for the academic community to describe the nature and characteristics of programmes in a specific subject. They also represent general expectations about the standards for the award of qualifications at a given level and articulate the attributes and capabilities that those possessing such qualifications should be able to demonstrate. (QAA, 2004a)

The QAA website in 2011 states:

Subject benchmark statements set out expectations about standards of degrees in a range of subject areas. They describe what gives a discipline its coherence and identity, and define what can be expected of a graduate in terms of the abilities and skills needed to develop understanding or competence in the subject.

Working closely with the sector, QAA has published subject benchmark statements for a range of disciplines to set out clearly the academic characteristics and standards of UK programmes. Some benchmark statements combine or make reference to professional standards required by external professional or regulatory bodies in the discipline.

Subject benchmark statements do not represent a national curriculum in a subject area rather they allow for flexibility and innovation in programme design, within an overall conceptual framework established by an academic subject community.

They are intended to assist those involved in programme design, delivery and review. They may also be of interest to prospective students and employers, seeking information about the nature and standards of awards in a subject area. (QAA, undated)


UniversitiesUK, (UUK) 2008:

The benchmark statement describes what gives a discipline its coherence and identity, and defines what can be expected of a graduate in terms of the abilities and skills needed to develop understanding or competence in that subject. Benchmark Statements for some subjects, such as Chemistry, include core content. Others, such as History, allow for a more varied curriculum. Benchmark statements have been developed by, and agreed with, the relevant academic subject communities and national academies of learning, professional bodies and employers as appropriate. This process is dynamic, with existing Subject Benchmark Statements undergoing systematic review over the past few years and new statements being developed as the need arises. (UniversitiesUK, (UUK) 2008, pp. 1819)

 

The UNESCO and CHEA (2002) definitions repeat the QAA (2004a) statement above, while British universities spell out what they see as essential in their definitions, while clearly identifying the statements as a QAA initiative:

Subject Benchmark Statements: statements issued by the QAA which represent general expectations about standards of achievement and general attributes to be expected of graduates for the award of qualifications in a given subject area. (UMIST, 2001)

 

Subject Benchmark Statements: General expectations about the standards of achievement and general attributes to be expected of a graduate in a given subject area, written by the subject community. Benchmark statements only exist for Honours level subjects and Foundation Degrees, with the exception of Master’s in Business Management, Physics and Engineering. (University of Warwick, 2011)

 

However, the UNESCO definitions also includes two more similar but slightly different notions of benchmark statements:

Benchmark Information: Explicit national statements of academic standards or outcomes for individual subjects. Some countries (e.g., the United Kingdom) develop benchmarks of this type in regard to a certain group of subjects as part of their quality assurance process. (Vlãsceanu, et al., 2004, p. 24)

 

Course Development Benchmarks: Guidelines regarding the minimum standards that are used for course design, development, and delivery. (Vlãsceanu, et al., 2004, p. 25)

 

Campbell and  Rozsnyai (2002, p. 133):

(Subject) benchmark statement: Represents general expectations about standards (levels of student attainment) at a given level in a particular subject area. They are reference points in a quality assurance framework rather than prescriptive statements about curricula.


associated issues

In the UK, QAA (2004a) noted that subject benchmark statements are used for a variety of purposes.

Primarily, they are an important external source of reference for higher education institutions when new programmes are being designed and developed in a subject area. They provide general guidance for articulating the learning outcomes associated with the programme but are not a specification of a detailed curriculum in the subject. Benchmark statements provide for variety and flexibility in the design of programmes and encourage innovation within an agreed overall framework.

Critics have suggested that the benchmark statements delimit the subject content, acting as a national curriculum at higher education level, which in the UK, outside the professional education areas, runs counter to previous practice.

 

Subject benchmark statements, QAA (2004a) claimed,

also provide support to institutions in pursuit of internal quality assurance. They enable the learning outcomes specified for a particular programme to be reviewed and evaluated against agreed general expectations about standards.

Critics argue that the specified standards in the benchmark statements are so general that it is impossible to measure anything against them.

 

QAA (2004a) states that:

subject benchmark statements are one of a number of external sources of information that are drawn upon for the purposes of academic review and for making judgements about threshold standards being met. Reviewers do not use subject benchmark statements as a crude checklist for these purposes however. Rather, they are used in conjunction with the relevant programme specifications, the institution’s own internal evaluation documentation, together with primary data in order to enable reviewers to come to a rounded judgement based on a broad range of evidence.

Critics argue that, while this may be the QAA hope and intention, benchmark statements are used in precisely this crude manner.

 

QAA (undated) notes that new subject benchmark statements are developed through the Recognition scheme for subject benchmark statements, which seeks to ensure that criteria relating to subject sufficiency and distinction are met. The scheme for subject benchmark statements also ensures that the process of developing a new subject benchmark statement is representative of the views of the subject community. When QAA receives an expression of interest to develop a new subject benchmark statement, the proposal is evaluated against the criteria of the scheme for subject benchmark statements in consultation with the Steering Group for Benchmarking.


In the UK, QAA (2004a) noted that subject benchmark statements are used for a variety of purposes:

Primarily, they are an important external source of reference for higher education institutions when new programmes are being designed and developed in a subject area. They provide general guidance for articulating the learning outcomes associated with the programme but are not a specification of a detailed curriculum in the subject. Benchmark statements provide for variety and flexibility in the design of programmes and encourage innovation within an agreed overall framework.

Critics have suggested that the benchmark statements delimit the subject content, acting as a national curriculum at higher education level, which in the UK, outside the professional education areas, runs counter to previous practice.

 

Subject benchmark statements, QAA (2004a) claimed,

also provide support to institutions in pursuit of internal quality assurance. They enable the learning outcomes specified for a particular programme to be reviewed and evaluated against agreed general expectations about standards.

Critics argue that the specified standards in the benchmark statements are so general that it is impossible to measure anything against them.

 

QAA (2004a) states that:

subject benchmark statements are one of a number of external sources of information that are drawn upon for the purposes of academic review and for making judgements about threshold standards being met. Reviewers do not use subject benchmark statements as a crude checklist for these purposes however. Rather, they are used in conjunction with the relevant programme specifications, the institution’s own internal evaluation documentation, together with primary data in order to enable reviewers to come to a rounded judgement based on a broad range of evidence.

Critics argue that, while this may be the QAA hope and intention, benchmark statements are used in precisely this crude manner.

 

QAA (undated) notes that new subject benchmark statements are developed through the Recognition scheme for subject benchmark statements, which seeks to ensure that criteria relating to subject sufficiency and distinction are met. The scheme for subject benchmark statements also ensures that the process of developing a new subject benchmark statement is representative of the views of the subject community. When QAA receives an expression of interest to develop a new subject benchmark statement, the proposal is evaluated against the criteria of the scheme for subject benchmark statements in consultation with the Steering Group for Benchmarking.


related areas

See also

benchmarking

benchmark


Sources

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.

Council For Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) 2001, Glossary of Key Terms in Quality Assurance and Accreditation http://www.chea.org/international/inter_glossary01.html, last updated 23 October 2002, accessed 18 September 2012, page not available 30 December 2016.

Quality Assurance Agency in Higher Education (QAA), 2004a, Subject Benchmark Statements, http://www.qaa.ac.uk/crntwork/benchmark/accounting.html#1, no longer at this address, 7 February 2011.

Quality Assurance Agency in Higher Education (QAA), undated, Subject Benchmark Statements, http://www.qaa.ac.uk/academicinfrastructure/benchmark/default.asp, accessed 7 February 2011, not available 2 February 2012.

UniversitiesUK (UUK), 2008, Quality and Standards in UK Universities: A guide to how the system works, published 06 November 2008, available at http://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/Publications/Pages/Quality-and-standards-in-UK-universities-A-guide-to-how-the-system-works.aspx, accessed 15 May 2011.

University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST), 2001, Annex 1: Glossary, UM/DG/005, http://www2.umist.ac.uk/staff/talsc/TaLSC/quality/dg005%20_glossary.pdf, posted 30/08/01. No longer at this address, 2 February 2011. UMIST merged with the Victoria University of Manchester to form the University of Manchester on 22 October 2004.

University of Warwick, 2011, Course Specifications: Glossary of Terms relating to Course Specifications http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/academicoffice/quality/coursespecs/view/glossary, last revised 18 October 2011 , accessed 20 September 2012, still available 31 December 2016 (although page states last revised 14 November 2006).

Vlãsceanu, L., Grünberg, L., and Pârlea, D., 2004, Quality Assurance and Accreditation: A Glossary of Basic Terms and Definitions (Bucharest, UNESCO-CEPES) Papers on Higher Education, ISBN 92-9069-178-6, available at http://www.aic.lv/bolona/Bologna/contrib/UNESCO/QA&A%20Glossary.pdf, accessed 20 September 2012, still available 31 December 2016.

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 http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0013/001346/134621e.pdf, accessed 31 December 2016.


copyright Lee Harvey 2004–2017



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