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 22 September, 2021 , © Lee Harvey 2004–2021.


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External review indicator

core definition

An external review indicator is a measurable characteristic pertinent to an external quality evaluation.

explanatory context

External review indicators are similar to performance indicators and are often referred to as performance indicators.

analytical review

The UNESCO definition (2004) is extensive:

External review indicators: Operational variables referring to specific empirically measurable characteristics of higher education institutions or programmes on which evidence can be collected that allows for a determination of whether or not standards are being met. Indicators identify performance trends and signal areas in need for action and/or enable comparison of actual performance with established objectives. They are also used to translate theoretical aspects of quality, a process known as operationalization. An indicator must be distinguished from a measure, which is data used to determine the level of performance of an attribute of interest, and from a standard, which is the level of acceptable performance in terms of a specific numeric criterion. Another distinction is made between the different types of indicators: (i) indicators of economy (following and respecting budgets); (ii) indicators of efficiency (actual productivity or output per input unit); and (iii) indicators of effectiveness (degree of attainment of objectives). A third and relatively consequent distinction is made between: (i) context indicators, that relate to the specific environment of a higher education institution or programme (social, economic, political, geographical, etc.); (ii) input indicators, that relate to the logistical, human, and financial resources used by a higher education institution; (iii) process indicators, that refer to the use of resources by a higher education institution, to the management of the inputs, and to the functioning of the organization; and (iv) output indicators, that concern the actual achievements or products of the higher education institution. This latter framework is also known as the CIPO-model (i.e., Context, Inputs, Process, Outputs), frequently used in evaluation studies. (Vlãsceanu et al., 2004, pp. 38–39)

In the 2007 version, this definition has just been labelled "indicators", the external review prefix has been dropped. (Vlãsceanu et al., 2007, p. 59).

associated issues

related areas

See also

performance indicator

statistical indicator


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.

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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