Unsurprisingly when the Tertiary Education Commission released its Educational Performance Indicators (EPIs) last week we learnt exactly what we already knew, which is that if you focus your view through a telescope you get lots of detail but no context.
After four years of the EPI system institutions have learnt what they need to do to raise their performance in the areas in which they are measured.
Penny Symonds, the chief executive at one of the ‘worst’ ranking polytechnics, SIT, said she was not taking part in “game playing” to increase its EPIs, like other institutions.
And so, having now created a culture of measuring, reporting, ranking and bureaucracy within tertiary institutions, the minister and his business supporters now question whether all these institutions are reporting on and being ranked on the right things.
In March Steven Joyce said he intends to publish employment outcomes and to link funding to performance.
In a circular piece of logic, business leaders are suggesting they would better know who to employ if we rank tertiary education institutions on the employment outcomes of students. Using their knowledge of education, employers will hire the best students, and thus determine educational quality for each institution in a tidy performance table.
Providing job skills and employment is important, but it is just one part of a broader tertiary education. It would be a shame to see government encouraging institutions to redirect their attention from important teaching and research programmes that do not show immediate economic or employment outcomes. The short-term pressures of employers should not be the measurement for the quality and direction of tertiary education.