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NTEU Media Release: My University website a poor proxy for quality in universities

Posted 3 April 2012 by Andrew Nette (NTEU National Office)

National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) believes the federal Government’s My University website, launched today, does not learn the lesson from the My School website, and is instead creating league tables that do not address the issue of quality in higher education.

“While the Minister claims the My University website is intended to lift performance and quality, the reality is that the information it is based on is at best limited, and at worst inaccurate and misleading,” said  NTEU President, Jeannie Rea.

“The use of indicators, including cost of library photocopying, whether your university has a swimming pool and the number of car parking spaces on campus, fails to address the real quality issues in higher education, such as insufficient government funding and a highly casualised workforce.”

“If students where looking to base their choice of institution on whether the campus has an ATM, this site is useful.  If, however, they want an indication of the quality of teaching and research at any given institution, the information provided relies on a set of indicators under question for many years.”

NTEU has been critical for some time of the misuse of statistical data, such as graduate employment outcomes and student satisfaction results, in determining the quality of learning and teaching.  However, these are included as measurable indicators of quality by the website.”

“The use of student satisfaction scores in particular is prone to manipulation and does not reflect quality in teaching.  Indeed, if institutions based their courses on whether students liked their subjects, which is essentially what these metrics capture, they would risk driving down the quality of degrees from Australian universities.  There is always a danger of teaching to the test – or the survey, in this case.”

“The diversity of Australian universities makes it a difficult task to attempt any comparisons and is another misguided attempt to compare apples with oranges.”

“NTEU supports students being able to make an informed choice of where it is best for them to study – and it should be just that, an informed choice.  Any framework that is used must be based on accurate, clear and transparent information.  This can only happen if the indicators or measures used to create this information are specific, widely understood and agreed, and incapable of institutional manipulation.”

“Unfortunately, the My University website is not yet in a position to deliver on these vital points.”

“We do not share the view that any information is better than no information, and would urge the Government to continue to work on the development of set of credible performance indicators on which students can make decisions about what and where to study,” said Rea. 

For information and comment

Jeannie Rea, NTEU President: 0434 606 531

Paul Kniest, NTEU Policy and Research Coordinator: 0418 170 622

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