Some rise by sin and others by virtue fall. William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure
Statistics are everywhere in education. We have the National Student Survey (NSS), the First Destinations Survey, newspaper league tables, and the Times World University rankings among others. Universities are now required to publish ‘Key Information Sets’ (KIS) from 2012. The KIS has data from the NSS (the higher the agreeing percentages the better), the cost of university accommodation (presumably the lower the better), fees (the lower the better), graduate employment rates (the higher the better), percentage of assessment which is written exams (depends on the student) and number of ‘contact’ hours (again, depends on the student). In short if it can be measured the data is out there. And if it can’t be measured, we’ll find a way to measure it anyway, (research impact anyone?). Add to all this the information that students get from visit days, Facebook, twitter, the online student forums, friends and the phrase ‘information overload’ comes to mind. In his report Dimensions of Quality Graham Gibbs warns us about that immeasurable factor, reputation, which can override any real measure of quality. I suspect that all this information only serves to make reputation all the more important.
If then a practical end must be assigned to a University course, I say it is that of training good members of society... It is the education which gives a man (sic) a clear, conscious view of their own opinions and judgements, a truth in developing them, an eloquence in expressing them, and a force in urging them. It teaches him (sic) to see things as they are, to go right to the point, to disentangle a skein of thought to detect what is sophistically and to discard what is irrelevant. John Henry Newman, The idea of a University.