April 2017


From evidence to decision making

Martí Casadesús - Director

For a considerable number of years now evidence of both a quantitative and qualitative nature has been gathered, and above all consolidated, on the system of higher education and universities in Catalonia and how it functions. This is true on all levels, from HEIs, faculties, schools and institutes, courses, teaching staff, etc.

As a result of a long period of serious and continuous work, for example, the Secretariat for Universities and Research has a powerful database in UNEIX that offers all types of indicators for use in an infinite number of analyses (course pass rates, equity, drop-out rates, gender equality, and so on).

AQU Catalunya also assumes its share of the work by gathering quantitative indicators, for example, on the transition of graduates into employment and qualitative indicators, including the analyses periodically carried out of all programmes of study delivered in Catalonia and the assessments and accreditation of teaching staff. This year the Agency faces the in-house challenge of upgrading the information system that handles and manages all evidence relating to degree courses so that all information becomes consolidated into one database that will better serve the purposes of IT management and programme analysis.

I sincerely believe that we are now at a point where we can congratulate ourselves on the scope, consistency and transparency of the evidence that is now available. On the scope, because it includes everything – both public and private universities, main faculties as well as partner and affiliated schools and institutes, etc.; consistency, because we no longer doubt the exactness of, for example, the figures and data on dropout rates generated by UNEIX because they are virtually almost always exact, and it is the users who are often mistaken in their interpretation of them. And transparent because, without wanting to add to the information overload, anyone can gain access to the important data contained in the system.

Nevertheless, a lot of work remains to be done in the next stage which, I'm sorry to say, will be the most important as it will involve a much better selection of necessary evidence at any given time and the ignoring of evidence that adds little value, and the impact this will have on decision making, which is increasingly evidence-based. And I believe there is evidence of this (excuse the pun).

If we had to choose, I think we would all undoubtedly focus much more on learning how to improve indicator analysis, direct the use of indicators in better ways for decision making, and facilitate those making decisions so they can do so as well as possible, instead of further perfecting indicators that later on will have no impact on the system. And this on all levels.

So, for example, those of us who are teaching staff will undoubtedly have access to more and more types of evidence on course delivery like process indicators (number of students who pass exams, students who didn't sit final exams, etc.) and associated qualitative information (exam results, student e.mails, etc.). And if we really wanted to analyse everything, just with the evidence that Moodle can gather, for example, our work would be never ending. What I contend however is that, instead of more and more evidence, what we need is better ways of using the evidence that is made available. We need to know how to better differentiate and correctly analyse the most important evidence in order to make the best decisions for the future. One shouldn't lose sight of the fact that all of this is just to plan the next academic year as consistently as possible, and it is here where our efforts should be focused.

It is evident (another pun there) that evidence-based decision-making gives better results. It also prevents a lot of disappointment that would come about from a total lack of evidence of something that one firmly believes in.

Com incorporar l'evidència a la presa de decisionsWith this end in mind, AQU Catalunya, together with the Catalan Institute for Public Policy Assessment (Ivàlua) and the Catalan Health Economy Quality Assurance Agency (AQuAS), the other two public entities that oversee quality assurance in Catalonia, is organising a workshop titled "Incorporating evidence into decision-making". We trust this will be one extra step towards all of us increasingly making decisions that are better informed and better in themselves. We look forward to seeing you all at the Palau Macaya from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 16 May.  


Generalitat de Catalunya

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