Students studying in a library Photo courtesy of University of the Fraser Valley

This September over two million Canadian students are heading back to college and university to earn an education. There will be lots of learning, late-night study sessions, and assessments taking place at campuses to ensure students are graduating with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in further academic study or the workforce. Post-secondary institutions will also be facing renewed assessments on their performance in academic and fiscal reform, improvement, and innovation.

The majority of Canada’s 97 recognized universities and 130 colleges and polytechnic institutions are publicly funded. Therefore Canadian taxpayers, governments, and private businesses each have a vested interest in their performance. Unfortunately, many believe the institutions are not measuring the right KPIs, instead providing measurement for the sake of measurement.

There is a gap in the data being provided and the information students, governments, and employers need. Only 41% of employers believe universities are adequately preparing students for the workplace. There is a paucity of information regarding graduate employment details and income levels. Even studies evaluating the commercial impact of academic research barely scratch the surface.

Information on admissions, diversity, graduation rates, and research are generally useful but they don’t help employers and governments in hiring students and allocating funds.

In a special to The Globe and Mail news provider, Professors Coates and Auld suggest institutions focus on measuring graduation rates, career outcomes, personal learning activities, and the impact of scholarly research. These key elements will provide Canadians, governments, and employers with the information they need to make informed decisions.

Canadian institutions do not need to reinvent their evaluation process; rather, they need to focus on identifying and answering the right questions.

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About the Author: Dustin is a senior account manager with DesignedUX, providing communications and strategy to organizations in education and technology. Dustin is also board member of the Canadian Public Relations Society and contributes as a communications researcher with McMaster University.