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How can a university prove the value of its educational offer to potential students? In a world of global rankings most accountability proposals put forward by institutions or countries are often tailored to the purpose of the respective proponents. A broadly welcomed new concept is that of measuring the learning outcomes of higher education.
The OECD has recently launched a feasibility study for the Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes (AHELO). The study is a ground-breaking initiative to assess the level of achievement of learning outcomes on an international scale and ultimately to identify as many factors as possible influencing the quality of higher education, which are valid across different cultures and languages. While the study is still in its conceptual phase, a small group of American colleges for adult education have put this very idea into practice. On the College Choice for Adults website, data on student learning outcomes at programme-specific levels is provided. Potential students can compare, following a predefined set of criteria, how well each course has prepared its graduates.
Whether or not the American initiative measures the relevant learning outcomes for students objectively and comprehensively may be questioned. It does show, however, that AHELO will fall on fertile ground, as there seems to be a growing understanding that the principles of accountability should be diversified.