Service Communautaire d'Information sur la Recherche et le Développement - CORDIS

Evaluation and self-evaluation of universities in Europe: Evaluations of activities and of results - Evaluations of teaching and learning

Universities have a mission of teaching and learning. The diversification of this mission is a tendency of the present period: universities do not have only to disseminate a high level knowledge for students registered in a process of an initial education, but, and more and more, they also have to prepare students to employment, to organise the continuous training for employees. Knowledge is structured in diplomas: they are dominantly disciplinary or dominantly profession-oriented (in that case, they often conjugate several disciplines). The dissemination of knowledge and expertise is organised according to a progression (undergraduate to postgraduates degrees). The tendencies observed in Europe are: diversification of the degrees, increasing importance devoted to profession-oriented degrees and to high level degrees (masters and doctorates), will to increase the number of graduates to have a better economic and social development. The diversification and the lengthening of studies involve a diversification of the student population according to the age, the status, the attendance modalities (part-time or full-time, at distance, sandwich courses...)

In most of countries, public authorities control the degrees, either by defining their contents (national curricula), either by distributing them on the territory, or evidently by allocating resources to organise them. This traditional control (a priori control) is a first form of evaluation; for profession-oriented degrees, the control is also made by professional bodies (accreditation procedures). At the same time, universities have, traditionally but also by law, an autonomy in the pedagogical matters. Evaluation of teaching and learning cannot be understood without that double reference (external control and pedagogical utonomy).

In the nineties, the evaluation of teaching and learning is developing: it deals with diverse aspects and has varied forms. The external evaluation, made by national bodies or by cooperative bodies initiated by some universities, has two great modalities. The first compares the teaching of a given discipline in all the universities or in a whole of universities; the second one compares all the diplomas inside only one university. These two forms present an advantage and a disadvantage. The first allows a comparative state of play of a discipline at the national level; so, each university is able to know its strong and eak points; however, each university is permanently engaged in an evaluation process of its different degrees. The second form concentrates in the time all the teaching evaluations, makes easier the internal mobilisation, links in a better way the teaching evaluations and the organisation functioning; conversely, it makes difficult the comparison of a specific diploma between universities.

The external evaluation is successful when it allows setting up internal evaluation processes in a permanent way, when changes are decided in the teaching contents, in the learning methods… In that case, the pedagogical autonomy is more or less practised, by the way of innovative practices (student participation in evaluation). Nevertheless, internal evaluation of teaching and learning is under pressure: it is an effectiveness evaluation, looking for an improvement of teaching quality, pedagogical methods, student learning, successes in the exams, insertion of graduate students in the labour market. At the same time, the internal evaluation has to take into account the available and limited resources, to rationalise and to save them: it is also an efficiency evaluation. So, it is not surprising if some teachers are reluctant to evaluation, if evaluation sometimes generates frustrations (only one example: teaching in small group is very effective, but, due to the lack of resources, it is systematically developed only in some countries.


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