Wspólnotowy Serwis Informacyjny Badan i Rozwoju - CORDIS

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

Universities have a traditional mission of research; but a diversification is in progress: fundamental research and research-&-development are from now linked, in favour of the economic development. The tendencies observed in Europe are: a research activity existing in all the universities (we do not observe a cut between research universities and teaching universities), an extension within universities of specific structures devoted to research at the expense of structures associating teaching and research, an extreme fragmentation of the research fields (linked to the knowledge evolution and to the question - non till resolved - of the interdisciplinary co-operation), a diversification and a specialisation of the financial resources (decrease of the funding issued from the university lump sum budget), a stronger competition between universities to catch external funding.

The strengthening of the research evaluation, of its activities, resources, processes and results are another observed tendency: universities have to be accountable of their researches, of their research performance, because the allocated financial resources are important. More precise points: the development of external evaluation, linked with an internal evaluation, is almost universal; the external evaluation can be in keeping with a contractualisation process between the public authority and the university; the conjugation of external and internal evaluation makes more complex evaluation processes. The research evaluation is more and more a collective one, an evaluation of the research units and no more only an evaluation of the researchers as individuals. Evaluating the quality and the performance of research makes necessary the use of referents, of criteria: the tendency is the use of international quality standards, the mobilisation of international experts; the development of European research contracts has certainly reinforced this tendency towards the homogenisation of referents.

The evaluation of research associates qualitative evaluation and quantitative evaluation. It makes compulsory the recourse to experts of the research field and to their qualitative judgements. However more and more often, it mobilises quantitative indicators, specially when research centres have to be compared: abilities to catch external funding, publications ranked by importance, international co-operations and mobility, post-graduate education and training for research... Conversely, quantitative indicators for the applied sciences (patents, mobility of researchers towards the industry, creation of small companies issued from research centres) are not so developed. In all the countries, publications are taken into account in the evaluation process; researchers accept this evaluation criteria: the potential perverse effect - researches without risks or publishable in a short term, multiplication of publications issued from the same research - is not actually observed and can be easily maintained under control (for the last Research Assessment Exercise, British researchers have been allowed to submit to evaluation a maximum of four publications). The most difficult question is the question of comparability of the quantitative indicators between the scientific disciplines and the social/human sciences: the latest meet difficulties to have good scores for each of the indicators; the question is resolved in some universities, when they have set up internal policies of contractualisation, of partial resource re-allocations between the disciplines on the base of locally bargained criteria.

A last tendency is observed. The evaluation results have more and more an financial impact: policy of excellence centres, receiving additional resources. However, the tendency is not universal: development funds, internal or external to universities, allow the creation of new research centres or the launch of new research topics; they counterbalance the tendency to a funding based upon results.

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Pierre DUBOIS
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