Wspólnotowy Serwis Informacyjny Badan i Rozwoju - CORDIS

Evaluation and self-evaluation of universities in Europe: Evaluations of resources - Evaluations of academic staff and of the non-academic staff

By resources, we mean evidently the personnel (academics, engineers, technicians, administrative personnel and workers), but also the financial resources. At last, the organisation is also a resource: the university government and the structures (faculties, departments, administrative and technical services). In comparison to the teaching and to the research evaluations, the evaluation of resources is still weakly structured and is relatively new, even if the evaluation of staff, as individuals, is traditional. The evaluation of resources is centred on the efficiency: are they used in the best way to reach good results?

Evaluations of academic staff:
Several tendencies are observed in Europe. In the recent period, the number of teachers has increased because of the increase of the student number. Academic staff is traditionally organised in disciplines and in ranks; their missions are teaching, research and responsibilities in these two fields. Their evaluation, as individuals, is traditional: they are evaluated when they are recruited and during their career. Academic staff evaluation is traditionally made by the peers of the same discipline. Another tendency is largely observed: the lack of professional and of continuous training to practise the teaching function.

Beyond these common tendencies, we observe differences and changes: supervision rates (number of teachers by student) differ according to the countries (they are higher in the Northern Europe) and according to the disciplines (they are higher in the scientific and health disciplines); teachers are, in most countries, civil servants, but the number of teachers who have a contract for a limited duration is increasing. The changes in the evaluation field are also obvious. We observe a strengthening of the recruitment power by each autonomous university, parallel to the traditional power of the disciplinary professional bodies. The evaluation of the teachers' contribution in the quality and in the performance of teaching and research is developing. This tendency is paradoxical: evaluation of the individual performance and of the collective one sometimes coexist. A logical, but still rare, consequence of performance measures is the development of individual and/or collective contracts, which fix the objectives to reach.

The recruitment always associates at least two decisional authorities (the faculty or the department, and/or the university as such, and/or a national authority); it always pays attention for research. Conversely, the composition and the size of recruitment committees, the periodicity of recruitment, the modalities and the criteria taken in count to evaluate the applicants (apart from the research criteria) are very diverse. The role plaid by the central authorities of the university seems to be increasing: they decide on the employment policies (they are directly linked to the financial resources), and so they influence the number of jobs; sometimes, they influence some elements of the wages (amount of premiums and conditions to have them); at last, these authorities have a power of sanction.

The teachers' collective contribution in the faculty teaching and in the department researches is more and more evaluated. Sometimes, the evaluation of teaching involves an evaluation of the pedagogical performances of the teachers; a phase of self-evaluation of the working conditions, of the time devoted to the preparation of lectures and of the interrelations with the students can precede the evaluation; students can be associated to the process. External evaluators, when they evaluate teaching or teaching projects, can evaluate teachers' abilities and skills; it is the same for the evaluation of the research centres. A possible consequence is a greater competitiveness between colleagues and a greater control by them; so the traditional freedom of teaching and research could be limited in the future.

Evaluations of the non-academic staff:
There are two kinds of non-academic staff evaluation; managers, engineers, technicians, administrative personnel, workers are concerned. The first deals with the people, considered as individuals, and with the main steps of their career (recruitment, learning, stabilisation on the job, promotion, mobility); that evaluation organises people' flows according to the available jobs in administrative structures, according to rules and to individuals' demands. The second one, more innovative, deals with the collective contribution of those personnel to the efficient and effective university functioning. If the first type of evaluation is present in all the countries, the second one is only beginning.

In a general context of increasing workloads for universities, two configurations of countries can be identified on the basis of two parameters: the number of non-academic staff and the university financial situation. The first configuration deals with the countries of the northern Europe (Finland, United-Kingdom, Germany, Norway): there is a great number of non-academic staff, but the financial pressure on the universities is strong. The second one deals with the countries of the southern Europe (Spain, France, Italy, Portugal): there is a relatively smaller population of non-academic staff, but the financial pressure on the universities is less strong. So, the countries, in which the rate of supervision (number of non-academic staff by student) is the best, implement, because of the financial pressure, evaluations of the non-academic staff contribution.

In the first configuration of countries, the evaluation objectives are rather: to measure the effectiveness of the administration, to use people in the best way in order to achieve the university missions, to create performance and quality indicators of the delivered services, to reduce non-academic number, to simplify and to rationalise the administrative structures, to find the best arbitration between centralisation and decentralisation of the administration, to clarify the hierarchical lines. In the second configuration of countries, the evaluation objectives are rather: to have a better knowledge of the non-academic population, to check the implementation of the administrative rules, to create individual payment systems, to set up equal and standardised workloads, to make the personnel more professional and responsible, to create new functions and new jobs.

The process of the non-academic staff evaluation is relatively slow: it needs several years, knows successive steps, and involves a large participation of personnel. The evaluation deals with a lot of objects, linked to questions of effectiveness and efficiency: job contents, tasks, task allocation, relations and orders, payment systems (for the job and for the individual performance). The most frequent evaluation effects, or the clearest ones, are the development of staff continuous training, the clarifying of responsibilities, the development of computerised information systems, the creation of internal evaluation units of cost and/or performance indicators.

Among the factors pushing to the evaluation of the non-academic staff contribution to the university functioning, we observe: the stabilisation of the student number (the university has to be attractive), the budget "globalisation" and the potential financial difficulties, the structure diversification and the strengthening of the central administration, an administration government which gives the priority to the quality of services delivered to the users. Among the factors slowing down the evaluation, we observe: strict external regulations (recruitment and mobility rules, payment systems, promotion and career directly linked to the seniority, working time, job security...), uncertainties about the administration government (lengthening of the hierarchical lines, lack of unity in the hierarchical lines, persistence of the traditional trade union control).

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