Has audit culture in higher education, at least at the national scale, not (yet) come to Canada?

Has audit culture in higher education, at least at the national scale, not (yet) come to Canada? This is an issue that caught the eye of the Chronicle of Higher Education today; one that ties back to our 17 September posting on internationalization in Canada, and the perceived (according to the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada) lack of a “coherent” national strategy on this front. It is noteworthy that institutions as diverse as the OECD, the Canadian Federation of Students, the Canadian Council on Learning, and the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada have all expressed concern, over the last few weeks, about the national higher education data gap; a gap that limits the capacity for analysts, advocates, and policy-makers to understand what is going on within the country’s higher education system (see also our report this week on how it affects Canada and international student mobility strategies). This data gap then makes it difficult to compare the Canadian system on an international scale. These two tables from the recent Education at a Glance 2007: OECD Indicators report provide striking examples of what the above institutions are concerned about (“m” = data is not available).



Note: the OECD report (p. 54) states that a “traditional university degree is associated with completion of “type A” tertiary courses; “type B” generally refers to shorter and often vocationally oriented courses”.

The creation of new forms of internationally comparable data is a foundation of national and increasingly global governance (witness the power of the OECD to frame debates and policy shifts), including for the restructuring of higher education systems. International comparative data also provides the fuel for institutions as diverse as faculty unions through to boards of trade to create pressure on governments and other stakeholders to reshape higher education systems. It will be interesting to see how these debates unfold in Canada, complicated as they are by provincial jurisdiction over education, but in a context where global competition is becoming a mantra and force for change, for good and for bad.

Kris Olds

One thought on “Has audit culture in higher education, at least at the national scale, not (yet) come to Canada?

  1. Thanks first of all for this great addition to the (still small) collection of global higher education blogs!

    Considering the (media) coverage of Education at a Glance, I totally agree with your observation regarding the OECD’s role in framing policies through the introduction of indicators, standards and models in the international field of higher ed. On the one hand, they provide a great opportunity for political ‘cherry-picking’ and hence they are used by governments, university leaders and academics alike. On the other hand of course it provides some good opportunities for policy learning as well.

    In the Canadian case, I wonder what the reason behind the lack of data is. I cannot imagine that such basic data on education spending and graduates is not available in Canada. I would guess there are more practical reasons for this or just bad communication between government and the OECD.

    After all, in education at a glance 2006, the figures are reported (e.g. for tertiary education: 77.6% going to direct public expenditure on public institutions and 22% to indirect public transfers to the private sector) on public institutions.

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