International Equity Benchmarking Project
In the rapidly changing context of higher education today, universities are faced with a number of complex challenges that impact on their core business and have direct implications for equity and diversity practitioners. Issues such as globalisation, internationalisation, increasing competition in attracting and retaining high-quality staff and students, and growing financial constraints all demand improved institutional equity and diversity practice as one key element in remaining internationally competitive.
Benchmarking equity and diversity, when utilised as a collaborative action-learning tool can provide the capacity to not only measure past performance but importantly to facilitate new insights leading to innovative strategies to bring about improved institutional performance. In 2002, equity practitioners in a small group of leading universities from Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Canada agreed to explore the benefits of developing an International Equity Benchmarking project modelled on the philosophy and practice of Action-Learning.
- The University of Auckland
- The University of British Columbia
- The University of Melbourne
- The University of Nottingham
- The University of Queensland
The University of Western Australia (member of Australia’s Group of 8) Queensland University of Technology (member of the Australian Technology Universities Network)
The International Equity Benchmarking Project addresses both staff and student equity. Partners have deliberately chosen to focus upon selected issues of common interest which have proved to be somewhat intransigent. The Benchmarking Project is understood to be a long-term collaborative ‘Action Learning’ project.
In this framework, the data we gather is not the primary outcome, but rather a means to providing a basis for open and honest dialogue about successes, failures and frustrations in our various approaches in addressing these difficult matters. Its collection and analysis assists us to better understand our own university’s performance and the discussions arising from the data and in sharing information about strategies employed in our universities enables us to reconsider our own work with greater insight.
Given the different countries, systems, and contexts of those institutions involved, there have been a number of challenges that the group has had to address, however, all have felt the benefits have outweighed the difficulties. The International benchmarking Project has provided a forum for partners to more rigorously examine their own practice, and to learn from others within a collegial ‘learning community’.
Key benefits to date have included improved and expanded data collection systems within partner universities, for example developing more fine-grained data collection on student attrition and longitudinal data on staff career development and promotion. The opportunity to reflect upon the ‘fit for purpose’ of activities has proved invaluable i.e. unpacking the context within which successful strategies are implemented.
In addition, the International Equity Benchmarking Project has value-added to knowledge and expertise of participants reflected in the quality of input to committees, working parties, reports, research and development of policies and strategies within their own institutions.
Further information and reports of work undertaken through the project are available from www.uq.edu.au/equity