The construct of the Index of Higher Education – Business Engagement

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Pawel Poszytek
Foundation for the Development of Education System

The presentation shows how the Index of Higher Education – Business Engagement is creating a framework for comparative analysis which can provide a detailed picture to what extent individual universities in different countries cooperate with industry and business. It presents the background of this innovative research as well as the construct of the research tool, namely: the standards which form the matrix for the analysis, what domains are measured, how they are measured, and how the data is disseminated and presented. The presentation also explores challenging issues regarding validity of the research and problems with creation of composite indices. These are the fundamental considerations since the research area is very broad ranging from official, national policies through practices in universities to how issues connected with university – business cooperation are approached in different countries.
The Index as a pioneering new tool for monitoring the level of adherence of national policies and practices to European and globally accepted and acknowledged recommendations and solutions, seeks to capture the attention of leaders in government, business and society across Europe and beyond to: (1) illustrate the current situation, highlighting good policy and practice in order to enable informed policy choices; (2) inspire a new policy focus among decision makers by demonstrating the importance of univrsity – business cooperation in stable and prosperous societies. Accordingly, on a more practical level the objectives of the project are the following:
• better understanding of good practices
• enhanced cooperation and commitment to improving policies and practices
• increased awareness of recommendations and how countries perform against them
• creation of a sustainable benchmarking tool to evaluate policies and practices.

In addition, it must be stressed at this point that recommendations and solutions are understood here very broadly with reference to main policy documents released by institutions suchas the European Commission, Universities‘ Associations, the World Bank, etc.
Finally, the question must be raised if there is a need for such monitoring and comparison. Although much has been done in the area of university – busienss cooperation on global, European, national and regional levels, evidence shows that the take-up of European or any other guidance in this field has been uneven. Additionally, policy cooperation on different levels has always proved challenging and the knowledge gained from this proces has not been shared systematically. Consequently, before carrying the process of implementing policies even further, it seems necessary to reflect on what has been achieved so far and learn some lessons from it. Nardo, Saisana, Saltelli, Tarantola, Hoffman and Giovannini stress that composite indicators, and the Index of Higher Education – Business Engagement is one of these, are more and more recognised as tools in policy analysis and public communication (2005:8).
The main distinctive feature of the Index of Higher Education – Business Engagement is that it is a descriptive tool for awareness raising at both the public and the political macro-level, which presents descriptive indices per strand and per country or a region in order to reflect the degree of adherence to European or global benchmarks in terms of European or global guidelines or recommendations. These recommendations, derived from the documents set the standards in the following relevant areas:
• provisions for university – business cooperation
• promoting university – business cooperation solutions
• establishing clear aims of university – business cooperation
• promoting the idea of industry engagement in higher education
• establishing a transparent system of the cooperation
• acknowledgement of relevant solutions
• contribution of university – business cooperation to growth and development
The results and performance of universities and countries in all relevant parameters constituting the Index will be presented in the form of spidergraphs which allow comparison and promote good practice exchange.