I was the recipient of the Zimmer Travel Fellowship awarded by AAIR in 2016 and used it to attend the Higher Education Institutional Research (HEIR) conference held in the John Lennon Art & Design Building at Liverpool John Moores University (UK).
The conference was relatively small, with 48 papers presented over 2 days. The majority of presenters were from the UK with others coming from further afield such as the US, Scandinavia, Turkey and Jamaica.
The conference theme of ‘metrics that matter’ was discussed in light in of the forthcoming Teaching Excellence Framework (from the same stable as the Research Excellence Framework), including the notion of measuring learning gain. Some pilot projects are underway to explore ways in which learning gain might be measured through use of longitudinal grade data, development of skills such as problem solving and critical thinking, work readiness and graduate earnings. The consensus seemed to be that whilst these may work for individual institutions they tend not to be scalable to a national level.
Whilst this agenda is unique to the UK, some of the other metrics discussed would be familiar to Australian institutions, such as student retention, graduate employment and metrics from surveys of student satisfaction & engagement.
It was interesting to hear over the two days where universities where working collaboratively on various projects, and also the active involvement of students in research projects, sometimes in a paid capacity.
The HEIR operates on a different basis to AAIR being a network of institutional researchers rather than a member based association. The main event each year is this conference but they also publish occasional papers, see http://www.heirnetwork.org.uk/.
I would like to thank AAIR for providing this Fellowship and would recommend others to apply in the future. If anyone fancies a long flight the 2017 HEIR conference will be held at Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen.
Southern Cross University
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