Sunday, March 27, 2011

How to interpret and select Peer Institution Criteria - An Essay

Other Peer Institution Selection Article

Since we are interested in ranking the performance of the school management, our pick of peer institutions should have similar resources and constrains so that the differences in performance can be attributed to the management of the school.
Peer institution comparison is a common practice for gauging higher institution progresses.

However, the practice of selecting peer institution and how comparison should be examined are not well understood.

This article is trying to shad some light on these two topics.

For selecting peer institutions, the general idea is pick institutions with similar values on some variables/measures. Once these peer institutions are selected, other measures are commonly used to gauge institutions progresses. A logic question that raised from this process is whether a variable should be treated as the picking variable or the comparison variable? If we are interested in gauging progresses caused by an institution's management/administration team, the answer to the question can then be answered logically.

Since we are interested in ranking the performance of the school management, our pick of peer institutions should have similar resources and constrains so that the differences in performance can be attributed to the management of the school. The resources and constrains should referred to things that isn't normally changeable by the will of the school.

To demonstrate the point, let's compare the number of graduates and enrollment a year of an institution. In this comparison, the enrollment could be a better variable than the number of graduates to be used as the picking variable since the enrollment to a large degree are constrained by the size or resource of the school while the number of graduates can be influenced by the deployment of better student support system by the management team. On the other hand, the resources provided by government to public institutions can be a better picking variable than the enrollment since with given resources, institutions can still achieving different level of enrollment success by management team's recruiting efforts.

The topic on how comparison should be examined can also be demonstrated with examples. For example, library expenditure can be used to rank peer institutions. The assumption is that the higher the spending, the better is the school. However, we can argue that in the name of servicing the students and faculties, the library spending is not the meaningful measure since the thing that really matter to students and faculties is the amount of content that is available to students and faculties. An institutions could have lower the library spending by subscribing to online libraries. While the spending is less, the content available to students and faculties are increased.

The other common case is that of the faculty salary. Institutions constantly use the peer institutions to solicit State's support in increasing faculty's salaries. Even though these are legitimate use of peer institutions, there are usually untold stories. Suppose two peer institutions are similar in all measures, the increase of the faculty salaries will inevitably increase the cost of of a degree in that institution. What is mean is that in order to convincingly present its case, institution have to also show their competitiveness in their management too. Likely than not, when presented these kind of agenda, institutions will choose to ignore the other measures, it is, then, the responsibility of the overseeing professional agency, be it the coordination board or legislature, to articulate the case.

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