September 25-26, 2003
ESTABLISHING BENCHMARKS FOR MEASURING INSTITUTIONAL QUALITY
An often stated goal of the Montana University Sytem is to provide quality programs and services to the citizens of Montana. When asked to define how quality is measured we often respond in general terms that programs are accredited or our graduates are successfully employed. While these are important elements of quality there is little public understanding of the criteria of accreditation or if accreditation in itself assures anything more than minimum levels of quality.
There is significant value in the Board of Regents expressing a continued commitment to the examination of quality of the teaching and learning environment as well as the research and service programs at each of our institutions. Such an examination must begin with a clear definition of quality and be designed in context with the mission of each institution within the System.
An effective method of measuring and communicating quality is to establish benchmarks that include both input and output information about the performance of our institutions. The campuses have a good understanding of how best to determine the appropriate benchmarks and already have extensive data to utilize in this process. The System's funding model has some basic information on minimum administrative staffing needs of the smaller campuses.
An appropriate array of benchmarks will include many elements that are used in accreditation processes such as, financial resources available, qualifications and availability of ranked faculty for students, content of academic programs, student assessment and learning outcomes, student services and campus environment. Others should be chosen to provide the Board and the public with a good understanding of the condition of higher education in the state.