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Margin Notes

Comparing higher-ed outcomes

An ambitious new OECD project aims to assess and compare learning outcomes in higher-education systems around the world.


There’s a new acronym out there for followers of international higher education trends: AHELO. I’m not sure how we’re supposed to pronounce it – probably like “a halo” – but what I do know is it stands for Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes, an ambitious new project of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development to assess and compare learning outcomes in higher-education systems around the world.

We seem to find it hard to assess and compare our own learning outcomes within Canada, so I wish the OECD well in its attempt.

The first phase of AHELO was presented yesterday to U.S. educators at a conference of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation in Washington D.C.

The OECD, in explaining the reasons behind AHELO, says:

The 21st Century is witnessing the rapid transformation of higher education. More students than ever before enter higher education and a growing number study abroad. The job market demands new skills and adaptability, and HEIs (“Higher Education Institutions”, which include universities, polytechnic schools and colleges) struggle to hold their own in a fiercely competitive marketplace.

Thus, OECD ministers agreed that their member countries “needed to take a further step by making higher education not only more available but of better quality, and that current assessment methods were not fully adequate to meet these changes. An alternative had to be found. AHELO is the result.”

The OECD stresses that AHELO is not a university ranking, but instead sets out to identify and measure as many factors as possible influencing higher education, with the emphasis on teaching and learning.

The project’s first phase will be a feasibility study focused on developing learning measures in four areas, or what the assessment team calls “strands.” Ten countries are participating in the feasibility study: Australia, Belgium (Flanders), Finland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. Depending on the results, a full-scale AHELO could be launched by 2016.

Léo Charbonneau
Léo Charbonneau is the editor of University Affairs.
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  1. Eleonore / February 1, 2010 at 12:50

    According to the OECD website, there are now 14 countries participating in AHELO..

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