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CAUT Bulletin Archives

November 1997

CAUT's Policy Statement on Performance Indicators

In November 1996 CAUT Council approved a policy statement on PIs. Excerpts are highlighted below. The complete document is available at

8) Where PIs have other than descriptive intent or use, they should be negotiated between the faculty association and the administration. This is particularly so in respect of PIs that involve the terms and conditions of employment, for example, conditions of academic freedom, research, teaching, workload, compensation or preferment, and so on. Negotiation will include a detailed description of the powers and responsibilities of any person or department charged with the creation of indicators, whether statistical or non-statistical indicators. The result should be a clear and complete picture of the kinds of PIs to be developed, who will develop them, who will collect them, how results will be published, how results will be subjected to peer review, and what the final uses of PIs are to be -- especially in cases where their final use is in the hands of government ministries, or where PIs may affect the standards of tenure and promotion. The cost of developing and using any PIs should be published each year in the annual financial report of the university.

9) Performance Indicators should answer important social and educational questions: what is the historic mission of the university or college? Is the wider community fully welcomed? Is the university or college accessible to students from all social classes? Are the main branches of knowledge under study and research? What assistance does the institution give to its academic staff to improve teaching and research? How is academic freedom defended on the campus? How are the requirements of women and equity-seeking groups satisfied? How good -- and on what criterion -- is the library, and how is this measured? How good are the scientific laboratories and computer systems, on what criteria, and how measured? How have these characteristics changed over time and why?

10) There should be full disclosure of the long-term and short term reasons and motives for each PI. The disclosure should show how each PI could increase the resources on which good teaching and research depend. Most important of all, the disclosure statement for each PI should provide complete and persuasive evidence that the PI has improved educational, research, or administrative practice, or has assisted the university or college to improve its direct services to the community.

11) If PIs limit academic freedom, as many PIs do, they should be re-shaped and re-formed until they do not. For this reason alone, PIs should be under the authority of the academic senate, whose powers are subject to checks and balances.

14) PIs do not ensure that an institution will be "learner-centred," since many of them are tools for standardization and do not take into account the intellectual diversity of learners. The public interest in higher education should in any case be defined to include all the work of higher education, and should arise from democratic principles, historic development, social, economic, and cultural need, and the moral standard of respect for individuals. It cannot and should not be defined by temporary fads. PIs linked to such fads may well distract from the public purpose and the public interest.

15) Faculty associations should guard against the use of PIs that deliberately or unintentionally promote the separation of teaching and research.

16) Faculty associations should ensure the academic work of university teachers and researchers is always assessed by peers and that this is done fairly. The academic senate should regularly review all PIs in use in all departments and faculties to verify their academic utility and cost, and should have the power of eliminating PIs that do not meet this test.

17) Faculty associations should guard against a culture of compliance that can easily arise from mindless application of PIs. Excellence is not produced by rules and bureaucracy but by professionals who have the freedom and the time to teach well and to undertake first-class research.