Benchmarking

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ACADEMIC departments, as a practice, set a day or two to go “benchmarking.”
How does benchmarking take place? The simplest I have observed is a pre-arranged visit to entities to look into the best practices of the latter aligned to the objective/s of the benchmarking visit. Benchmarking participants carry a Guide – a set of pointers as to what best practices to observe, to clarify/discuss with the officials of the said entities. After the main purpose is done, and to satisfy other human needs, — the social, recreational and cultural aspects of these educational tours would include at the very least a swim in waters far from the madding crowd, or a visit to a historical spot or viewing a celebrated tribal/ethnic event or shopping. And of course, there will be countless photos; selfies, too to document the tour. In the late afternoon or that of the next day, everybody prepares for home – tired but happy. Albeit, the benchmarking experience serves also as a form of continuing professional development (CPD). Upon return to the university and in some scheduled conference, the notes based on the Guide are collated, deliberated and an implementation plan contextually appropriate to a department is drawn.

An insightful and scholarly overview on benchmarking in Europe, its approaches, issues and implementation serves as the first two chapters of a UNESCO Higher Education Studies publication, written by Allan Schofield whose class in Institutional Management in the late 80’s I attended at the University of London’s Institute of Education. Mr. Schofield is owner and head of the Higher Education Consultancy Group in the UK based at Milton Keynes. <unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0011/001128/ 112 812 eo.pdf> and is a Key Associate at the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education

One source says there is “a tendency to use interchangeably ‘benchmark’ and ‘bench- marking.’” Benchmarks are metrics — are “reference points or measurements used for comparison, usually with the connotation that the benchmark is a ‘good’ standard against which comparison can be made,” while bench-marking, refers to a process of finding good practice and of learning from others.” www.jis cinfonet.ac.uk/infokits/benchmarking/what. The Higher Education Funding Council of England (HEFCE) defines benchmarking as “a process through which practices are analysed to provide a standard measurement (‘bench- mark’) of effective performance within an organisation” (such as a university).
Benchmarks are also used to compare performance with other organisations and other sectors. <en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HEFCE>

A British university academic participating in a benchmarking tour of the UK Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) offered a simple and pointed summary of the benchmarking process as a “way of not only doing the same things better but of discovering new, better and smarter ways of doing things and in the process of discovery, understanding why they are better or smarter.” https://www.hesa.ac.uk .


Varying viewpoints on benchmarking spawned different benchmarking typologies. Functional benchmarking refers to looking into best practice of any of Henri Fayol’s five management functions (planning, organizing, directing, coordinating and controlling).

Another, is internal performance benchmarking – such as when a department aspiring to improve licensure examination results chooses to look into how another department in the same HEI is able to arrive at such high ranking marks. Benchmarking to improve the licensing results as high or higher than those of a competing university is referred to as competitive performance benchmarking. Another source refers to this as sector benchmarking— comparing another university’s “performance outcomes using publicly available data or of processes and practices within the sector in selected areas with a view to identifying areas for improvement (Griffith University, 2012).”

<http://eacea.ec.europa.eu/ education/eurydice/documents/thematicreports/182EN.pdf> There is also the generic benchmarking which aims “to compare the processes of organizations in unrelated industries with the view to improve one’s company processes and as will likely be necessary, to create new standards.” http://ww w.businessdictionary.com/definition/generic-benchmarking.html. An example is adapting in the university a non-educational organization’s processes to foster innovations for better solutions to a problem which, bottom-line, improves company productivity. Quality circles in Japanese companies provide creative ways to improve on company practice and raise productivity. Similarly, a university may set up teams patterned after functions of quality circles which additionally, help build friendly competition among an HEI’s departments.

Whatever type of benchmarking, it is best practice to develop a specific, organized approach to its implementation. Taken in a university context, benchmarking involves “organizational comparison, organizational improvement, meeting or surpassing higher education best practices, developing outcomes and process objectives and establishing priorities, targets, goals.” <https://www.stat.auckland.ac.nz/~mullins/quality/ Benchmark.pdf> Involving more people in benchmarking processes reaps different perspectives, the synergy of which will generate more ideas, ensure more advocates for desired change to be realized. “While the literature on benchmarking extols the virtues of this practice, it must be, like any other worthy program, established into the organization as a working process.”

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Teresita Tanhueco-Tumapon PhD, is one of the Philippines most accomplished educators and experts on institutional management in colleges and universities. Her studies have included not only education and pedagogy but also literature. She has studied not only in the topmost universities in the Philippines but also in Germany, Britain and Japan. She is currently the Vice-President for External Relations and Internationalization of Liceo de Cagayan University (in Cagayan de Oro) after serving as its VP for Academic Affairs for six and a half years concurrent to her ten years as dean in the Graduate Studies of the same university. She holds a Lifetime Professional Achievement Award from the central office of the Commission on Higher Education.

ttumapon@gmail.com

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