The Measuring Global Performance Initiative

The Impact of the Bologna Process and International Comparative Higher Education Information on U.S. Policy


In 2007, the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) launched an initiative to create a new understanding of the rapidly changing global context for higher education learning and credentialing and the impact of these changes on U.S. higher education.

The U.S. higher education system, the world’s most complex, is imperfectly struggling with accountability issues, as evidenced by the array of contradictory policy debates that have unfolded at the federal and state levels about what higher education does, how it does it, and how we can tell if it is working. This confusion can particularly be observed in the many recent national and state reports, commissions, and policymaker pronouncements that have adopted an international competitiveness stance asserting that the U.S. higher education system is falling behind other nations in access and attainment rates, and that U.S. students in general are simply not as successful as their global counterparts.

But educational attainment data derived from credentials awarded and an occasional test doesn’t tell us very much about what has been learned, about what specific knowledge and skills that are coming into the labor market and community life—whether in individual countries, regions, or entire continents. The content of credentials raises the venerable issue of degree equivalence and quality assurance both across and within borders. Without an assessment of that content and the quality of delivery systems, we are left with imprecise proxy measures, such as graduation rates—that tell us little about higher education’s contribution to both economic and social life and individual advancement.

The Measuring Global Performance Initiative project, funded by Lumina Foundation for Education, works to unravel what is largely a mysterious, abstract discussion to the U.S. policy audience and makes it concrete by exploring two key areas of interest: what U.S. higher education can learn from the reconstruction of European higher education begin carried out under the Bologna Process, and potential ways to construct more enlightening international comparative indicators of participation, pathways, and attainment in higher education.

The Measuring Global Performance Initiative project includes both plain language policy briefs aimed at state and federal legislators, agency staff, and senior institutional leaders (e.g., presidents, trustees, and faculty) as well as more detailed technical analyses (i.e., peer-reviewed by international experts) focused on researchers and data coordinators.