The U-Map project

The concept of diversity has moved rapidly up the political agenda of European higher education over the past decade. The development of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) and the European Research Area (ERA) has clearly contributed to this. Global debates about world class universities and international competition in higher education and the growing popularity of rankings and league tables have both triggered awareness that the diversity of European higher education is a potential strength but that a better understanding of this diversity is needed.

In August 2005 we published a report Institutional Profiles, towards a Typology of Higher Education Institutions in Europe outlining the results of the first phase of a research project on the development of a European classification of higher education institutions. This phase produced a set of principles for designing the classification as well as a first draft of a multi-dimensional classification including an appropriate set of dimensions (and indicators to measure them). Both were developed after an extensive process of consultation with stakeholders. We found strong support for the idea of a multi-dimensional classification – in contrast to an aggregated ranking.

Our conclusion was that Europe would profit from a classification of its many and diverse higher education institutions. As the Carnegie Classification has done in the USA since the early 1970’s, a European classification would create substantially more transparency within, across and beyond our higher education systems from which many actors would benefit.

In September 2008 we published a second report, Mapping Diversity: Developing a European Classification of Higher Education Institutions reflecting the progress made in the second phase of the project. This included refinements to the dimensions and their indicators; a successful set of tests of the draft classification in a significant number of European higher education institutions; an outline of an organisational model for the institutionalisation of the classification; and a further increase in the support for a European classification among the major stakeholders.

In October 2008 the third and final phase of the project started. In this phase we evaluated and fine-tuned the dimensions and their indicators; finalised the on-line classification tools; developed a final organisational model for the implementation of the classification; and continued the process of stakeholder consultation and discussion that has been a hallmark of the project since its inception in 2005.

The final report of the U-Map project was published in January 2010.

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