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Efficacy and Impact of Key Performance Indicators as Perceived by Key Informants in Ontario Universities

Abstract: The issue of performance indicators for colleges and universities in Ontario was first raised in the early 1990s by the Ministry of Education and Training’s Task Force on University Accountability. The decision to develop and use Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) was made in the 1990s (Ministry of Education and Training, 1998). The three KPIs for Ontario universities are Graduation Rates, Employments Rates, and OSAP Loan Default Rates. The declared purposes of the publication of the KPIs evolved over time. Initially, they were to enable parents and students with data to inform post-secondary education choice. The purposes then became benchmarks without any clear indication of what constituted satisfactory or unsatisfactory performance. Performance funding based on KPIs introduced a third phase. Finally, they were to influence the universities' programming behaviour without government’s direct intervention. The overall intent was to help universities improve their performance (MTCU, 2012). My study focused on the impact of KPIs on Ontario universities 10 years after they were instituted. This exploratory and descriptive study examined the history of why and how KPIs were introduced in Ontario and the perception of 12 key informants of 11 participating universities regarding the efficacy and effectiveness of the existing KPIs. The study sought to identify areas of concern of the participants and their suggestions on how the KPIs can be altered to improve their effectiveness. The findings provide an understanding of the impact of the KPIs and suggested alternatives, and provide valuable information and a potential source for evidence-based MTCU policy decisions that impact Ontario’s universities and their stakeholders. The findings suggest that a review and redefinition of the theory of accountability as applied in Ontario universities are required as the initial interpretation of accountability defined by the three KPIs is too narrow to be pragmatically useful. Most university participants perceived that the current KPIs are not having the intended impact. I recommend that both parties work together and be clear on each other’s goals and expectations to develop effective measures on institutional performance and accountability, and to satisfy the needs of the government, the universities and the public.

Author: Vivian Chan

Source: University of Toronto - TSpace

Size: 636.97 KB
Last Updated: August 4, 2015