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Glossary of terms used on this site

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Term Definition

A standard, a reference point, or a criterion against which the quality of something can be measured, judged, and evaluated, and against which outcomes of a specified activity can be measured. The term, benchmark, means a measure of best practice performance. The definition of a benchmark is one necessary step in the overall process of benchmarking.


Explicit national statements of academic standards or outcomes for individual subjects. Some countries (e.g., the United Kingdom) develop benchmarks of this type in regard to a certain group of subjects as part of their quality assurance process.


A standardized method for collecting and reporting critical operational data in a way that enables relevant comparisons among the performances of different organizations or programmes, usually with a view to establishing good practice, diagnosing problems in performance, and identifying areas of strength. Benchmarking gives the organization (or the programme) the external references and the best practices on which to base its evaluation and to design its working processes.


A superior method or an innovative process involving an actual accepted range of safe and reasonable practices resulting in the improved performance of a higher education institution or programme, usually recognized as “best” by other peer organizations. A best practice does not necessarily represent an absolute, ultimate example or pattern, the application of which assures the improved performance of a higher education institution or programme; rather, it has to do with identifying the best approach to a specific situation, as institutions and programmes vary greatly in constituencies and scope.

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