Identifying Excellence in Undergraduate Education: Are we even close?

E. T. Pascarella


Contends that the resources/reputation approach, which uses proxy variables to measure university quality, and the alumni outcomes approach, which may simply reflect institutional recruitment practices, are fundamentally flawed. Maintains that the effective educational practices approach is a major step forward; suggests that a combination of the methods may provide the best picture of institutional quality.


College Outcomes Assessment, Educational Practices, Educational Quality, Evaluation Methods, Undergraduate Study


This opinion piece questions the value of national ranking systems and proposes alternative ways that colleges and universities can be evaluated for public consumption. This is of high importance given 1) more schools are trying to provide a high-quality education given: 1a) there are increased public calls for school accountability as college prices continue to rise and 2) the current ranking system by national magazines provide surface-level evaluations based on ill-placed values. primarily, the author points to magazines’ resources plus exclusivity equals high quality education.

Instead of basing schools’ educational quality on the current values, the author wants to measure empirical, educationally-related data to decide rankings. This includes measurements such as “effective practices.” However, in order to have accurate measurements, the author wants exceedingly high response rates (70%-80%). However, the author is also careful to note that people should be cautious to make too many comparisons between schools as schools’ environments place different values on different aspects of the educational and student experience even if both claim to be “liberal arts colleges” or “research-driven universities.”

APA Citation

Pascarella, E. T. (2001). Identifying Excellence in Undergraduate Education Are We Even Close?. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 33(3), 18-23.

About the Study

Links to Article
Publication Type Journal Article
In Publication Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning
Type of Research Critical or postmodern
Research Design
Intervention/Areas of Study Engagement
Level of Analysis Other
Specific Populations Examined Other
Peer-Reviewed No
Specific Institutional Characteristics of Interest
Specific Course or Program Characteristics
Outcome Variables of Interest Academic achievement or performance, including assessment scores and course grades
Student Sample Size
Citing Articles,50&sciodt=0,50&hl=en