Day one at the EUNIS Conference in Warsaw and I attended some interesting presentations. Top of the list was the opening address by Lech Walesa. He clearly still has the people’s interest still at heart encouraging society to invest in those that are not as competent in order to improve the standard of the whole. The importance of defining values was another key element of his message. It was clear, even from an address that was broken up by the need for translation into English, that he retains a passion for social justice.
One of the better presentations during the day talked about the Italian graduate database AlmaLaurea. The database holds student and graduate data, including students’ assessments of their experience of their university. They survey their graduate body one, three and five years after graduation and are planning a ten year survey. They manage to achieve very high response rates to their surveys with 76% completing the five year survey. Part of this success is due to the fact that they initially survey the students just before graduation with the result that the respondents then know what to expect of the future surveys. The data is made available to universities via a query tool, and to external agencies such as researchers and the press through a series of static reports. I recall a presentation from the AlmaLaurea group last year where they highlighted the work that they have done to identify the incoming student cohort aims and ambitions. So they have a strong body of data covering the pre- and post-university experience in addition to the core student data. Finally the system includes a CV distribution service where employers can request (purchase) CVs.
The UK approach to graduate information is slightly different in that the institutions collect the first return from their graduates six months after completing their studies with HESA engaging an external agency for the three year survey. With graduate employment one of the key performance indicators for institutions, there is a significant resource invested in ensuring a good response rate. Perhaps we have something to learn from our Italian counterparts where data is collected by the central agency directly from the graduate.
AlmaLaurea is one of a number of consortia operating in the Italian university sector. Cineca is another which develops the student records system and related tools for Italian universities and provides student data to the Government, universities and researchers. With shared services identified as a key part to getting through the recession, it looks as if we could learn a lot from our Italian counterparts.