"Benchmarking in European Higher Education activities are designed to improve the use of benchmarking in higher education. Benchmarking is a powerful management tool designed to help modernise higher education management and to promote the attractiveness of European Higher Education. It supports HEIs and policy makers to better realise the Lisbon goals and the Bologna Process. New Benchmarking group on internationalisation, January 2012.

Benchmarking to enhance performance in internationalisation

Benchmarking is increasingly widespread in both the private and public sector as a means to measure the performance of products, services or processes through comparison with best practice. It requires the organisations to review their performance, identify strengths and weaknesses and take action for improvement against an agreed set of standards. Benchmarking can be carried out by a single organisation but collaborative benchmarking with compatible partners has gained in popularity.
Although it is not yet extensively used in European higher education, there is an increasing interest in both quality and performance measurement, as a number of different initiatives and projects testify. ESMU has carried out several projects for benchmarking in higher education and produced a range of publications (

There are many benefits for participants in a collaborative benchmarking group. They will be able to:
- self-assess their institution, identifying their strengths and weaknesses
- better understand the processes which support strategy formulation and implementation in increasingly competitive environments
- gain knowledge of good processes and learn about practices to make organisational improvements
- obtain data to support decision-making for new strategic developments
- assess the competitiveness of their institution
- set reachable targets for improvement.
Benchmarking also has the potential to stimulate and support processes of change. A shared set of standards and targets enables universities to visualise a pathway for improvement and if the outcomes are successful, benchmarking will create new ways of working that encourage continuous learning for strategic institutional developments through the comparison of practices with other institutions.

While formal benchmarking tools are still relatively unusual in higher education, many institutions are already using some form of informal benchmarking either internally or through comparison with partners or competitors identified as peer institutions.
As internationalisation is increasingly integrated into strategic processes, it is becoming essential for universities to be able make informed decisions on institutional direction, as well as assess and enhance performance according to different objectives over a wide range of international activities. The task is a complex one since it is not only an issue of academic programmes and partnerships, but also involves key organisational aspects such as governance, operations, human resources and finance.
Beyond the sharing of best practice amongst the group members, benchmarking, when used appropriately, can make a significant contribution to strategic goals and the quality of internationalisation. It provides significant information for senior management that can not only lead to improved understanding and awareness but also enhance stakeholder engagement. It provides valuable support to decision-making processes, raises visibility and reputation and strengthens competitive advantage.

This project is ideal for universities that are currently engaged in, or planning to embark upon, a strategic review of their internationalisation activities with a view to enhancing their role and contribution to overall institutional performance. Universities that commit to this one-year project will:
- review activities in the field of internationalisation and assess current level of performance
- understand better the processes that support the formulation of an internationalisation strategy
- gain knowledge on best practices to make organisational improvements and mainstream internationalisation strategy
- obtain data to support decision-making for the further development of the internationalisation strategy by setting realistic targets for improvement.
See also on the blog: EU education benchmarks – good progress, but not enough, Benchmarking Conference, 2010 Benchmarking Workshops.