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This study from RAND Europe was commissioned, in partnership with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Higher Education Academy, to look at national and international practice related to measures of learning gain. The research draws upon a national and international literature review, a call for information to institutions, and interviews with selected institutions and professional accrediting bodies.

Key findings of the report are:

  1. Learning gain has been defined and conceptualised in a number of ways. For the report it is defined as the ‘distance travelled’, or the improvement in knowledge, skills, work-readiness and personal development demonstrated by students at two points in time. 
  2. Learning gain represents one among a number of potential measures of a high quality student experience.
  3. There is some awareness of the learning gain concept in English higher education, but understanding varies across the sector, and use of measures is nascent.
  4. A variety of methodological approaches could be used to measure learning gain, serving a range of developmental and accountability purposes. 
  5. There is, therefore, a need for robust piloting of the validity and feasibility of the various different approaches to measuring learning gain within the English context, underpinned by dialogue with the sector and experts to build understanding and secure buy-in for further steps.

Date: 21 September 2015

Ref: Independent research