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Can I be taught by someone like me?

Students will be able to look at new indices to determine whether a university is a good fit for them before they enrol, as a result of research from Curtin University’s Open Knowledge Initiative (COKI).

The COKI team have developed one of the most comprehensive sets of measures to evaluate university performance – and have found that high status universities that usually top conventional league tables often perform quite poorly on other measures.

In a new paper, Mapping Open Knowledge Institutions: an exploratory analysis of Australian universities, published in Peer J, Dr Chun-Kai (Karl) Huang and members of the COKI team identified 27 measures that demonstrate different aspects of university performance and applied them to 43 Australian universities.

The paper is the first to provide a framework for evaluating the value of the universities as open knowledge institutions – universities which provide not only digital open access, but also demonstrate a commitment to diversity, equity and transparency.

The research found out many new characteristics of universities – including that wealthier, larger universities tended to have less gender and cultural diversity of staff than smaller universities.

“Students who care about whether they are likely to have the chance of being taught by a woman, or an Aboriginal lecturer, or someone from a more diverse background will be able to see which universities are more likely to offer that, using these measures,” Dr Huang said.

“Traditional rankings tend to have a very strong emphasis on research output, but students often don’t care a lot about that.

“The measures we evaluated look at how universities perform as open knowledge institutions. Do they have a level playing field in terms of who is allowed onto their staff to make knowledge and teach it? And what is their record like in sharing their research findings freely?”

The COKI project, founded in 2018, has developed the world’s largest database of open knowledge indicators, drawing in data from public sources around the world to create new insights into the role and performance of universities.

Because the COKI project is headquartered in Australia, the team decided to analyse the open knowledge performance of Australian universities first, and have the capability to examine the performance of universities around the world, using similar methodology.

“We have found out many insights as a result of the Australian analysis which will be interesting to examine in the university systems of other nations,” Dr Huang said.

“For example, analysis of annual reports indicates that most universities say they are committed to sharing results of their research with their communities, but only three allocated funds to pay for open access publishing.

“Also, the universities with strongest levels of national collaboration tend to be smaller, less well-resourced institutions – the wealthier institutions can afford travel and have much bigger focus on international collaborations.

“And the data indicates that if you are Aboriginal and/or female, you may increase your chances of promotion if you relocate to smaller, regional universities.

“It is possible that universities that allow themselves to be staffed predominantly by older white men risk missing out on a diversity of ideas and networks – and in future may risk missing out on student enrolments from people seeking a more diverse education experience.”

To read the full paper visit: