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ERIC Number: ED507005
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Nov
Pages: 59
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 36
The Spaces between Numbers: Getting International Data on Higher Education Straight
Adelman, Clifford
Institute for Higher Education Policy
This report seeks to answer four questions about data used every day in comparing higher education in the United States with that in other countries, particularly the 30 advanced post-industrial democracies, including the United States, that are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). These questions are: (1) Why does policy-support research and commentary seek to compare national higher education systems in terms of student participation and attainment? (2) What do we find when we start assembling all the numbers and tables addressing these markers that are produced by both international organizations and national statistical agencies and ministries? (3) Does what we find tell a story that helps all nations participating in the measurements address their primary objectives for their higher education systems? and (4) If not, then what changes and additions to our international data gathering and comparisons would provide that assistance? This report reveals that U.S. graduation rates remain comparable to those of other developed countries despite news stories about our nation losing its global competitiveness because of slipping college graduation rates. The only major difference--the data most commonly highlighted, but rarely understood--is the categorization of graduation rate data. The United States measures its attainment rates by "institution" while other developed nations measure their graduation rates by "system." Appended to this report are: (1) Non-Country-Specific References; (2) Appreciation for Clarifiers and Providers of Data and/or Translation Assistance; and (3) Qualifications and Sources. (Contains 8 tables and 19 footnotes.)
Institute for Higher Education Policy. 1320 19th Street NW Suite 400, Washington, DC 20036. Tel: 202-861-8223; Fax: 202-861-9307; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Numerical/Quantitative Data; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Lumina Foundation for Education
Authoring Institution: Institute for Higher Education Policy
Identifiers - Location: Japan; United States