15 December 2022

When is our institutional strategic partnership a success?


To address the lack of quality assurance schemes designed for international strategic partnerships and to contribute to building better partnerships, UCPH joined a consortium of universities led by the University of Edinburgh to develop an Evaluation Framework aimed at these types of partnerships. Now the tool is available to be shared with other institutions. It aims to support those with a long tradition of international strategic partners as well as those embarking on their first journey into this area.

Members of The EVALUATE project consortium

Many universities, including UCPH, have engaged in institutional strategic partnerships over the last decade. However, answering the question “Is our institutional strategic partnership a success?” is difficult for many of us because the tools developed to support quality assurance of traditional partnerships are inadequate to grasp the complexity of these partnerships.

The EVALUATE project provides tools to design and carry out evaluations of institutional strategic partnerships. Evaluation can provide evidence to better understand the value of a partnership. This evidence can be used to inform decision-making and, in that way, qualify which partnerships you enter as well as improve the quality of your existing partnerships.

The handbook – a tool

The findings of the EVALUATE project consortium are presented in a handbook: Basically, it is an evaluation framework developed by researchers at the Centre for Science and Technology Studies at Leiden University (CWTS) and ‪Science and Technology Studies at the University of Edinburgh grounded in existing evaluation theory. The framework presents key questions to guide the design of evaluations and the methods to apply. The handbook also contains an anthology of case studies with first-hand accounts of building partnerships and doing evaluations. These accounts include insights into pitfalls along with inspirational examples of the benefits evaluation can bring. The handbook also includes an extensive literature review.

Doing an evaluation – what should it cover?

There is no simple answer to this question; the design of an evaluation completely depends on the purpose. One way to start is by asking Who wants the evaluation and what is the purpose? If the aim is to identify ways to improve the quality of the partnership, the evaluation might be designed as a paired evaluation involving both partner universities. If the aim is to identify a potential partnership in a region, the evaluation design will be completely different and focus on internal stakeholders and their goals.    

An ongoing task

It is the ambition of the consortium to inspire partnership development professionals in higher education to engage in evaluations and ultimately contribute to building better partnerships through evaluation. A strategic partnership constantly evolves and changes, just like the universities engaged in the partnership, and the task of building the partnership is never completed. However, raised awareness of how evaluations can contribute to better partnerships and the skills to carry out evaluations are important tools to qualify this development.

By Sara Dinesen and Anne Bruun