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Benchmarking can involve a range of different types of external and internal comparisons for different purposes, including comparisons of outcomes and processes. Comparisons can be made against:
Recent literature focuses on using benchmarking as a tool for learning which builds on an evaluation of performance to identify good practices that can be applied or adapted to improve the institution’s performance.
“Benchmarking is, first and foremost, a learning process structured so as to enable those engaging in the process to compare their services/activities/products in order to identify their comparative strengths and weaknesses as a basis for self improvement and/or self-regulation.” (Jackson and Lund (2000). Benchmarking for Higher Education. Buckingham, Open University Press.)
The following definitions are offered to provide clarity in discussions about benchmarking.
Benchmark: point of reference/ standard against which something can be compared.
Benchmarking: process whereby an organisation (or area) compares its inputs, processes and/or outputs with those of other organisation/s (or area/s).
Standard: a fixed criterion or reference point against which quality can be judged; AUQA defines a standard as ‘an agreed specification or other criterion used as a rule, guideline, or definition of a level of achievement’.