Beyond the metrics: the importance of intangible assets in the HE context


  • Fiona Smart Edinburgh Napier University
  • Elizabeth Cleaver
  • Alastair Robertson



performativity, market-driven initiatives, intangible assets, evidencing value, cultural mapping


As a statement of fact, the Higher Education (HE) sector gathers data. Commonly these data are metrical in format, used in some way to report on some aspect of performativity, whether within the institution or beyond its bounds. This paper does not seek to dispute the need for measurement, but it does argue the limitations of metric-based proxies alone if we are to truly understand the space of the university and how it operates in the interests of students, staff, employers, government and all other stakeholders. Our interest in the limitation of metrics in the HE context inspired a study funded by QAA (Scotland). The study focused on capturing, evidencing and affirming intangible elements of HE that are not easily counted or quantified, but form key aspects of an institution’s identity, culture and ethos, described by us as intangible assets.
This brief paper provides an overview of our study and its outcomes to date. In presenting our progress and conceptual framework, we are inviting reflection, constructive comment and further dialogue in respect of the model itself, and its helpfulness in re-prioritising qualitative data in our assessment of our assets in higher education.

Author Biography

Fiona Smart, Edinburgh Napier University

I am an experienced academic who has worked in a range of settings in different roles. My twin passions are the student experience and the support of academic staff.

My PhD locates in Applied Social Science and focused on the development of the paediatric nurse practitioner role in two settings.


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