Higher Education Capacity Diagnostics for Guiding Policy and Practice: A Case Study from Panama
Svenson, Nanette Archer
De Gracia, Guillermina
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Over the past twenty years, many sectors have used capacity diagnostics for mapping and analyzing the skills needed for national development at individual, organizational and institutional levels. These diagnostics, also sometimes referred to as "needs assessments" or "gap analyses," are systematic investigations carried out prior to or during an ongoing program, project or productive activity as a means to gaining insight on discrepancies between current and desired conditions with a view to improving performance, designing new processes, and/or correcting deficiencies. This article presents a model for adapting capacity diagnostics to assess higher education for (1) documentation of existing resources in specific institutions or disciplines, and (2) quantification of labor market perceptions of current assets and gaps, with a view to facilitating planning for and development of required curricular, research and personnel capacities. The model is illustrated with a case study from the Republic of Panama where the National Secretariat for Science, Technology and Innovation (SENACYT) conducted a study with Tulane University to assess the country's higher education and research in the social sciences. This article further explores the potential for this higher education diagnostic to serve as a tool for academia supply-labor market demand gap analysis elsewhere, which has far-reaching implications for countries and states in terms of competitiveness at national and global levels--particularly for developing regions.