CHEPS is currently rolling out the U-Map ‘profiling tool’; an instrument that makes the activity profile of individual higher education institutions transparent and publicly available.

U-Map was created in a series of intense and interactive processes involving many higher education stakeholders. This development process began in 2004 and has gone through various stages.

  • Stage 1 (2004-2005): Institutional Profiles
  • down2 Stage 2 (2006-2008): Mapping Diversity
  • down2 Stage 3 (2008-2010): U-Map
  • down2 Stage 4 (2010-2011): Implementation
  • down2 Stage 5 (2010-2011): U-Map in the Netherlands and the Nordic countries
  • down2 Stage 6 (2013 onwards): U-Map roll-out


Stage 1 (2004-2005): Institutional Profiles

In August 2005 we published the report: Institutional Profiles, Towards a Typology of Higher Education Institutions in Europe. This was the outcome of the first stage of U-Map.

The report outlines the results of our ideas on the development of a European classification of higher education institutions. To explore the idea of classifications and typologies for higher education, co-funding was received from the EU Socrates programme. The project was led by Frans van Vught with a small project team of CHEPS and other experts.

The report outlines a set of principles for designing a classification, as well as a first draft of a multi-dimensional classification. The dimensions that are relevant for classifying the activities are discussed as well as the indicators to measure them.

Dimensions and indicators were developed after an extensive process of consultation with stakeholders. We found strong support for the idea of a multi-dimensional classification for the many and diverse higher education institutions that are to be found in Europe: research universities, universities of applied sciences, grandes écoles, Fachhochschulen, hogescholen, politechnicos, colleges, art schools, etc. Our conclusion was that a European classification would create substantially more transparency within, across and beyond the national higher education systems.

Stage 2 (2006-2008): Mapping Diversity

In September 2008, the report of the second in the series of U-Map projects was published: Mapping Diversity: Developing a European Classification of Higher Education Institutions.

mapping-diversity-coverThe research team for this second project phase was again led by Frans van Vught and consisted of experts from CHEPS, as well as representatives of the Universities of Strathclyde and Aveiro and the German Hochschulrektorenkonferenz. As in the first phase, the second phase of the U-Map research project was co-funded in the framework of the EU Socrates programme.

The report included refinements to the dimensions and indicators included in the classification tool. A successful set of tests of the draft classification developed in Stage 1 were carried out in a significant number of European higher education institutions. This led to an adapted second draft of the classification and a further increase in the support among major stakeholders for a European classification.

Stage 3 (2008-2010): U-Map

Mapping the Higher Education LandscapeIn the third phase of the U-Map project we continued to fine-tune the dimensions and indicators in our classification that had been piloted in earlier stages.

We designed the on-line classification tools (the Finder and the Viewer) with a focus on the user-driven character of the tool and its visual attractiveness. In parallel, we continued the process of stakeholder consultations among higher education institutions, their associations, student organisations, policy organisations and business and industry.

A comprehensive report (including the idea of sunburst charts to represent institutional activity profiles) was published in January 2010.

The project was funded with the support of the European Commission through the Lifelong Learning/Erasmus Programme and undertaken by Frans van Vught and CHEPS with contributions from a group of 16 other experts.

In addition to this report, in 2009 Springer published the book: Mapping the Higher Education Landscape: Towards a European Classification of Higher Education, edited by Frans van Vught.

Stage 4 (2010-2011): Implementation

In the fourth phase of the U-Map project, the European Commission (through its Lifelong Learning Programme) continued its support by co-funding a CHEPS project to implement U-Map in selected European higher education systems. Higher education institutions from Estonia and Portugal as well as a selection of institutions from other European countries were included in U-Map. By October 2011, the U-Map database included data on 236 institutions.

During this project phase, we developed protocols, glossaries and formats for seminars and workshops to introduce institutional representatives to the tool. The U-Map team also worked on designing interactive activities that can be part of seminars where higher education representatives and other interested stakeholders and individuals meet to assess and compare higher education profiles and their implications.

A report describing the status of U-Map in 2011 is available for download below:

Stage 5 (2010-2011): U-Map in the Netherlands and the Nordic countries

U-Map’s users as well as its designers have come to realise that understanding similarities and differences between the activity profiles of higher education institutions is crucial – for those involved in running higher education institutions, for policy-makers in the field, as well as for students and academics themselves.

U-Map allows users to learn about the rich variety of institutions in their national systems and allows comparison with systems and institutions from other countries. For this reason, the Ministry of Education in the Netherlands and the Council of Nordic Ministers supported CHEPS in running U-Map projects in their countries to allow their higher education institutions (over 50 in the Netherlands and more than 100 in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) to be included in the U-Map profiling tool. Technical workshops were organised in each of the countries mentioned to help institutions submit their data and interpret the indicators included in the U-Map sunburst charts.

In October 2012, the results of implementing U-Map in the Nordic countries were discussed at a seminar organised in Copenhagen where participants were able to make use of U-Map’s web-based tools and to make sense of the diversity in institutional profiles present in the Nordic higher education systems.

Stage 6 (2013 onwards): U-Map roll-out

The objective of the U-Map team is now to implement the U-Map profiling tool across Europe and beyond, based on the significant amount of work Frans van Vught and CHEPS (with contributions from other partners) have put into the development of U-Map since November 2004.

The U-Map web-site has been upgraded and an automated system of handling data has been implemented.

The U-Map web tool also has a “members only” section that provides significant extra functionality in the areas of the use of U-Map for institutional research and benchmarking, a facility to find similar institutions; a system for institutional contact persons to communicate with each other and the U-Map team; and the possibility to add information on your institution and programmes to the U-Map website.