General questions about SET4HEI:

Can I first do the self-assessment and then decide if I want to request the paid accreditation process? 

Yes. Doing the self-assessment is always free and independent of whether you want to obtain the certification afterwards. In any case, the certification option will only be available later in 2024.

What makes this tool different from other institutional or commercial certifications? 

SET4HEI is free, online, and open (accessible without registration and without the need to belong to an institutional network). Additionally, SET4HEI is designed to have global relevance, allowing each user’s results to be independent of others’ scores, as the tool is not focused on generating rankings or other relative scores. Finally, SET4HEI is the only tool that, in addition to these features, allows the measurement of each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) separately and accross each of the university’s three missions (teaching, research, and engagement) plus its management, enabling a multidimensional and comprehensive assessment of its institutional contribution to economic, social, and environmental sustainability.

For more details, please refer to the “general methodology” section of the user guide or check the section ‘Why this tool’. 

Technical questions about the tool:

What is considered an average score? And an outstanding score? 

The self-assessment is designed so that any institution can, potentially, reach the maximum score, since this depends exclusively on their own actions (the scores do not change based on what other users have replied, as ranking-oriented methodologies may do). It is also important to consider that the institutions that use the assessment are probably already a biased sample, as they have at least shown interest in their sustainability impact. A comparison with the average score is, therefore, not as informative as the evolution of an institution’s own score over time. 

In any case, the self-assessment is intended as a practical tool for improving every institution’s sustainability impact. Therefore, it is designed so that most institutions can get some points, some institutions can get most points and almost none can get all points. If too many institutions are nearing the maximum score, that would be a sign that the indicators are not demanding enough, and that the bar should be raised for future editions of the questionnaire. Likewise, if too many institutions were obtaining very low scores, the methodology would be reviewed so that the indicators recognize smaller steps in the right direction and basic enabling policies. 

Why some questions allow to answer ‘Not applicable’, and how does this affect the score? 

When you select ‘Not applicable’, that indicator will not be considered for calculating the score of that SDG (as if that indicator did not exist). 

‘Not applicable’ is typically offered as an answer when the HEI cannot fulfill the requirement of the indicator to no fault of their own, or no value would be added if they did. For example, when the good or service that the indicator is asking about is already offered by the government. In this case, it would not make sense to give the HEI extra points, or penalize it, for something beyond their control. 

Likewise, it is also offered to avoid double penalization for elements that are already considered in a previous indicator. For example, if one indicator asks about whether the HEI provides a certain type of program and this is not the case, then that HEI will be later able to select ‘Not applicable’ instead of ‘No’ when another indicator asks further questions about the details of that program (e.g., its curricula). 

Are there indicators which apply to several SDGs at the same time? 

By their very multifaceted nature, several SDGs are closely related. Indeed, some aspects of HEIs operations can contribute to several SDGs at the same time, e.g., free tuition fees can support access to higher education (SDG 4.3), provide opportunities for low-income students (SDG 1), and reduce discrimination by economic status (SDG 10.2). 

The self-assessment indicators, however, do not repeat from one SDG to another. Two or more indicators may make emphasis on different aspects of a similar good practice. As a methodological choice, it is accepted that if one good practice can have a positive impact on several SDGs, then it is justified that it contributes to the score of several SDGs. 

In which language(s) is SET4HEI available?

SET4HEI is initially available only in English. A translation to Spanish is soon expected to be available. If you are interested in having SET4HEI in other languages, let us know about it!