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The Newman Benchmark: An Evaluation Framework for Catholic Universities

In recent years, various rankings (Shanghai, Times Higher Education) have emerged to rate universities in an increasingly competitive environment. However, these rankings are based on limited scientific criteria and overlook values that are essential to today’s societies.

Echoing a growing number of initiatives around the world to promote USR, the Newman Benchmarking Framework is a viable alternative to current rankings. By conveying principles and values that are in line with the humanist and Catholic tradition of the Church, this tool places the notion of responsibility at the heart of university life and of the entire community.

The Framework is the result of a three-year collaborative endeavor and includes some 160 indicators and twenty criteria sorted into 4 different areas:
- institutional governance
- environmental protection efforts
- practices as an employer and in the implementation of the "three missions”
- overall consistency with regard to institutional identity

Thanks to a partnership with the GMAP Center think tank, the Newman Benchmarking Framework is the first of its kind to rely on the use of artificial intelligence in order to offer an evaluation system that is both dynamic and respectful of the context diversity of universities. Access to this evaluation and foresight tool will enable universities to take stock of their current USR performance and obtain solid data that will help them redefine their institutional development strategies.

Providing visibility and quantifiability for their USR policies and practices will allow Catholic universities to promote their singular added value in the higher education landscape.

Read our Special Newsletter on the IFCU Newman Framework

Information-Contact: Dr. Montserrat Alom -
International Federation of Catholic Universities
21, rue d’Assas
75270 París Cedex 06
Tel: 33 1 44 39 39 39 52 26/27
Fax: 33 1 44 39 39 39 52 28

Principles of the Assessment System

The principles of the University Social Responsibility (USR) Assessment System of the International Federation of Catholic Universities (IFCU) are presented in the companion document « A Reference Framework for Assessing University Social Responsibility. From theory to practice”. Higher education institutions (HEIs) wishing to be assessed are strongly recommended to read this document, which will be sent to them upon acceptance of their application.

The system is based on the Newman Benchmarking Framework, a framework made up of around 160 indicators and twenty criteria grouped into 4 main areas, which cover all of the policies and practices inherent to any higher education establishment. In addition to offering a holistic approach, the Newman framework is the very first to use an advanced artificial intelligence (AI) system, named Mileva, to analyze and supplement the data provided, as well as to calculate the performance of the HEIs evaluated, while sending them personalized suggestions for improvement. Thanks to its innovative methodology, it is also the only USR assessment system that is both dynamic and respectful of the diversity of contexts in which the establishments to be assessed are located.

The framework is likely to evolve over time depending on the transformations taking place in our current societies; updates are therefore expected in the medium term.

Institutions eligible for Evaluation

The system is open to all Catholic higher education establishments, both members and non-members of the Federation.

In order for their evaluation request to be admissible, non-member HEIs must provide, as an annex to their application, the official document of recognition of their quality as a Catholic HEI awarded by the Congregation for Catholic Education.

Application Procedure

HEIs must indicate their interest in being assessed by completing the online form available on the IFCU website, under the heading « University social responsibility ». At this stage, the HEIs must also send, signed, dated and stamped, the Charter of Commitment, which can be downloaded from the website. This Charter specifies the respective commitments of IFCU, on the one hand, and of the establishment applying for accreditation, on the other. It sets out the responsibilities, rights and duties of each of the two partners as part of the accreditation scheme. The Charter must be sent, scanned, to the email indicated on the form.

Non-member HEIs must also provide a copy of the official document of recognition as a Catholic HEI awarded by the Congregation for Catholic Education, by sending it to the email on the form.

Once the application has been approved, the person appointed as main interlocutor within the applicant HEI will receive confirmation from IFCU, as well as an order to pay the evaluation fees.

Following payment of the fees, said interlocutor will receive the access codes to the online platform on which he will have to enter the required information, as well as upload the requested documents in support of the data provided. The online platform will be available both in English and Spanish.

Information can be entered as soon as the platform is opened, that is, on April 1st of each year, and until August 31st of the same year.

IFCU reserves the right to request additional information from applicant HEIs.

The results will then be analyzed by the Mileva AI system and communicated to each HEI between September and October of the same year via the online platform (dashboard). The Dashboard will be available both in English and Spanish. One or more labels will also be granted at that time, if applicable. A communication concerning the attribution of the label (s), their logo (s) as well as the Performance Charter describing its attribution will be sent to the beneficiary institutions.

Application Form

Please download, fill out and return the application form

Granting and Validity of Labels

The accreditation system consists of a total of 4 USR labels, one for each of the main areas covered by the evaluation, as described below:

  • USR Governance label

  • USR Environment label

  • USR Social Practices Label

  • USR Identity label

The granting of a label for each of the 4 main areas of the Newman framework is conditional on obtaining the threshold scores:

  • Between 35% and 49%: one-star label

  • Between 50% and 74%: two-star label

  • Above 75%: three-star label

A score below 35% does not entitle HEIs to obtain a label in the field concerned.

One or more labels may therefore be granted according to the criteria fulfilled by the HEIs evaluated.

The labels will have a validity period of 3 years.

The year in which the label is granted will appear on each of the logos received. They will be valid from their allocation and this for the following 36 months.

Given the date of label granting, which is planned for the last quarter of each calendar year, a label obtained at the end of 2020 will thus be valid until the end of 2023. The conditions of validity of the labels will also be indicated on the Performance Charter which will be sent to the evaluated establishments.

Calendar of Evaluation Sessions

There will be one labeling session per year.

The evaluation session begins on April 1st of each year and ends on August 31st of the same year.

Institutions wishing to be evaluated must make a request to IFCU, preferably before the start date of the annual evaluation session. They will receive the codes allowing them to have access to the online evaluation platform, after payment of the evaluation fees. The platform will open on April 1st of each year. The institutions will have until the end of August to provide the required data and documents through the platform.

The results of the evaluation will be communicated between September and October of the same year. At that time, USR labels will also be awarded to institutions fulfilling the stipulated criteria.

Evaluation schedule:

1 session per year

Opening of the platform: from April 1st to August 31st

Communication of results: between September and October of the same year

Due to the Covid-19 outbreak, the assessment period will begin in September and run until December 2020.

Application Renewal

The HEIs already evaluated will have the possibility to request an update before or after the expiration of the validity date of the labels received, given the case, with a view to improving their score and therefore obtaining missing labels.

They will have to re-apply using the form available on the site, but this time checking the box « HEI already assessed » and then pay the assessment fees.

As soon as the annual evaluation campaign opens, higher education institutions already assessed will be able to access their data, available on the online platform, in order to update them. They will therefore not have to introduce all the data this time, but rather to modify those linked to fields which have undergone changes.

The procedure for the analysis and label granting will take place in accordance with the annual calendar provided.


The HEIs concerned will be free to showcase the labels on their websites or on any other communication medium. They will, however, be required to comply at all times with the logo and graphic charter of the original label, which must be common to all of the labeled institutions.

The dissemination of the Performance Charter indicating the conditions for the award of labels is the responsibility of each establishment.

IFCU may display the names of the HEIs evaluated and, where appropriate, labeled, on its site or on any other means of communication, but it undertakes not to present them in the form of a ranking or similar classification.

Evaluation Fees

The evaluation fees must be paid upon receipt of a favorable response to the submitted application.

The HEIs that are affiliated to the Federation have the possibility of being assessed at very advantageous rates.

Fees for IFCU affiliated institutions: 400 euros

Fees for IFCU non-affiliated institutions: 1,500 euros

The terms of payment will be communicated at the time of acceptance of the application.

Documents of the Assessment System