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EU/CoE PROJECT “STRENGTHENING HIGHER EDUCATION REFORMS IN SERBIA” Conference on self-evaluation of higher education institutions Belgrade, Serbia, 10-11 July 2008.
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“STRENGTHENING HIGHER EDUCATION REFORMS IN SERBIA”
Conference on self-evaluation of higher education institutions
Belgrade, Serbia, 10-11 July 2008
Experiences of self-evaluation:The case of GreeceDionyssis KladisProfessor in Higher Education PolicyUniversity of the Peloponnese, Greece
Stipulates procedures for internal and external quality assurance
Establishes the external quality assurance agency (Hellenic Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education = HQAA).
Appointment of the chairperson and the members of the HQAA (September 2006)
First steps by HQAA to foster implementation (2006-07): Standards and criteria for QA (in compliance with ESGs)
Guidelines for implementing internal/external quality assurance
Formation of the required bodies at the institutional level (Quality Assurance Unit = QAU) and at the faculty level (Internal Evaluation Groups = IEG) in many (?)HEIs and Faculties (2007-08)
Activation of the procedures for internal quality assurance in many (?)Faculties (2007-08)
Action Plan of HQAA for implementation
All Faculties in the Greek HEIs of both higher education sectors (i.e. university and non-university ones) will operate their internal evaluation procedures and will undergo their first external evaluation in the four-year period from 2007-08 up to 2010-11.
A very ambitious and difficult to implement plan, given the huge number of Faculties in Greece (more than 250 Faculties in the university sector and more than 200 Faculties in the non-university sector). First attempt ever.
The attitude in Greek universities (!?)
Negative attitude in Greece against quality assurance (among academics, among students, even among rectors)
The general Greek mentality against any type of control
The lack of trust between the State and the HEIs
The negative attitude makes implementation of the quality assurance system an extremely difficult affair. This is why the action plan of HQAA is very ambitious and rather non-realistic.
Internal quality assurance may be implemented in a mechanical way and may be transformed into an artificial process, without improving quality in reality.
The Greek paradox
However, eight (8) out of the eighteen (18) autonomous Greek universities have participated voluntarily in the EUA’s Institutional Evaluation Programme between 1996 and 2005.
Interesting note (connected to the Greek mentality): No one of the 8 universities in Athens has participated (!?)
Two kinds of experience in Greece: Before and after the establishment of the legislative framework, the year 2005 being the turning-point.
The experience before 2005 is directly connected to the evaluations carried out by EUA, following its methodology regarding the internal processes, i.e. the self-evaluation process. This is experience from real practice.
The experience after 2005 does not come from real practice, at least so far. It should, therefore, be considered as a “theoretical experience”, as it is only related to the existing framework, i.e. the provisions of the Law and the guidelines of the HQAA.
EUA’s methodology for self-evaluation
The self-evaluation process has three objectives:
A.To prepare the self-evaluation report
B. To make the wider part of the university community aware of the process and capable to participate actively in the subsequent phases of the external evaluation, namely in the two site-visits of the external evaluation team
C. To establish and/or to maintain a quality culture within the university
Hence, the self-evaluation process is approached both as an ad hoc process, being part (the most important and valuable) of the external evaluation and as a permanent process integrated into the overall institutional structures and processes, aiming at continuous quality improvement.
Key issues for self-evaluation according to EUA
Establishment of a self-evaluation steering group, consisting of persons with expertise/experience in quality assurance issues and/or with key roles in the Institution’s life and operation.
The self-evaluation steering group operates independently from the leadership of the Institution. However, the leadership supervises the overall process.
Wider possible engagement of the community in the self-evaluation process. Establishment of a wide, honest and open-minded dialogue within the Institution.
Self-evaluation should be a grass-roots process. Only bottom-up approaches may have sustainable long-term implications on quality and can build a quality culture within the Institution.
Key issues for self-evaluation according to EUA
Self-evaluation should be based on strategic thinking.
The self-evaluation report should be based on concrete documentation and data analysis and should present a comprehensive outline of the current situation of the Institution (through the SWOT methodology) and a clear view for the future expectations and prospects (connected to its vision, its mission and its strategy).
Conclusions from the Greek experience with EUA
The self-evaluation exercise was in general useful to the Institutions, in the sense that it helped them realise their strengths and weaknesses (and primarily the reasons for them) through a systematic analysis and that it served as a training process in quality issues, though for a rather small number of academics and administrative staff.
However, the self-evaluation exercise did not help in building a sustainable quality culture within the institutions. Self-evaluation was rather a top-down than a bottom-up process. The engagement of the community was rather weak in almost all cases. Consequently, it did not help in changing attitudes and mentalities with regards to quality issues.
The above conclusions explain why there was no tradition built in the 8 Greek universities that took part in the EUA’s process. And this explains consequently the abovementioned Greek paradox. The EUA’s exercises did not prepare the ground and did not build the necessary conditions throughout the Greek higher education system, so that the legislative framework in 2005 be accepted and be accordingly implemented by the HEIs.
On the other hand, the two phases in Greece have one significant difference:
In the first phase (before 2005), the Greek universities participated voluntarily in an evaluation process -through peers - conducted by their own European association, which they trusted.
In the second phase (after 2005) the Greek universities are obliged to participate in an evaluation process driven (though indirectly) by the State, which they do not trust.
As mentioned already, these are not real experiences, since the self-evaluation processes in the Greek HEIs according to the Law No.3074/2005 have started only during the current academic year 2007-08.
The “experience”, therefore, is theoretical and is restricted to the provisions of the Law and to the initiatives of the HQAA.
The Law stresses on the details of the evaluation processes (both internal and external) of the academic units (Faculties) which constitute the Greek HEIs.
It further stipulates that each HEI is also evaluated at institutional level on the basis of the evaluation of its individual academic units and the evaluation of its overall operation as an institution. However, there are no specific provisions in the Law regarding the details of institutional evaluation.
This means that the Greek quality assurance system puts priority on the evaluation (internal/external) of Faculties.
Internal reports of the Faculties and Institutions
The General Assembly of each Faculty prepares an Annual Internal Report consisting of all statistical and other documentation (quantitative and qualitative) pertaining to the overall operation of the Faculty. This annual report is not part of the self-evaluation process.
On the basis of the Annual Internal Reports of all Faculties, the Quality Assurance Unit (QAU) of the Institution draws up every two years the pertinent internal report of the institution.
The self-evaluation process of the Faculties
The self-evaluation process lasts for two consecutive semesters and is repeated at the latest every fourth year following the commencement of the previous self-evaluation. The self-evaluation process is not necessarily connected to an external evaluation.
The responsibility for the self-evaluation lies with the Internal Evaluation Group (IEG) of the Faculty, which overviews, steers and coordinates the overall process and which analyses data and all outcomes and prepares the self-evaluation report.
The self-evaluation process is (should be) conducted through an extended and inclusive dialogue within the community of the Faculty, based on questionnaires, interviews, conferences etc. The analysis of the last Annual Internal Report is one of the important elements of the running self-evaluation process.
The self-evaluation report
The self-evaluation report should be a synthesis of all elements of the self-evaluation process, in conjunction with the Faculty’s vision and mission, its aims and its strategic plan and, finally, with its specific identity and profile. In that sense, it should be built upon the following elements:
a) A critical analysis and assessment of the extent to which the aims of the Faculty have been achieved
b) An analysis of the strengths and weaknesses
c) The required actions for the aims to be achieved
d) Any other measure to ensure and improve the quality of the overall activities of the Faculty
Quality assurance criteria and standards
The Law provides for four areas of criteria and standards:
a) Quality of teaching
b) Quality of research
c) Quality of curricula
d) Quality of services and infrastructure
The HQAA has already further specified and analysed the criteria and standards for all areas.
The HQAA has developed detailed guidelines for the methodology to be applied in the internal QA processes. Actually, it has finalised almost all required preliminary work.
What’s next? Implementation. Genuine implementation.
Precondition? Change in attitudes.