Role of Universities in Quality AssuranceQuality Culture Project OAQ-CRUS Conference Internal quality assurance at higher education institutions – requirements and good practices – Bern, 2 December 2005
Structure of the presentation • Aims of the project • QC Philosophy • QC Method • Results in terms of: • Processes • Actors • Structures • Success factors • Impact
Quality Culture Project: Aims Increase awareness of the need to develop an internal quality culture in universities in order to: • Improve quality levels, without stifling diversity and innovation • Strengthen institutional autonomy • Promote non-intrusive external QA procedures, i.e., institutional audit
The Project title: A signpost of a philosophy and a method A carefully chosen title: Quality culture vs. Quality control or Quality management To indicate: • The importance of a change in attitude and behaviour within the institutions • The importance of a grass-root development of quality rather than a top-down approach
Central philosophical tenet: Quality is contextual • An institution must develop quality measures that are congruent with its internal environment • An institution must develop quality measures that are congruent with its external environment • An institution must take into account the time vector: e.g., “quality champions” might be useful at the beginning of the internal quality developments but not necessarily later
Method: key features • Six small networks • Institutional self-evaluation based on SWOTs • Interactive and geared at participants concerns • Attentive to cultural aspects and change engineering process • Engaging the whole institution at key phases of the project • Results in action plans tailored to specific institutions: no single recipe approach
Results: Process • The “exceptionalism” of higher education institutions • The challenge then is two-fold: • To systematise standards and operations across an institution while taking into account the professional concentration of expertise at the grass roots. • To develop a set of standards in line with the institutional mission, without stifling individual initiatives and departmental diversity.
Results: Process To meet these two challenges, it is essential to: • Engage the whole community – including students and administrative staff who are often forgotten – in a process of reflection about missions and goals • Develop a communication strategy that combines top-down, bottom up and horizontal communication channels, written documents and formal and informal meetings
Results: Process • Identify and empower “quality culture champions” to contribute to the development and implementation of a quality culture strategy • Create teams across the institution in order to ensure cross-fertilisation • Address the issue of fears by developing a coherent staff development scheme • Support the development of an effective quality culture with appropriate human and financial resources
Results: Actors • The rectoral team will: • agree an overarching quality framework, structures and procedures • agree a process to integrate results of the internal quality monitoring into the strategic planning in order to ensure their long-term effect • ensure the wide engagement of the community and its commitment to the quality framework.
Results: Actors • Institutions that are beginning the process of developing an internal quality culture, may want to appoint “quality champions” who will: • report directly (or be part of) the senior rectoral team • explain to academic staff that academic freedom can only be supported by a vigorous and responsible institutional autonomy
Results: Actors • Financial officers at the central and faculty levels will be involved in this process, which needs to be resourced adequately. • Human resource officers will be involved in the change process to ensure that they develop overarching and coherent staff development schemes that will equip academic and administrative staff members to cope with new institutional requirements.
Results: Actors • Students play a key role in embedding quality through: • their regular evaluation of teaching • their involvement in student support services (e.g., as tutors and peer advisors) • their involvement in appropriate decision-making bodies. They will require training in order to fulfil this role effectively.
Results: Actors • External stakeholders will contribute a different and useful perspective on the institution, serve as a “reality check” and enrich the debate. The rectoral team will: • identify the appropriate stakeholders and their role in the change process • ensure that the rest of the academic community understands the needs and benefits for establishing such relationships.
Results: Five Structures All structures are centrally located– thus reflecting a trend away from decentralised institutions – and report to the rectoral level. • Quality unit for teaching and learning. These units work best when • their staff expertise is solid and credible, • their approach is advisory rather than required, • orientated toward improvement rather than control.
Results: Five Structures • Office of institutional research and information to serve in a supporting role for institutional planning. It collects and analyses data points that enable the institution to monitor actively areas of strengths and weaknesses. • An international office, • positioned strategically to bring together the different missions of universities (research, teaching and service to society), • works closely with the rectoral team, • involves the academic community.
Results: Five structures • Research management office responsible for setting research priorities, allocating resources, developing partnerships and strategic alliances, providing legal support (e.g., for intellectual property issues), managing research staff careers and monitoring quality. • Integrated and comprehensive students support services that view students holistically and take into account their academic needs as well as their mental and physical well-being.
Results: Success factors The networks identified the following success factors: • The success of the first steps in introducing a quality culture is essential for an effective development along that path • The importance of institutional governance and communitybuilding (vs. management) for an effective quality culture • The importance of strategic thinking, based on an appropriate institutional analysis (SWOT or similar analytical instruments)
Results: Success factors • The integral causal link between strong institutional autonomy and the effective development of a quality culture • The link between quality development and appropriate financial and human resources, including staff development schemes • Avoid the bureaucratisation of QC (i.e., proper staffing of QC unit and staff rotation)
Impact The project had an impact on: • On participating institutions through their individual action plan • On the EuropeanQA Community: An increased recognition that quality culture is key to improving quality levels • On Berlin and Bergen Communiqués: Ministers recognised that “ the primary responsibility for QA in HE lies with each institution itself”
Next steps • QA Forum • Creativity Project