The place and role of the national quality assurance system in advancing higher education reforms in a society

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1 The place and role of the national quality assurance system in advancing higher education reforms in a society Aurelija Valeikienė, Deputy Director of SKVC (Lithuania) 1

2 The place and role of the national quality assurance system in advancing higher education reforms in a society depend upon how we define higher education quality quality assurance There is no one size fits all solutions, however, there is a certain coherence of understanding in concepts and the European quality assurance model, as defined in European Standards and Guidelines for quality assurance in higher education (ESG) 2

3 The purposes of higher education? Preparation for sustainable employment; Preparation for life as active citizens in democratic societies; Personal development; The development and maintenance, through teaching, learning and research, of a broad, advanced knowledge base Public authorities should have exclusive responsibility for the provision of the framework within which higher education and research is conducted. National qualifications frameworks and quality assurance mechanisms should be in accordance with the principles of academic freedom and institutional autonomy and take due account of the basic values and variety of purposes of higher education. (Recommendation CM/Rec(2007)6 of the Committee of Ministers to member states of the Council of Europe on the public responsibility for higher education and research) 3

4 Definitions of quality and their embedment (1) Quality as excellence - only the best standards of excellence (usually meaning a high level of difficulty and of complexity of a programme, the seriousness of the student testing procedures, etc.) are understood as revealing true academic quality. The Ministry of Education and Research established Centres of Excellence in Higher Education (SFU) in 2010 as a prestige arrangement for educational activities in higher education. The SFU programme, which is managed by NOKUT, implies a concentrated, focused and long-term commitment to stimulate the development of teaching and learning methods at the bachelor and masters level. Within the deadline of May 12, NOKUT had received 24 bids. Eight applicants were selected to proceed to the final round. The three centres will receive an annual top funding of NOK 3 million for a five-year period. An evaluation will be carried out after three years. Based on the outcome of this evaluation, a centre may be granted funding another five years. NOKUT appointed an international expert committee to assess the proposals and advise NOKUT s board of directors on which academic communities should be awarded the status of Centres of Excellence in Education. (source: ) 4

5 Definitions of quality and their embedment (2) Fitness of purpose adequacy of quality-related intention of a higher education institution: quality as threshold, e.g. for obtaining accreditation quality as consumer satisfaction: quality perceived as closely linked to the growing importance of the external expectations of consumers (students, families, society at large) and other stakeholders (employers, governments). The objective of external evaluation shall be to determine the quality of activities of higher education and research institutions, to offer recommendations for improving their quality, develop the culture of quality assurance in higher education and research. The purpose of accreditation shall be to determine on the basis of external evaluation findings whether or not a study programme and/or a newly established higher education institution meet(s) the requirements of legal acts. (Law on Higher Education and Research of the Republic of Lithuania. 30 April 2009 No XI-242)

6 Definitions of quality and their embedment (3) Quality as enhancement or improvement: focus on the continuous search for permanent improvement, stressing the responsibility of the HEI to make the best use of its institutional autonomy and freedom. Achieving quality is central to the academic ethos and to the idea that academics themselves know best what quality is. IEP is a voluntary process independent from governments and other bodies, and does not lead to accreditation. Rather than providing summative judgement, IEP evaluations aim to support higher education institutions actively in fulfilling their mission. IEP provides recommendations on and insights into the institutions structures, processes, policies and culture, to enable them to perform the full range of their activities in line with their strategic plans and objectives, and build the capacity to address change processes. (Source: European University Association, Institutional Evaluation Programme )

7 Definitions of quality and their embedment (4) Fitness for purpose effectiveness of the processes at work in the institution or program in fulfilling its objectives and mission: a value for money approach (implicit) focus on how the inputs are effectively and efficiently used by the processes and mechanisms involved the value-added approach results are evaluated in terms of changes obtained through various educational processes (e.g. teaching and learning processes). quality as transformation quality as a process of change, adding value to students through their learning experience (learner-centeredness). (Vlăsceanu, Grünberg, Pârlea; 2007) Multi-actor perspective is implicit in the notion of fitness for purpose (Westerheijden, Stensaker, Rosa; 2007) 7

8 QA is an instrument, not a goal in itself The challenge of QA to meaningfully integrate quantitative and qualitative aspects. It would be nice if all of the data which sociologists require could be enumerated because then we could run them through IBM machines and draw charts as the economists do. However, not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted. William Bruce Cameron (1963) Informal Sociology: A Casual Introduction to Sociological Thinking 8

9 The role of Quality Assurance QA should have the ability to satisfy the demands and expectations of direct and indirect consumers and stakeholders (Van Dame, 2003) In the context of higher education quality, stakeholders are those groups that have inter alia an interest in the quality of provision and standard of outcomes. These include government, employers, students, academic and administrative staff, institutional managers, prospective students and their parents, taxpayers. (Lee Harvey, Analytic Quality Glossary, ) Balancing intrests is a difficult task 9

10 How it can be delivered? Appropriate procedures to achieve centeredness on learners and the teaching process, better institutional management (study programme evaluations, quality audit, institutional review, etc.) Inclusion of relevant stakeholders (in development of the study programmes, as members in review panels, in decision-making structures, oversight) Appropriate process (tying up internal quality management with external quality assurance) Performance indicators set (principles vs. measurables)

11 QA can help advance internationalisation Internationalization as the process of integrating an international or intercultural dimension into the teaching, research and service functions of the institution (Knight, 1994) Internationalization at the national/sector/institutional levels is defined as the process of integrating an international, intercultural or global dimension into the purpose, functions or delivery of post-secondary education (Knight, 2003) Although conceptually linked, quality and internationalisation may be seen as two if not conflicting at least unrelated targets with different territories. (González & Robert Wagenaar, 2003) 11

12 In a broader context Quality assurance links to other instruments of structural reforms in EHEA: Recognition of qualifications Qualification frameworks proper usage of ECTS and Diploma Supplements 12

13 What for? Quality assurance contributes towards: Comparability of various educational offers (but not rankings!) Trust (on the system, institution, programme, qualification, individual levels) (Bergan, 2011) Transparency (via inclusion of stakeholders, publication of results) Independence (communities of practice both academic and in the labor market; enabling those primarily in charge of quality teachers and students) Thus bearing impact on mobility and better employability

14 But also Research shows that external QA procedures serve as internal management tools of a special kind < > as quality practitioners will know from experience, there is a gap between policy and reality. This requires, amongst other things, that quality enhancement initiatives are underpinned by effective leadership and also effective communication. (Jethro Newton, 2012) 14

15 Endorsed by Ministers of Education in 2005 in Bergen: - includes requirements towards HEI - expectations regarding the whole HE system - requirements towards set-up and performance of QA agencies replace txt View menu > Header and footer 15

16 Revised ESG to be adopted by Ministers of Education in May 2015: - the same principles, only refined text and strengthened expectations On country levels constant reforms without falling into one pattern 16

17 To conclude QA is multi-dimensional and embedded in contexts, thus, can serve multiple purposes and multiple interest groups Internally oriented aspects and external aspects are tightly linked National higher education systems are not closed ones, equally so quality assurance is on the fringes what can be viewed as national ownership with large influences from abroad and international relevance Quality assurance not a panacea, but a must of modern higher education management and modern higher education steering

18 Thank you!

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