The Quality Assurance of Degree Education in Canada

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1 Research in Comparative and International Education Volume 5 Number RESEARCH IN Comparative & International Education The Quality Assurance of Degree Education in Canada DONALD N. BAKER Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, United Arab Emirates University, United Arab Emirates TERRY MIOSI Qualifications Framework Project of the United Arab Emirates ABSTRACT Under the Canadian constitution, responsibility for education is assigned to the provinces. In some provinces, universities are based in institution-specific statutes, in others, in system-wide legislation. Except for the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, the provinces leave the quality assurance of academic activities to the universities. In the last 15 years, the post-secondary landscape has become more complex. Four provinces have enabled non-degree-granting colleges to offer specific degree programs on the basis of government approval; three have transformed colleges into universities; four permit external universities, public and private, and new private universities based in Canada to offer programs. Though the innovative provinces established quality assurance agencies to screen programs and organizations, the new degrees met resistance from many public universities, which, in the absence of a national accrediting body, took the position that they would only recognize degrees from institutions belonging to their own promotional national body, the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC). Though the new agencies have published both academic standards and rigorous external review procedures, this response from the public universities in effect marginalized the new degree programs and providers. Thus, the state of quality assurance in higher education in Canada is in a state of flux. This article reviews the state of quality assurance activity across the country in both public universities and in the new quality assurance agencies. It concludes with reflections on the challenge of inserting new degrees and new kinds of degree-granting institutions into a framework of academic legitimacy that all players will accept. Historical Background to Canadian Quality Assurance In geographic terms, Canada is the second largest country in the world. However, with a population of 35 million people, it ranks only thirty-first in population. About two-thirds of the population live in urban centres close to the southern border with the United States. Over 60% of the total population live in two of the ten provinces Ontario, with a largely English-speaking population, and Quebec, where the primary language is French. Politically, Canada is a federal state encompassing the ten provinces and three territories. The Confederation Act of 1867 was designed to provide a strong federal government while assigning specific powers to the provinces in relation to natural resources, religion, legal systems and education. Section 19 of the Constitution, which contains the only reference to education, states that in and for each province, the legislature may exclusively make laws in relation to education. This wording did not preclude federal initiatives, but made their implementation subject to provincial legislation. Thus, over time, responding to national needs that the provinces either did not see or could not afford to meet, the federal government developed training and research programs that supplemented funding made available by the provinces. Today, most funded research in Canadian universities is provided on a competitive basis by federal research agencies. 32

2 Quality Assurance of Degree Education in Canada Over a century, the ten provinces assumed responsibility for higher education and either launched new universities or brought the existing ones under their legislative authority and occasionally converted older private universities into publicly funded ones.[1] One effect of the process was a considerable homogenization of missions and governance systems. All were said to be engaged in teaching, research and service, and all had some form of bicameral internal governance a senate or similar faculty-dominated body responsible for academic policy and programs, and a board of governors consisting of external people responsible for finances, property, appointing the president/rector, and the overall well-being of the institution.[2] Today, there are 260 degree-granting institutions in Canada. Of these, 150 are public institutions recognized under a public act and publicly funded; 56 are private, non-profit institutions operating under a private act, of which 48 are restricted to offering theological/divinity degrees; and there are 46 institutions, public or private, which have special government consent to offer particular programs.[3] The diversity extends even to the legal footings of universities. Public degree-granting institutions rest on four forms of statute: a general act governing all universities in the province; an act establishing particular institutions; a general act enabling colleges in a province to offer degree programs; and an act enabling government to approve institutions and/or degree programs that apply for a consent to do so. In Ontario, for example, the public universities all rest on an individual statute and the colleges are able to offer degrees on the basis of an act providing government discretion to approve particular degree programs offered by colleges when they apply for a consent. In Quebec, there are two governing acts: an act respecting the University of Quebec and its six campus locations and three affiliated institutions; and an act respecting educational institutions at the university level that governs all other degree-granting institutions. The oldest forms of quality assurance in public universities are those related to the professions. University programs in law, medicine, engineering and architecture, among others, must prepare graduates who undergo a further test in the workplace (internship, articling), and their graduates must succeed in passing licensure examinations. Faculty members in those fields tend to regard themselves not only as members of the university, but as professionals responsible for the standards of practice in the profession. In general, the spread of quality assurance through public university curricula also derived mainly from external impulses. Ontario s experience illustrates three types of such external influence. First, when the Ontario Council on Graduate Studies (OCGS) was created in 1965, it was initially a coordinated university response to a government requirement that new graduate programs must not duplicate existing ones and must meet an identifiable societal need. Over time the system developed into a quality assurance review by specialists appointed by OCGS, usually involving at least one expert from outside Ontario, and then into one requiring the periodic review of all graduate programs. OCGS thus came closest to embodying a self-initiated form of mandatory external quality assessment of programs in Canadian higher education. Second, in 1991, the auditor general of the province of Ontario proposed to audit public universities to determine whether funds were being appropriately used and whether the province was receiving value for expenditure. The resulting Task Force on University Accountability issued a report which in 1996 led the Council of Ontario Universities (COU) to establish guidelines for program reviews and a mechanism for conducting reviews. Under the direction of the Ontario Council of Academic Vice Presidents (OCAV), the Undergraduate Program Review Audit Committee (UPRAC) was (a) to examine the conformity of the institution s review process to the model framework for program reviews established by COU, and (b) to consider how well institutional procedures and practices conform to the institution s own review policy. Thus, the periodic review of undergraduate programs by Ontario public universities was prompted by external pressure. What UPRAC does is review policies, procedures and practices, not individual programs. Third, when NAFTA, which unites Canada, the United States and Mexico in a common market, was established in 1994, decisions by the government of Ontario ( ministerial consents ) permitting private and/or foreign institutions to offer degree programs in Ontario took on a new significance. They could be seen as precedents that would open up Ontario s postsecondary market. NAFTA requires all applicants to provide services to be treated in the same way. (For this purpose, Ontario distinguishes between its publicly funded degree-granting organizations, external 33

3 Donald N. Baker & Terry Miosi publicly funded organizations, and all private organizations.) In this context, consumer protection became a concern, and in 2000 the Post-secondary Education Choice and Excellence Act established an arm s-length agency, the Postsecondary Education Quality Assessment Board (PEQAB), to review all applications for consent to offer degrees by institutions not having an Ontario statute of their own, and to make recommendations to the minister. PEQAB adopted degree-level standards developed by the Quality Assurance Agency of the United Kingdom and adapted them to the Ontario context. It also developed assessment procedures for degree programs and institutions. Subsequently, to ensure consistency of standards across all degree-granting institutions, PEQAB and COU reached an agreement on the degree-level standards to ensure consistent standards across both institutions resting on their own statute and programs and institutions resting on a ministerial consent. In recent years the discussion of quality assurance has blended with the challenges of credential recognition. Beginning in 1989, British Columbia introduced hybrid institutions known as university colleges that offered degree programs along with certificate and diploma programs; by 2008, five of them had grown into universities. In 1996, Alberta developed a new category of degree, the applied baccalaureate degree, for its colleges and technical institutes. In 2000, Ontario opened the way for its colleges to apply for consent to offer baccalaureate degrees in applied areas of study. These innovating provinces also introduced quality assurance agencies to review applicant organizations and programs. The reviewing agencies are the Postsecondary Education Quality Assessment Board (Ontario), the Degree Granting Council (British Columbia), and Campus Alberta Quality Council (Alberta); New Brunswick did not establish an agency, but asked the Maritimes Provinces Higher Education Commission, which reviews programs of the public universities, to take on the task. In effect, these agencies and the consent/approval processes opened a new avenue legitimating the offering of degree programs in Canada. The quality assurance agencies collaborated through a Pan-Canadian Committee on Quality Assurance for Degree Programming that included all provinces and territories, in developing a Ministerial Statement on Quality Assurance of Degree Education in Canada that was endorsed by the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC) in 2007 as constituting guidelines for government decisions with respect to new degree programs and new degree-granting institutions. The opening of this new avenue to degree granting was not greeted warmly by the public universities. When the graduates of the new degree programs applied to enter graduate programs or professional schools, they discovered that some public universities refused to accept their credentials because the awarding institution did not belong to the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC). AUCC, which was founded in 1911, is the national promotional body for the universities. It currently has 94 members, all but a few being publicly funded institutions. Its mandate is to facilitate the development of public policy on higher education and to encourage cooperation among universities and governments, industry, communities, and institutions in other countries, and it divides its services to members into three categories: public policy and advocacy; communications, research and information-sharing; and scholarships and international programs.[4] AUCC is not a quality assurance agency, but the behavior of some public universities made it into a proxy for a national accrediting body. Its official position on this matter is that each Canadian university is autonomous in academic matters including the determination of its own quality assurance policies and procedures. In the ensuing dialogue about the legitimization of new degree programs and degree-granting institutions, AUCC s membership criteria assumed a new importance. Those criteria require an applicant organization to have appropriate governance; for authority over academic programs to rest with academic staff; to have a full program or programs of undergraduate and/or graduate studies; to have highly qualified academic staff holding a PhD or other appropriate terminal degree; to have a proven record of scholarship, academic inquiry and research; for its academic staff to be engaged in externally peer-reviewed research and publication; to have clearly articulated policies on academic freedom, intellectual integrity and the ownership of intellectual property, and so on. One of these criteria is that the institution has a quality assurance policy that results in cyclical or continuous assessment of all of its academic programs and support services, and which includes the participation by those directly involved in delivery of the program or service, as well as by other institutional colleagues and external experts and stakeholders. In 2004 AUCC endorsed a set of 34

4 Quality Assurance of Degree Education in Canada principles and guidelines that its member institutions are to use in forming and implementing their internal QA policies and procedures.[5] This policy applies to current and planned programs; covers all undergraduate and graduate programs, wherever offered and by whatever method; defines a regular review cycle and a procedure for its own regular review; and has the following characteristics: it is based on self-evaluation and peer review; it includes the involvement of external disciplinary experts; it involves students, faculty and the administration; the results are made public; and there is a designated authority for the implementation of the policy and for action in response to resulting recommendations. With regard to assessors, the number of assessors, and how they are recruited, AUCC does not go beyond the basic statement contained in the principles, that the process includes, as a fundamental dimension, the involvement of external disciplinary experts. Each of AUCC s members describes its QA policy by drawing on a set of ten elements or steps that are standard in the QA environment for higher education institutions: self-evaluation; internal peer review; involvement of external disciplinary expertise; involvement of other external expertise/advice (e.g. socio-economic); involvement of students; involvement of faculty; involvement of institutional administration; involvement of alumni; the assessment of interdisciplinary programs; and integration of the criteria and processes for the accreditation of professional programs.[6] The QA policies listed by the institutions are drawn from the following categories: 1. academic counseling; 2. administrative structure; 3. assessment of the relationship between teaching and research; 4. entrance requirements; 5. first-year experience/student engagement; 6. for doctoral programs, a research component; 7. for master s programs, a research component; 8. human resources; 9. institutional relevance; 10. inter-institutional relevance; 11. library and related support; 12. physical resources; 13. post-graduation experience/employment; 14. ranking against programs in Canada/North America/the world; 15. social counseling; 16. specific terms of reference for each review; 17. the adequacy of the structure of the program to meet its objectives; and 18. the adequacy of the teaching and learning assessment strategies to meet the objectives of the program. The following description of quality assurance and assessment practices in Canada is divided into four categories of QA organizations: 1. Agencies that have been established in legislation by provincial governments; 2. Higher education institution consortium agencies that have been established by the higher education institutions themselves to address issues related to quality; 3. Professional and occupational organizations that approve or accredit programs that prepare individuals for practice in the relevant profession; and 4. Theological accreditation agencies that accredit schools and programs that prepare individuals for religious vocations. The descriptions of the agencies in each of these groups will follow the format that was used above for the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada: a general profile of the agency; the evaluation method; its evaluation standards; and assessors and how they are recruited. Table I outlines the assessment requirements for new and current programs by province. 35

5 Donald N. Baker & Terry Miosi Jurisdiction Agency Public universities Private not-for-profit and forprofit universities: out-ofprovince institutions British Columbia 36 Alberta Saskatchewan Manitoba Newfoundland and Labrador Ontario Quebec New Brunswick Nova Scotia Degree Quality Assessment Board Campus Alberta Quality Council Manitoba-Saskatchewan Universities Program Review Audit Council Council on Post- Secondary Education Manitoba-Saskatchewan Universities Program Review Audit Council Undergraduate Program Review Audit Committee Ontario Council on Graduate Studies Postsecondary Education Quality Assessment Board Conference of Rectors and Principals of Quebec Universities Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission New: quality assessment reviews of new degree programs. Current: assessment of all programs for renewal. Public institutions with a proven track record (a 10-year history) can be exempt. New: assessment of all programs. Current: assessment of all approved programs. (Quality of all programs offered prior to legislation addressed internally.) New: quality addressed internally. Current: regular audit policies and procedures for the conduct of periodic quality reviews of all programs. New and significantly changed undergraduate and graduate programs (nominal quality assessment). Current: periodic audit of policies and procedures of internal quality processes. New and current: quality of all programs addressed internally. New and current: periodic audit of policies and procedures of internal quality processes for all programs New: assessments of all programs. Current: periodic assessment of all programs. New: assessment of all new programs. Current: periodic audit of policies and procedures of internal quality processes New: reviewing all new program and program modification proposals. Current: periodic audit of policies and procedures of internal quality processes. New: reviewing all new program and program modification proposals. Current: periodic audit of policies and procedures of internal quality New: assessment of all programs. Current: assessment of all programs for renewal (includes public colleges and university colleges). Public institutions with a proven track record (a 10-year history) can be exempt. New: assessment of all programs. Current: at least one assessment of all approved programs (includes public colleges and technical institutes). N/A N/A N/A New: assessment of all programs. Current: assessment of all programs for renewal (includes public colleges of applied arts and technology). N/A New: assessment of all programs. Current: assessment of all programs for renewal. N/A

6 Quality Assurance of Degree Education in Canada processes. Prince Edward Maritime Provinces New: reviewing all new program N/A Island Higher Education Commission and program modification proposals. Current: periodic audit of policies and procedures of internal quality processes. Northwest N/A N/A Territories Yukon Yukon College: quality addressed N/A internally. Nunavut N/A N/A Table I. Quality assessment requirements for new and current programs by province.[7] Government-Established QA Agencies There are presently four quality assessment agencies that have been established by provincial governments: 1. The Postsecondary Education Quality Assessment Board (PEQAB) - Ontario 2. Campus Alberta Quality Council (CAQC) - Alberta 3. Degree Quality Assessment Board (DQAB) - British Columbia 4. The Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission (MPHEC) New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island These agencies are very similar in mandate. They are all supported by professional secretariats that receive and review applications, solicit more information from applicants as necessary, flag policy, procedural or other implications of applications, prepare recommendations for the designation of assessors, and otherwise support the activities of the boards. The secretariats are generally aware of national and international standards and practices and collaborate in aligning procedures, standards and benchmarks. Thus, the information on evaluation method, evaluation standards, and assessors is similar enough in all of its critical elements that the practices of the Ontario agency, PEQAB, can serve as the model for all four, except for major variations indicated below. 1. The Postsecondary Education Quality Assessment Board (PEQAB) - Ontario There are 71 degree-granting institutions in Ontario. A number of these fall into the category of institutions whose right to grant degrees rests with the institution s faculty and senate by an independent Act of the Assembly of Ontario. This group is fairly equally divided between what are normally classified as public universities and a group of private institutions, almost all of which are limited to offering theological/divinity degrees. Within the terms of the respective acts of these institutions, the determination as to what to offer and the quality of what is offered is essentially the sole responsibility of the institution. The Post-secondary Education Choice and Excellence Act 2000 permits the granting of degrees or the operation of a university through the special consent of the minister responsible for postsecondary education rather than through a separate act. The consent is given for a fixed period usually five years at which time a renewal proposal must be submitted to the minister and a new assessment process is undertaken. The act established the Postsecondary Education Quality Assessment Board to make recommendations on applications to the minister for ministerial consent. The board is composed of a maximum of 11 members appointed by the minister, and although the legislation does not list any specific requirements, the practice has been that at least some of the members come from the public university, public college and student communities. The board is charged with establishing its own procedures and standards that are in accordance with educational standards recognized in Ontario and other jurisdictions. PEQAB does not have any legislated responsibility for monitoring institutions once they have received ministerial consent. 37

7 Donald N. Baker & Terry Miosi 2. Campus Alberta Quality Council (caqc) - Alberta There are 30 degree-granting institutions in Alberta, the degree-granting authority of 11 of which is restricted to theological/divinity degrees. Except for this last group, under the terms of the Postsecondary Learning Act 2003 and the Programs of Study Regulation (91/2009), all new degree programs and significant changes to current programs must be approved by the Minister of Advanced Training and Education. To assist in this process, the Campus Alberta Quality Council was established as an arm s-length agency to assess and make recommendations to the minister on all such proposals. The council is also responsible for conducting periodic evaluations of approved degree programs to ensure that quality standards are being met. The Council is composed of a maximum of 11 members appointed by the minister, and although the legislation does list any specific requirements, the practice has been that almost all of the members are highly qualified and experienced academics, with at least one or more of the members being from another province. The council is charged with determining the criteria and procedures for its reviews and is committed to ensuring that the proposals that receive its recommendation are of sufficient breadth and rigor to meet national and international standards of programs offered at recognized post-secondary institutions. 3. Degree Quality Assessment Board (DQAB) - British Columbia There are 51 degree-granting institutions in British Columbia, 12 of which are restricted to granting theological/divinity degrees. The relevant acts relating to the operation and programs of these institutions are the Degree Authorization Act, the University Act, and the College and Institute Act. The first applies to all private and out-of-province public post-secondary institutions, and it requires these institutions to obtain consent from the minister if they wish to grant or confer a degree in British Columbia or to provide a program in British Columbia which leads to a degree that is conferred inside or outside British Columbia. Under the University Act, British Columbia public universities are required to receive the approval of the minister to establish a new degree program. Under the College and Institute Act, the minister may grant consent to British Columbia public colleges to offer applied baccalaureate degree programs and to British Columbia public university colleges and provincial institutes to offer baccalaureate and applied master s degree programs. The Degree Quality Assessment Board was set up as an independent advisory board appointed by the minister to establish the quality criteria and assessment processes, conduct reviews, and make recommendations upon which the minister could make the approval decisions. The board is composed of up to nine members appointed by the minister, and although the legislation does list any specific requirements, the practice has been that a majority of the members are highly qualified and experienced academics. There are also three ex officio members representing relevant government agencies such as the BC Council on Admissions and Transfers and the Private Career Training Institutions Agency. A minister s consent is normally given for five years, after which time applicants may apply for renewal of consent. 4. The Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission (MPHEC) - New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island There are 26 degree-granting institutions in the Provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, of which four grant divinity/theological degrees only. The Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission was established in 1974 to provide regional cooperation regarding post-secondary education. In 2005, a new Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission Act was passed which gave the commission a critical role in the areas of quality assurance and assessment. It is responsible for ensuring that programs developed by institutions within the MPHEC s scope meet agreed-upon quality criteria and it confirms that MPHEC institutions have appropriate policies and practices to ensure the ongoing quality of their programs. Membership on the commission is drawn from senior university members; public officials and executives of non-university institutions; and the public at large, at least two of whom are to be students, with representation from each province in each category. 38

8 Quality Assurance of Degree Education in Canada The commission has established a number of advisory committees to assist it in accomplishing its mandate. Two of these relate directly to quality assurance. Degree providers under the New Brunswick Degree Granting Act are required to submit to the commission a proposal prior to designation and again five years after designation for all degree programs. The commission established an Academic Advisory Committee consisting of eight members drawn from the universities to advise it on the quality of new and modified academic programs. The Quality Assurance Monitoring Committee also consists of eight members drawn from the universities, and its main task is to monitor the quality assurance activities of the degreegranting institutions that fall under the MPHEC mandate. On the basis of its research and institutional nominations, the agency selects all members of such bodies. The nominees are suggested by the member universities and appointed for a three-year mandate. Evaluation Methods Used by the Agencies As mentioned above, for the purpose of an economical review of the methods, standards and assessor recruitment practices of the four agencies, we will use the procedures of the Ontario board (PEQAB) as the reference point, indicating significant variations in the other agencies. PEQAB requires all private applicants to undergo an organization review, and all applicants, public or private, to undergo reviews of their proposed programs. PEQAB s assessment process has the following steps: 1. Preparation and submission to the minister of a proposal by the applicant institution that addresses the PEQAB (board) guidelines and standards. 2. Referral of the proposal to the board for recommendation; this referral might contain specific instructions or concerns that are to be addressed in the assessment and recommendation. 3. Posting of the application on the board s website for public comment from other educational institutions and the public at large; these comments will be shared with the applicant and the assessment team(s). 4. Provision of a summary of the proposal to the board, which may reject an application at that point, but normally submits all private applications to its organization review committee and establishes an assessment panel for program review in the case of public applicants Organization review of private applicants: In forwarding the application from a private organization to the organization review committee, the board may state specific instructions or concerns that are to be addressed in the assessment and report. The committee always meets with the senior administrative officers of the applying institution. The committee prepares and submits its report to the board. The report is forwarded to the applicant for response. The report and the response are submitted to the board, and the board decides on whether the application can move to the program assessment stage. If the decision is negative, a recommendation to deny consent is formed by the board and transmitted to the minister. If the decision is positive, the program assessment process commences Program review for all applicants: The board appoints an assessment team, usually three members, to assess the proposed program. The consultants conduct a site visit (normally one day). The assessors report is prepared and submitted to the board. The report is forwarded to the applicant for response. The board forms a recommendation based on the report and the response. PEQAB s recommendation is forwarded to the minister for a final decision. 5. Renewal of a ministerial consent follows the same path in accord with the same standards, except for an additional requirement that the institution must also submit the results of its 39

9 Donald N. Baker & Terry Miosi internal organization and/or program evaluation processes. The board s standards for selfevaluation require: i. a self-study; ii. an evaluation of the institution/program based on an analysis of the self-study and a site visit by a committee, the majority of the members of which must be from outside the institution; iii. a report from this committee addressed to the institution; iv. a plan of action approved by the senior administration. Applicants have the right to submit briefs to PEQAB petitioning for the recognition of the findings regarding recent program quality or accreditation assessments. The board will recognize all or part of these findings, depending upon how closely the standards and procedures parallel those established by the board. The processes and standards used by CAQC and MPHEC are very similar to those of PEQAB, except that their mandates also encompass making recommendations on proposed significant changes to degree programs, as well as new program proposals from public universities. Both also have three types of assessment: a review and assessment of the organization aspects of a proposal for a new degree program or a first degree at a new level; a review and assessment of the proposed program to which all applicants are subject; and a comprehensive review to monitor degree programs to ensure their compliance with quality and delivery standards. Applicants have the right to submit briefs to the CAQC (council) petitioning for a partial expedited review (only a program review with external assessors) or a fully expedited review (a desk-audited program review by the council s secretariat). The council makes its determination on this request on the basis of whether an organizational review has already been conducted, whether the applicant is a mature, non-resident institution that is proposing to offer a home jurisdiction program, whether the proposal is not precedent setting for the institution, and whether the system and the internal vetting and assessment processes have been followed, including external assessment arranged by the institution. British Columbia makes special provision for institutions that have 10 years history in enrolling students in programs for a particular degree and appropriate governance mechanisms in place, including a rigorous ongoing internal and external program and institutional quality assessment processes. Institutions that meet these criteria can, for example, be granted exempt status in respect of new degree programs at that degree level. In such cases, the proposal goes directly to the minister for approval following a 30-day public review period (i.e. posting on the website for comment), and DQAB would not review the proposal unless concerns arose. Evaluation Standards Used by the Agencies Ontario s PEQAB provides institutions with a set of organization and program standards and benchmarks, along with guidelines for the contents of a proposal.[8] The standards for the organization review of private applicants concern the following: 1. Mission statement and academic goals; 2. Administrative capacity; 3. Ethical conduct; 4. Financial stability; 5. Dispute resolution; 6. Internal organization evaluation processes; 7. Academic freedom and integrity; 8. Student protection. The final two of these areas are included in the applications of public applicants, and the Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology are also required to report on economic need and to demonstrate the non-duplication of their proposal with programs offered by public universities. The standards for programs bear on the following matters : 40

10 Quality Assurance of Degree Education in Canada 1. Program degree level; 2. Admissions, promotion, and graduation; 3. Program content; 4. Program delivery; 5. Capacity to deliver; 6. Credential recognition; 7. Regulation and accreditation; 8. Program evaluation policy. In addition, consent cannot be given unless the minister is satisfied that the applicant has made adequate arrangements to protect student transcripts and that the private applicant has provided an acceptable form of financial security to protect students in the event of a school closure. PEQAB defines these standards in terms of both input and outcome expectations. For example, one of the benchmarks of the academic freedom and integrity standard is that the applicant has a policy on academic freedom that recognizes and protects the rights of individuals in their pursuit of knowledge with no fear of reprisals by the applicant or by third parties, and the right of individuals to communicate acquired knowledge and the results of research freely. One of the benchmarks for the program content standard defines the minimum percentage of time to be allocated to breadth courses in baccalaureate programs; a benchmark of the capacity to deliver standard gives the percentage of faculty in both undergraduate and graduate programs that must hold advanced degrees; while a key benchmark for the program degree-level standard is that the assessment of individual student work in the terminal stage of the program, that reflects exemplary, average, and minimally acceptable performance, demonstrates that the degree-level standard has been achieved. Alberta s CAQC has the same organizational and programs standards as PEQAB [9], with the addition of a small set of operational criteria itemized in legislation that it is also required to consider. These include the need for program and course transferability and portability, and integration of the program within the existing array of similar programs and services across the post-secondary system.[10] CAQC defines these standards in terms of both input and outcome expectations. For example, one of the benchmarks of the academic freedom and integrity standard is that the [a]n institution must adopt... a statement of the principle of academic freedom... assuring freedom in teaching, scholarship/research and publication, and community activities. Written policies and procedures that ensure the principles of natural justice are followed in the event of alleged violations of the policy must be clearly stated, widely available, and actively followed. CAQC s expectations for program design and structure detail such items as credits, admission requirements, and degree structure for bachelor degrees in arts, science, education, business, music, technology and applied degrees, and its standards for academic staff specify the number of academic staff, qualifications, full-time/part-time balance, scholarship, and employment arrangements, and the council requires that a self-study is to include an assessment of individual student work in the terminal stage of the program against program outcomes. British Columbia s DQAB defines these standards in terms of both input and outcome expectations, although they do not appear to be as directive as those of Alberta and Ontario. For example, there are no minimums for breadth requirements for bachelor programs, nor are there specific credential requirements for faculty, and there is no particular attention given to the external checking of student work in the terminal stage of the program to ensure that the intended outcomes for the program have been met at the relevant degree level.[11] MPHEC provides institutions with guidelines for the contents of a proposal.[12] The categories are common to those found with other QA agencies. It should be noted, however, that the guidelines are essentially descriptive and lack quantitative or qualitative performance benchmarks to be met. Recruitment of Assessors by the Agencies PEQAB s procedures require two teams of assessors a committee for organization reviews where necessary, and teams selected for the review of academic program proposals. As for the former, 41

11 Donald N. Baker & Terry Miosi PEQAB s published requirements for membership are that the committee members have expertise in financial analysis, admission processes, registrarial functions, learning resources and educational management. It looks for individuals, therefore, who have experience with or in: financial management; admissions/registrarial responsibilities in a degree-granting institution; managing learning resources; senior management in a degree-granting institution; higher education professional, accrediting and regulatory bodies. Given the generic nature of organizational reviews and a desire for consistency in the application and interpretation of its standards and benchmarks, the board s practice has been to use a standing committee of organization reviewers rather than striking a different committee for each application. Program assessment teams vary according to the nature and discipline of the proposed program and its method of delivery. These teams also usually comprise three members, and the board s general requirements for membership are: an advanced academic credential related to the subject area under review (normally at the terminal level in the field); any required or desired professional credentials and/or related work experience of substantial depth and range; relevant academic experience, such as administration, teaching, curriculum design and/or quality assessment experience (e.g. as appraisers for accrediting bodies). The applicant is invited to nominate individuals for the consideration of the board to function as assessors of the proposed program. The board has contracted in excess of 300 program assessors since its inception, and although the great majority of these are from Ontario, approximately 10% come from other Canadian provinces, with an equal percentage coming from US institutions. All assessors are required to sign a conflict-of-interest statement that indicates they have no connection, direct or perceived, to the organization or program under review. (In the Canadian higher education system, in which universities are mainly autonomous and sometimes competitive institutions, the practice of recruiting assessors from other institutions in the same jurisdiction is usually not thought of as a conflict of interest in itself. However, for graduate or professional program reviews, there is normally at least one person from outside the jurisdiction.) Since the Ontario board s standards require undergraduate programs to have a significant breadth component and all proposals to address a number of common issues relating to academic policies and procedures, the board has found that not all of the members of an assessment team need to have expertise in the major discipline. As a result, the board has built up a sizeable roster of individuals who are experienced in the board s processes and report requirements and who are able to function as team chairs and as the primary assessors of the breadth component of the proposed program. They are responsible for guiding the other members of the team on the application of the board s standards and benchmarks and for managing them through the assessment process. The board s preference has been that, whenever possible, its teams comprise an experienced chair and one discipline specialist, with the second discipline specialist being new to the board assessment process and frequently being selected from one of the applicant s nominees. This provides the board with knowledgeable and consistent assessments, while at the same time expanding its roster of experienced discipline experts. Another board preference is that, when the application is for a renewal of consent, at least one member of the assessment team should be from the original or previous team. Similar practices are followed by all three agencies. Thus, the transmission of knowledge and understanding about the expectations rest in good part on the participation of experienced assessors. In addition, CAQC, PEQAB and MPHEC have orientation sessions organized by the secretariat to the agency for each assessment team, while British Columbia has a written orientation package which is mandatory for assessment team chairs and members. None of these agencies requires specific training or certifications in evaluation. In addition to its organizational review teams and program evaluation teams, Alberta s CAQC has a monitoring function which results in an additional team of experts. This team is 42

12 Quality Assurance of Degree Education in Canada devoted to the assessment of whether institutions offering approved degree programs are meeting their commitments in terms of the quality of delivery and content. For undergraduate program proposals, MPHEC s secretariat develops a list of recommended assessors, usually three for each consultant position, which is submitted to the committee for selection. For graduate program proposals, an institution is required to arrange for its own external reviewers according to the MPHEC standards, who will conduct a site visit and prepare an assessment report. The reviewers report, their CVs and the institutional response are all submitted with the proposal, and reviewed. The committee frequently contacts the institution s reviewers for follow-up, and it can decide to hire readers for input on a specific dimension of the proposal or to assemble its own team of assessors. University Consortium Agencies Three regional agencies have been established by universities themselves to address issues related to quality. In Quebec, the Conférence des recteurs et des principaux des universités du Québec (CREPUQ) was established in 1963 as a voluntary coordinating body by Quebec universities. Over time it has added some responsibilities; notably, in 1991 CREPUQ assumed responsibility for evaluating the quality of proposed of new academic programs and policies related to current programs. It has worked through two committees: the New Program Evaluation Commission (CEP) assesses the quality of new undergraduate, graduate and doctoral study programs; and the Program Evaluation Review Commission audits institutional policies and practices relating to current programs. In Ontario, all public universities have been involved since the mid-1990s in two processes that are controlled by the Council of Ontario Universities (COU), which began in the 1960s as a committee of presidents and has since evolved into a vehicle for inter-institutional coordination and to represent the institutions in relations with the provincial government. It currently has two vehicles for reviewing new or existing programs: the Undergraduate Program Review Audit Committee (UPRAC), which deals with all undergraduate programs offered by these institutions; and the Ontario Council on Graduate Studies (OCGS), which is concerned with the assessment of graduate programs. In 2005, six universities in the Provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan established the Manitoba-Saskatchewan Universities Program Review Audit Council. The council monitors the frequency, quality, consequences and efficacy of the institutions academic reviews of undergraduate programs. It also serves as a source of information and advice for member institutions about best practices in program review. The following are brief descriptions of the bodies: New Program Evaluation Commission (CEP) Quebec [13] The criteria for the eight-member commission are that each individual be a member of the teaching staff of a Québec university with cross-disciplinary interests, but without senior administrative responsibilities, that they hold a PhD or the rank of full professor, and that they have experience on such authorities as the faculty council, academic committees, and funding agency review committees. Three members are from the natural sciences and engineering, three from the social sciences, one from arts and literature and one from the health sciences. The commission conducts a full evaluation for new programs at all degree levels, but can decide to apply a modulated evaluation for those programs for which there is some demonstrated capability to offer them for example, if a joint program is already offered by the partner institution, or if a significant portion of a program is already part of existing and assessed activities. 43

13 Donald N. Baker & Terry Miosi Evaluation method. The applicant submits a program proposal dossier to the commission, which then analyses the general acceptability of the proposal for further processing. If the assessment is positive, then the commission determines whether or not expert advisors are required to conduct a site visit. When this is required, the Commission appoints one of its members the pilot to lead the evaluation process, notifies the applicant of the proposed review team, and requests any clarifications or additional information. The site visit is conducted for one day, and to ensure effective communication between the expert advisors and the commission, the pilot and a member of the commission s secretariat attend the site visit. The experts are required to submit individual reports on their visit findings. The pilot, the commission chairperson and the secretariat analyze all information related to the proposal and prepare a draft report for the commission s consideration that highlights the main points and formulates the conditions, suggestions and other considerations that may become part of the final evaluation report. The commission approves its final evaluation report, which is then forwarded to the applicant, who is responsible for taking appropriate action. Evaluation standards. CEP classifies its standards and evaluation criteria under four categories: Framework: admission requirements; course load; grading system; academic administration. Program Activities: the general or specialized nature of the courses; core courses where applicable; the balance between compulsory and optional courses; the balance between theoretical and practical learning; the sequence and level of activities; the professional aspects if the degree provides entrance to a professional association or a license. For research master s programs and doctoral programs: the link between program activities and research activities of faculty; the link between teaching activities and research activities; adequacy of student supervision; and intellectual atmosphere (conferences, symposia). Faculty and other human resources: qualifications of individual professors; overall faculty characteristics; procedures and criteria for accrediting professors and researchers qualified to teach in the program and supervise research work; qualifications of lecturers, directors of clinics, internship supervisors, affiliated professors/researchers, etc. Material resources: libraries; computer facilities; laboratories; student workspace; financial aid. Assessors and how they are recruited. When a site visit is required, the commission appoints the pilot to lead the evaluation process, notifies the applicant of the proposed review team, and requests any clarifications or additional information. A minimum of three expert advisors are selected, and at least one must come from outside the province of Québec. It is understood that an expert advisor is a person with recognized qualifications in the field of the proposed program, who has no relationship to the applicant university. Program Evaluation Review Commission (CVEP) Quebec [14] The Policy of Quebec Universities for the Periodic Evaluation of Current Academic Programmes requires that every institution has adopted and implemented an evaluation policy that will ensure the quality and relevance of its programs. To promote this goal, in 1991 the universities established the Programme Evaluation Review Commission and gave it the mandate of examining the appropriateness of institutional policies and practices with respect to the goals, stages, criteria and procedures defined under the terms of the Policy. In the context of fostering dialogue, the commission s review procedure involves examining the current policy of the institution and determining whether the institution s evaluation practices are in accordance with the policy. The commission is fully autonomous. Its recommendations are made directly to the institutions and are not subject to the approval of the conference of rectors and principals of Québec universities. Evaluation method. The objective of the review process is to verify the appropriateness of the institutional policy on quality assurance and its periodic evaluation practices. The commission consults with the university to set the review schedule. It receives a list from the university of the 44

14 Quality Assurance of Degree Education in Canada evaluations already completed and of those in progress. In cooperation with the institution, it then identifies two or three representative programs that have recently been evaluated internally, and the institution will then forward to the commission the complete evaluation files for these programs that is, the self-evaluation report; the reports from the external experts; the report from the institutional evaluation committee; the comments of those in charge of the program; the action plan; and, in the case of professional training programs, the report issued by an external accreditation authority. The commission analyzes this material to determine the consistency of the institutional policy and of periodic evaluation practices, and then conducts a one-day site visit, when it meets with senior administrators and those in charge of implementing the evaluation process, as well as with faculty members and students, in order to gain a fuller understanding of the policy and its implementation. The commission then prepares a draft report describing its findings and observations in order to assist the institution in improving its periodic evaluation process; the draft report will also include the commission s conclusions and recommendations. This is forwarded to the institution for comment, after which the final report is prepared and distributed to the institution, CREPUQ and the Ministry of Education. Within a year after publication of the final report, the institution informs the commission as to what actions were taken to comply with the commission s recommendations. Evaluation standards. Although CVEP is not involved in the assessment of programs, the QA standards that it espouses are evident from the requirements that it defines for the member institutions when they conduct their internal periodic evaluation processes. This policy sets out a number of distinct elements that are to be part of the process: the self-evaluation is to be undertaken with the full participation of the academic staff and students; a self-evaluation report is to be prepared that include a description of the program, its operation since the last evaluation, its strengths and weaknesses, the opportunities available and the problems to be overcome in order to ensure its future development; a site visit must be made by at least two external experts who are specialists in the discipline; there is to be a report by the external experts; the report is to be distributed within the institution for information and comment; an institutional committee is to be formed, composed of faculty members and academic administrators who were not involved in the evaluated program, and whose duty is to fully examine the evaluation file and the opinions of external experts, and prepare a final evaluation report. The evaluation criteria that are to be applied during these processes are quite straightforward: clarity and validity of the program s learning objectives; compliance with the university s mission and development plans; appropriateness of admission criteria and program structure; consistency between learning content and the development of the discipline; appropriateness of teaching, learning and assessment strategies; sufficient human resources (faculty and other resources for adequate supervision of students and for critical mass of active researchers); sufficient physical and financial resources; institutional and social relevance of program (performance indicators for academic staff and students). Make performance indicators a separate criterion? Or ok to have changed semi colon after program to opening parenthesis? Assessors and how they are recruited. The commission members themselves conduct the site visits to verify the appropriateness of the institutional policy and practices concerning quality assurance and periodic evaluation. The direct assessment of the program is the responsibility of the institution s academic community (i.e. faculty, staff and students) and the external experts who are engaged by the institution to conduct a site visit and prepare either a single report or individual reports. CVEP provides some guidelines for the selection of these experts. They should be university professors 45

15 Donald N. Baker & Terry Miosi who are recognized specialists in the discipline of the program. Having some experts on the team from outside Quebec is encouraged, as is the presence of researchers who are working for a public or private research organization. In the case of a professional program, input is sought from practitioners and professional internship hosts. A number of the guidelines can be classified as relating to conflict-of-interest issues: an expert should be neither a former colleague nor a graduate of the institution; care should be taken to avoid too close a relationship between the expert and the program director and the faculty members; the expert s department should not be in direct competition with the one whose program is being evaluated. Undergraduate Program Review Audit Committee (UPRAC) Ontario [15] In 1996, the Council of Ontario Universities established guidelines for the periodic quality reviews of undergraduate programs and implemented a system of regular audits of its member institutions policies and procedures for these reviews through UPRAC. The first audits were conducted in 1997, and with three institutions being audited each year, a full audit cycle takes seven years, after which the process is repeated. Similar to Quebec s Program Evaluation Review Commission, UPRAC does not conduct an assessment of programs, nor does it validate the institution s specific audit findings; instead, as UPRAC s guidelines state, the audit tests for the compliance of the university s program review policies with the standards, schedules, procedures and other aspects enunciated by the external body, and for whether the sample reviews examined by the auditors were actually implemented fully in accordance with the letter and spirit of the university s policy. Thus, the audit is concerned with process rather than direct assessment of academic quality. Evaluation method. UPRAC s guidelines detail the following steps as a part of the audit process: The institution submits to UPRAC full documentation on its program approval and program review policies, procedures and practices, and the schedule of completed and planned periodic quality reviews. The auditors select the programs they will review from the list of approvals and reviews completed by the institution over the last cycle. The auditors are to take into consideration the diversity of the institution s programs in making this selection in order that their audit will be as broad as possible. The audit process has three main steps: an analysis of the documentation submitted by the institution; appropriate interaction with the institution; and the preparation and submission of the audit report. Following a review of the documentation provided, the auditors normally conduct a site visit of the institution and meet with those who were responsible for the approval and review processes (two days). The draft report is sent to the institution for comment. The final report is submitted by UPRAC to the Council of Academic Vice-Presidents, which, upon being satisfied that all procedures have been followed, receives the report by majority vote and transmits it to the institution and the ministry. Within a year, the institution is required to inform the auditors of the measures that it has taken as a result of the recommendations in the report. Evaluation standards. The standards of institutional performance sought by UPRAC are contained in the criteria that it lists for an institution s internal quality process. UPRAC defines the following as the basic acceptable structure for an institution s undergraduate program review process: the presence of a formal policy that also identifies the responsible authority, the issues to be addressed and the role of faculty deans; a self-appraisal by faculty and students that results in the production of a reflective, self-critical, analytical self-study report; an external expert evaluation, site visit and report; an appraisal by peers chosen among professors from the institution who do not participate in the program under review that receives and acts on the self-appraisal study and reviewers reports; 46

16 Quality Assurance of Degree Education in Canada a mechanism for acting on the recommendations arising from the undergraduate program review; a schedule for the cycle of reviews; the publication of a report summarizing the findings and conclusions of the institutional undergraduate quality review for each program. UPRAC s criteria for the internal approval of new undergraduate programs and for the assessment of current programs are the same, and concern: the program s consistency with the institution s mission and academic plans; whether the program meets the undergraduate degree-level expectations; admission requirements; appropriateness of structure, curriculum and mode of delivery for realizing the learning objectives; methods used for the evaluation of student progress; human/physical/financial resources; whether there is sufficient number of faculty, including fulltime appointments, with evidence of their quality and academic expertise in the area of the proposed program. In 2005, the Council of Ontario Universities endorsed a set of outcome expectations for undergraduate degrees offered by its member institutions. These expectations are catalogued under the following descriptors: Depth and Breadth of Knowledge; Knowledge of Methodologies; Application of Knowledge; Communication Skills; Awareness of Limits of Knowledge; Autonomy and Professional Capacity.[16] Critical to the issue of quality is that the development of new programs, and the internal assessment of current programs by Ontario public universities must meet this set of degree-level expectations. Assessors and how they are recruited. The audits are conducted independently by three auditors who are appointed by UPRAC. They are all senior university professors, mostly retired, who have had major administrative responsibility in their institutions and have demonstrated strong interest in the development, operation and quality of undergraduate programs. The auditors attend a one-day orientation workshop. The institutions are responsible for engaging external experts as part of their internal assessment processes. The general requirement set by UPRAC is that there be at least one expert from another university, including universities outside Ontario, and that the experts must be at arm s length from the program under review. As an example, the University of Toronto s policy requires that a review panel have at least two scholars external to the university, with one being from outside Canada; that the external reviewers must be at arm s length from the program under review - that is, they should not have a particular interest in the outcome of the review due to personal or professional relationships with members of the unit; and that the reports of external reviewers should be identifiably separate from internal reports.[17] The Ontario Council on Graduate Studies (OCGS) Ontario [18] The Council of Ontario Universities (COU) established the Ontario Council on Graduate Studies (OCGS) in 1966 as an agency primarily concerned with ensuring high-quality graduate education and research in Ontario universities. The main procedure that OCGS employs to achieve this goal is conducting quality reviews of existing graduate programs on a seven-year cycle and fully assessing graduate programs that are proposed by Ontario universities. This assessment leads either to approval for the program to proceed or to requirements for substantive changes. The council consists of the deans of the faculties of graduate studies of Ontario. An Appraisal Committee was established to assist the council, which is composed of 28 graduate faculty members nominated by the deans. The committee is divided into four multidisciplinary sections to manage the appraisal process. Different from other the other QA agencies in this category, OCGS involves itself with the assessment of programs directly, and not just with the auditing of an institution s internal 47

17 Donald N. Baker & Terry Miosi evaluation policies and procedures. Additionally, OCGS approves degree designations, the names of graduate programs and the identification of fields within them. Evaluation method. OCGS by-laws and procedures detail the following steps as part of the audit process: Submission from the university of a self-study brief; Analysis of the submission by the Appraisal Committee; If it is a standard appraisal (i.e. a new or significantly changed program), the committee checks for completeness; If it is a periodic appraisal, the committee decides whether expert consultants reports are required, or whether the committee can determine if the program meets the quality standard; Appointment of consultants by the Appraisal Committee (from an original panel of listed nominees from the university, the committee will normally choose two, usually including one from another jurisdiction); Consultants conduct the two-day site visit; Preparation and submission of consultants reports to the committee; Transmission of the reports to the university for its written response; Based on the self-study brief from the university, the consultants reports and the responses from the university, the Appraisal Committee arrives at its recommendation, which will be either: periodic appraisals (in the case of those categorized as Good quality, Good quality with report, Conditionally approved, or Not approved [i.e. admissions must be suspended and it will be eligible for resubmission after two years]); or standard appraisals (in the case of those categorized as Approved to commence or Not approved); The Appraisal Committee transmits a final recommendation to OCGS; The final decision is made by OCGS. Evaluation standards. The criteria that OCGS employs in assessing an application are defined within its submission requirements and its instructions to the expert consultants regarding what their report is to include. As the OCGS Procedures document notes: These guidelines are intended to assist graduate schools and departments/academic units/programs in preparing the appraisal documents. Following the suggested presentation will give the program a full opportunity to ensure that in its self-study and in its brief it can address all the quality-related factors that the Appraisal Committee takes into account. The institution s brief and, therefore, its self-study must address the following categories: Introduction objectives of the programs; method used for the self-study as well as the preparation of the brief, including faculty and student input and involvement; Faculty list of faculty by field; qualifications; current teaching assignments; Physical and Financial Resources library resources; laboratory facilities; computer facilities; space; financial support of graduate students; Program Regulations and Courses the intellectual development and the educational experience of the student; program regulations; degree requirements; progress reports; thesis evaluation procedures; language requirements; distance delivery; collateral and supporting departments; Outcomes enrolment, graduation and employment rates; publications; projected graduate intake and enrolments. Although this is a list of the full-range of criteria, OCGS isolates the following three areas as being of particular concern: faculty qualifications; program requirements; and curricular content and level. Regarding the first area, OCGS instructs the expert consultants to report on the competence of the faculty, including members of collateral units associated with the program, in the conduct of research, the advancement and dissemination of knowledge, the supervision of graduate students and in graduate instruction. For the second area, the instruction to assessors is that they ensure the quality of student research as demonstrated by an evaluation of a selection of completed theses and, where relevant, published works (not applicable for non-thesis programs or in the case of standard appraisals when the academic unit has no other graduate program). As for curricular content and level, at the same time that the Council of Ontario Universities endorsed a set of outcome expectations for undergraduate degrees, it also adopted a set of expectations for master and doctoral degrees.[19] These expectations are catalogued under the 48

18 Quality Assurance of Degree Education in Canada following descriptors: Depth and Breadth of Knowledge; Research and Scholarship; Level of Application of Knowledge; Professional Capacity/Autonomy; Level of Communications Skills; Awareness of Limits of Knowledge. Assessors and how they are recruited. A collaborative process is used for selecting assessors. It begins with the institution, which is invited to submit a list of proposed consultants, citing relevant credentials and background and including a short statement of each person s appropriateness as a consultant for the program. OCGS asks that there be at least eight nominations for master s-only programs and 12 for master s/doctoral or doctoral-only programs, with no more than three of the nominees holding positions in Ontario universities. The Appraisal Committee may request additional names from the university or it may propose other names to the university for it to comment on the person s suitability. A team normally consists of two consultants. A third can be appointed by the committee or requested by the university on the basis of the breadth of coverage. Only one consultant is selected from among the Ontario universities. Manitoba-Saskatchewan Universities Program Review Audit Council [20] In 2005, six universities in the Provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan Brandon University, First Nations University of Canada, the University of Manitoba, the University of Regina, the University of Saskatchewan, and the University of Winnipeg established the Manitoba-Saskatchewan Universities Program Review Audit Council. The council, consisting of the academic vicepresidents of the six universities, or their delegates, monitors the frequency, quality, consequences and efficacy of the institutions academic program reviews; serves as a source of input and advice for member institutions; and disseminates the most current and informed thinking about, and best practices in, program review. Evaluation methods, standards and assessors. The description of the audit process contained in the Manitoba/Saskatchewan Audit Guidelines [21] is very similar both in its procedures and in its language to that of the Undergraduate Program Review Audit Committee of Ontario. At the time of writing, the council had not finalized its detailed requirements for the six universities in terms of the preferred characteristics of their internal evaluation processes and the criteria that ought to be employed. In addition, the procedures for the selection of auditors and the composition of audit teams had not been finalized. Professional Accreditation Agencies The accreditation of degree programs by external professional and occupational agencies is extremely common in Canada. There are two basic reasons for this. A number of professions are regulated (e.g. physicians, dentists and pharmacists), which means an individual cannot use the title of the profession and cannot practice a set of regulated activities associated with the profession without possessing a license to practice. In such cases, access to the profession is controlled by a professional body whose mandate is set in legislation, and institutions are essentially required to have their programs accredited by these agencies in order that their graduates will be qualified for licensure. The second reason is that, with regard to a number of non-regulated professions, the influence of the professional association for that occupation is so strong that institutions seek that agency s accreditation in order to add credibility both to their program and to their graduates (e.g. business administration, human resource management, computer science). The composition of these organizations, or at least the accreditation wings of these agencies, is very similar and generally includes representatives from a number of the provincial chapters of the national association, educators from accredited schools, respected practitioners, possibly general public representatives, and current students or recent graduates. The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) lists 32 discipline areas where such professional accreditation of degree programs exists and 74 agencies that accredit degree 49

19 Donald N. Baker & Terry Miosi programs delivered by its 94 member institutions. The agencies that accredit degree programs range from the American Library Association to the Canadian Medical Association.[22] A detailed scan of each of these institutions shows that approximately 450 programs have received accreditation by one or more of these agencies, a number of which are members of the Association of Accrediting Agencies of Canada (AAAC).[23] The organization has recently introduced an online generic program for training accreditation evaluators, regardless of profession or occupation.[24] Evaluation method. Most of these professional accrediting agencies use very similar processes. Two of the more prominent ones will be used as exemplars for this group. The Canadian Architectural Certification Board (CACB) [25] describes its procedures for institutions seeking initial, continuing or reinstated program accreditation status as a three-step process. The visit preparation consists of the applicant completing and submitting the Architecture Programme Report. The CACB reviews the report, and if it is found to be acceptable, a visiting team is appointed to assess the program. The site visit is the second stage in the process, during which the assessment team has the opportunity to meet with administration, faculty, staff and students in order to assess the quality of the organization and the program in terms of the expected outcomes of CACB. The third stage is the visit follow-up, where the visiting team produces its report, which is submitted to the applicant for review and any necessary revisions. The report and the institution s response are then considered by CACB for its final decision. The Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB) [26] receives from applicants detailed data on the program and other documentation required for the application and the site-visit team. The formal accreditation process comprises two parts: the program evaluation by a visiting team, and the accreditation decision by the Accreditation Board. The evaluation of the program is based on detailed data provided by the institution and on the collective opinion of the members of the visiting team. The accreditation decision is made by the Accreditation Board, based on qualitative and quantitative considerations. Evaluation standards. CACB lists 14 categories that it assesses for accreditation: Programme history, mission, strategic plan; Progress since the previous site visit; Compliance with the conditions for accreditation; Programme response to the CACB perspectives; Programme selfassessment; Public information; Social equity; Human resource development; Physical resources; Information resources; Financial resources; Administrative structure; Curriculum; and Student performance criteria. CEAB divides its standards into four categories: Graduate attributes a knowledge base for engineering; problem analysis; investigation; design; use of engineering tools; individual and team work; communication skills; professionalism; impact of engineering on society and the environment; ethics and equity; economics and project management; lifelong learning; Students admission; promotion and graduation; counseling and guidance; degree auditing; Curriculum content approach and methodologies for quantifying curriculum content; accreditation units; minimum curriculum components in terms of mathematics and natural sciences, engineering science and engineering design, and complementary studies; Program environment quality of the educational experience; faculty; leadership; expertise and competence of faculty; professional status of faculty members; financial resources; authority and responsibility for the program; curriculum committee. The fact that CEAB makes graduate attributes the first assessment standard shows that there is a decidedly outcomes approach to the standards and the assessment processes of all of these occupationally oriented accrediting agencies. CACB s literature, for example, demonstrates this same emphasis. The curriculum of a CACB-accredited programme includes general studies, professional studies, and electives, which together comprise a liberal education in architecture. The curriculum ensures that graduates will be technically competent, critical thinkers who are capable of defining multiple career paths within a changing societal context. More specifically, the CACB requires an accredited programme to produce graduates who: are competent in a range of intellectual, spatial, technical, and interpersonal skills; understand the historical, socio-cultural, and environmental context of architecture; are able to solve architectural design problems, including 50

20 Quality Assurance of Degree Education in Canada the integration of technical systems and health and safety requirements; and comprehend architects roles and responsibilities in society. The CACB document details the expected student performance outcomes in terms of 37 criteria categories.[27] Assessors and how they are recruited. CACB prefers to have a current or former director function as the director of a site-visit team. Additional members are selected by the board from a list of nominees compiled by its member and collateral organizations. One of the team members should be qualified or trained to evaluate architecture libraries. The team should collectively represent balanced and diverse viewpoints about architecture and education and be demographically diverse. CACB also encourages the presence of an observer nominated by the applicant, frequently a member of the architecture community or a senior academic administrator. CEAB uses much the same process. The chair is a member of the Accreditation Board. The Accreditation Board also appoints members in consultation with the appropriate constituent member of Engineers Canada. The other members of the visiting team are selected by the chair, except for the member(s) selected by the Accreditation Board in consultation with the institution. The main criterion is that all visiting team members must be licensed professional engineers. For both organizations, the site visit itself is designed as much to be a catalyst for the institution s planning and self-assessment process as it is to be an assessment exercise, and the visit agendas are designed to promote personal contact and direct observation as much as possible. Theological Accreditation Agencies There are 50 degree-granting institutions in Canada that only offer divinity/theological degrees. Two of these are classified as a public institution recognized under a public act [28], while the other 48 institutions are private and non-profit, and operate under their own acts in their respective provinces. The other eight institutions in this category were originally able to offer only religious degrees, but their operations evolved to the point where they were given permission also to offer secular degrees.[29] This group of private Bible colleges is not subject to provincial legislation relating to quality assessment requirements [30], which is in line with the long-standing precedent in North America of the separation of church and state. As a result, the Bible colleges in the United States came together to form voluntary associations that adopted standards for assessing quality and a process for accrediting schools [31] almost 25 years before the first such associations and processes were formed by and for secular degree-granting institutions. Since many of the religious groups that founded Bible colleges in the United States also had sizeable communities in Canada, the affiliate Bible and divinity colleges in Canada also opted for accreditation by these agencies. There are currently two such agencies recognized by the United States federal government: the Association for Biblical Higher Education, and the Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada (ATS). The former has 33 accredited colleges in Canada, while the latter has 20. Four Canadian Bible colleges have chosen to be accredited by both agencies. Since the processes of both of these agencies are very similar, the following information will be based only on the material from the Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools. Evaluation method. The ATS accreditation process has four steps: associate member status; candidate for accreditation status; accreditation status; and ongoing approval.[32] The first step in the process is to gain associate member status. The institution must be elected by the member schools, and associate membership is for five years, during which time the institution is expected to apply for candidate status and subsequently for accredited status. The criteria for associate member status are that the institution: offers graduate, professional theological degrees, and has operated for three or more years, in order for at least one group of students to have earned all necessary credits and to have graduated with the Master of Divinity or the first theological degree offered by the school; has the equivalent of six to ten full-time faculty; 51

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