Quality AssuranceProcess in Irish Higher Education Dr Patrick Cashell June 2008
Throughout most of the 20th century Ireland had two Universities (based in five campuses), and three technological institutions; • By the 1990s two new universities (in Limerick and Dublin) as well as a nation-wide network of 14 Institutes of Technology were fully operational, and competing with high degrees of success for students and resources
Universities Act, 1997 • The Universities Act 1997 set the legislative basis for the operation of not only the two new universities established in Limerick and Dublin in 1989, but also put in place the statutes for Trinity College Dublin (established by Royal Charter of Queen Elizabeth I in 1592), and the constituent universities of the National University of Ireland (at Cork, Dublin, Galway and Maynooth).
Section 35 of the Act requires “the Chief Officer to establish procedures for quality assurance aimed at improving the quality of education and related services provided by the university”.
The Act requires, inter alia, that each university report to the Higher Education Authority and stipulates that the evaluation procedures should include assessment by “those including students availing of the [University’s] teaching, research and other services”.
Irish Universities’ Quality Steering Committee • The Conference of the Heads of Irish Universities (CHIU), under the aegis of its Registrars’ group established a sub-committee entrusted with the objective of researching best practice internationally in regard to QA/QI. • QA/QI systems in eight countries were examined; led to development of a set of guidelines and criteria appropriate to the requirements of the Republic of Ireland’s universities.
The Universities are required to achieve this by a combination of self-assessment and peer review. They are also required to… “provide for the publication in such form and manner as the governing authority thinks fit of findings arising out of the application of these procedures”…. and to implement the outcomes of the evaluations having regard to the resources available to the universities.
Under section 49, the Authority in consultation with the universities, and with a view to assisting the universities, review and report on the quality assurance procedures by each university.
Qualifications (Education and Training) Act 1999 The Qualifications (Education and Training) Act 1999 is the other significant piece of legislation governing quality assurance procedures in the universities and other institutions of higher education.
This Act established the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland (NQAI) and two new awards bodies, HETAC (Higher Education and Training Awards Council) and FETAC (Further Education and Training Awards Council).
The governing authorities of the seven Irish universities have established the Irish Universities Quality Board (IUQB)
The Board’s aims are: • To increase the level of inter-university co-operation in developing quality assurance processes. • To represent the Irish universities nationally and internationally on issues related to quality assurance and quality improvement • To articulate, on behalf of the governing authorities of the universities, the resource implications of recommendations for quality improvement.
Recent Developments: • 2003: CHIU established IUQB, launched its manual “A Framework for Quality in Irish Universities”. • 2004/2005 HEA & IUQB jointly commissioned European University Association (EUA) to undertake an appraisal of each University’s Quality Assurance procedures….. And to
Report to • Each University individually; • HEA & IUQB on the effectiveness of QA procedures across the sector; • Composite Report launched by Minister Mary Hanafin on 25 April 2005
EUA Team • Members: • Prof H. Toft Jensen, Rector, University of Roskilde (Chair) • Prof J Downey, Former President, University Waterloo • Prof J Kohler, Former Rector, Greifswald University • L Purser, Programme Manager, EUA (Secretary) 2 Visits to UL: • Preliminary Visit 3-5 May 2004 • Main Visit 25-28 October 2004
Quotes:“One very positive Factor….[is] emphasis on a supportive approach to Quality Assurance…. indicated by the establishment of a university Centre for Teaching and Learning…..”“Another very positive feature… at UL is the effort made to involve all categories of staff”“…. Relatively high impact on quality awareness and its contribution to creating a qualtiy culture”
“….culture of using….external examiners in a structured and systematic way is a good one…..[helps] to secure national and international benchmarking of curriculum, student performance and examination procedures.”“[an]… important internal quality assurance mechanism is the initial approval of new courses….by the Academic Council”
Review of Quality Assurance in Irish UniversitiesEUA Composite Report “….confirms the seriousness of the approach of each of our universities to Quality Assurance and Quality Improvement” “….the systematic organisation and promotion of Quality Assurance at the initiative of the universities themselves here is unparalleled in any other country in Europe or in the US or Canada” ……Minister for Education & Science, Mary Hanafin, TD
‘Best Fit’ re QA/QI Process • Ireland’s Universities, working with the IUQB, developed a set of Guidelines & Procedures for QA/QI, across all the Universities. • Guidelines provided for substantial harmonisation in the procedures; • And Allowed for sufficient variation and autonomy between institutions’ requirements.
UL’s Approach • Utilising this common, although ‘customisable’ set of templates, UL set about Quality-reviewing all of its 25+ Academic Departments, in the period 1998 – 2006. • Incorporated a uniquely Limerick-based approach and methodology in the way in which its Quality reviews were conducted.
UL Approach - Characteristics • Team of ‘Standing’ Chairpersons on each of Quality review Panels • Strong emphasis placed on ‘Peer’ role of both academics and industrialists/professionals, members of review Panels.
Consistent Template • Emphasis placed on ensuring that all the Quality review Panels, across the diversity of Departments, followed the consistent template, schedule and reporting process. • Report presented to the Vice President & Registrar; • Ultimately, (in keeping with set timelines) Quality review Report was submitted to the Governing Authority, and published.
Support Departments’ Review • After completion of the reviews of Academic Departments, the University’s Quality Support Unit undertook review of the Support Departments.
Quality Management System • In period 2000/2006: decided that the Support Departments should implement a QMS based on the ISO9000:2000 model. • 2 Departments, Information Technology (ITD) and Cooperative Education & Careers Division (CECD) completed fully compliant reviews, completing this phase of UL’s review strategy.
Quality Management System - II • Library and Student Academic Administration developed their own basic QMS, using ideas from ISO9000 and other sources. • Progress was somewhat slower in several other Departments – but general agreement that that there were potential benefits to the University-wide commitment to Quality.
Task Force – Bespoke QMS • UL set up a task force, to develop a bespoke QMS, based on most appropriate elements of ISO9000, Baldridge and EFQM. • 2006: this was launched as the UL Quality Management System. • Each Department worked to implement unique divisional (or Departmental) QMS, aligned with this flexible framework.
Progress & Implementation • Agreed to Quality review all Support Departments during 2006 and 2007. • This galvanised all remaining units into activity. • Some Departments had a progress audit, while others came under scrutiny, for what they had yet to deliver.
QA/QI Engagement • Seven key Departments enthusiastically engaged with the QA/QI Process • Final, full Peer Review reports of most of these have been published. • Now, holistic and enthusiastic manner of engagement by the Campus community of the Quality agenda.
EUA Review • As noted above, the HEA & IUQB contracted the EUA (European University Association) to review the whole Irish university sector • 3 EUA Review Panels conducted an in-depth review of each of Ireland’s 7 universities, during 2004. • EUA Report ‘validated…work underway in the sector, for Quality Assurance…and accountability in respect of this work’
Quality Improvement Awards • UL initiated a scheme of Quality Improvement Faculty Awards; • Aimed at promoting awareness, and enhancing buy-in to Quality culture across the university. • Budget of €150,000 for funding QI projects, competed for by individual faculty and staff.
Sectoral Projects • HEA funds sectoral projects, through IUQB, to facilitate the universities in engaging in cross-sectoral studies on common Quality themes • Projects lead to ‘Good Practice Guide’ publications (by IUQB).
Summary – 5 Features • The Bespoke QMS model in support Departments; • Open, honest and friendly engagement between Peer reviewers and University staff; • Departments’ response to Quality review through detailed action plan; • Widespread distribution/discussion/publication of Quality Report; • Involvement of Stakeholders/elucidation of their views/concerns in support Departments’ reviews.