External Quality Audit. Has It Improved Quality Assurance in Universities?

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External Quality Assurance

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QUALITY ASSURANCE

No Downloads. Views Total views. This enables the audit team to focus in on any areas of difficulty perceived by the School itself and to triangulate such perceptions by asking relevant questions of the staff and students during a visit. This does not of course preclude the team from enquiring into other areas. The UQA now draws its membership from the whole University, rather than the Faculty in which the School is located, and includes both academic and administrative staff and students.

This larger pool not only assists in finding members but provides views from a membership outwith the Faculty.

This description does suggest that there is a fine distinction between internal institutional audit and internal sub-institutional audit such as faculty audit. See also. Villar, L. Woodhouse, D. Staffordshire University has an Internal Quality Audit Handbook , which states: Quality Audit has a crucial role in helping to ensure that the procedures and, as a consequence, the systems which exist in the institution are understood by those involved in them, followed by those operating them and regularly reviewed with a view to improving them.

University of Nottingham describes it internal audit process as follows: University Quality Audit: At University level the University Quality Audit 39 system provides a systematic check on Schools' level of understanding of, and compliance with, the Quality Manual.

For each system, we provide a high level description, and then explain the key mechanisms of the system that incentivize institutional learning and continuous improvement, leading to improved quality at the organizational and system-wide level. Though few empirical evaluations of the efficacy of these schemes exist, we draw from these examples and the literature about them to distill several key design principles for an improved system for U. A number of professional and disciplinary accrediting bodies in the United States have adopted elements of this management-based approach, and some have evaluated the effectiveness of these approaches in supporting improvement.

For example, to ensure baseline quality and comparability while allowing for programmatic diversity, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology ABET bases its assessment and accreditation of engineering programs on student performance on broad, industry-aligned learning outcomes, as well as program-defined objectives and plans for continuous improvement. Baseline and program-defined standards and plans are assessed through a self-study and site-visit by volunteer peers, industry experts, and government experts, and reviews can result in a number of actions, including approval for accreditation of reaccreditation, requests for further reporting or additional visits to show progress in identified weaknesses, or non-accreditation.

Programs that are approved for accreditation are reviewed on a six-year cycle; those that demonstrate weaknesses or deficiencies are reviewed via additional reporting, site visits, or both on a more frequent basis. A impact evaluation of these standards found that the hybrid approach, which replaced a more input-based, prescriptive approach in , incentivized programs to focus curricula more on professional skill development while encouraging planning for continuous improvement among varied stakeholders.

In addition, students report higher levels of engagement, perform better on learning outcomes assessments, and maintain more technical skills than they did with an input-based approach. The Department of Education is also experimenting with tailored, management-based forms of quality assurance, with the goals of accommodating innovative providers while ensuring accountability amongst high-risk entrants. The initiative aims to provide innovation options to low-income students, while testing ways to assure rigor and quality for new postsecondary models.

To achieve these ends, each pair of partners works with an independent Quality Assurance Entity QAE to develop program-specific outcomes, plans for meeting those outcomes, and methods of assessment. Assessment processes differ by partnership, but typically include a self-review, an assessment of processes, documents, and student work by an external team of experts, and recommendations for both accreditation and improvement.

Finally, regional accreditors have made some recent changes that indicate movement toward management-based regulation. In September , the Council of Regional Accreditation Commissions C-RAC announced that it would expand its review of four-year institutions with graduation rates at or below 25 percent and two-year institutions at or below 15 percent.


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Accreditors would supplement this review with data on transfer rates, and then follow up with institutions identified as high-risk to get more information on the conditions that led to low graduation rates and institutional plans for improvement. Though varied, each of these systems represents a hybrid approach that combines an evaluation against common metrics with a review of plans, processes, and, in some cases, provider-determined outcomes and self-assessments. These features have the potential to ensure a higher level of quality among higher-risk providers, while providing supported and regular opportunities for organizational learning and improvement.

Proposals for accreditation and quality assurance reform in the U. These case studies illuminate the benefits of as well as the challenges in creating quality assurance approaches that balance improvement with accountability and efficiency. New developments provide some cues for how a U.

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Several jurisdictions, including Hong Kong, Sweden, the Netherlands, and, until recently, Australia and the UK, use academic quality audits as part of their quality assurance systems. This is not unlike the process in the U.

Analytic Quality Glossary

Academic quality audits often exist as one part of a larger quality assurance and accreditation system in the countries in which they operate. For example, distinct from the program approval process, the quality assurance process in New Zealand is overseen by the Academic Quality Agency for New Zealand Universities AQA , which focuses audit cycles on particular components of academic quality and the internal processes for monitoring and improving upon them.

After a self-study and peer review, the AQA publishes a report with commendations for improvement, and institutions are held accountable for implementing improvement plans through progress reports and follow-up reviews. In a less process-based and improvement-oriented approach, new entrants are assessed by external reviewers on organizational features and criteria related to nationally-aligned learning outcomes, assessment methods, and resources.

Once approved, providers are reviewed periodically based on educational performance and capacity for self-assessment; results of reviews are differentiated and range from closer monitoring to sanctions or other legal actions. For example, a government review of the Australian Universities Quality Agency, which oversaw quality audits at Australian tertiary education providers in the s and early s, found that academic audits placed too much emphases on processes, made comparisons across institutions difficult, and were insufficiently rigorous.

Responding to these concerns about accountability, efficiency, and comparability, Australia and the UK have supplanted academic audits with more standards-based and risk-based systems, though both approaches are still under development. The process places a heavy emphasis on outcomes and documentation, and rarely involves a site visit or self-assessment.

Institutions that are deemed low-risk during this review are reaccredited and can go as long as seven years before another review; institutions that are deemed higher-risk undergo more frequent, extended reviews based on TEQSA quality standards and are subject to a graduated scale of consequences. Under the planned new system, new entrants will be visited and reviewed by a contracted quality assurance agency against baseline regulatory requirements related to how they meet standards set by a national qualifications framework, their financial stability, management, governance, student protection measures, mission, and strategy.

This initial review will also identify areas for development to be targeted during a four-year probationary period of extended review and support. Better established providers will undergo a one-time formative review of their internal processes for monitoring and improving student outcomes, as well as annual, differentiated reviews of operations and student outcomes, and five-year reviews of financial viability and internal regulation processes. While it is too early to assess the efficacy of these new systems in assuring quality and incentivizing institutional learning, the U.

Under these systems, institutions that demonstrate robust internal quality assurance systems are held to different, typically less burdensome, accreditation requirements, and can self-accredit their own processes or programs.

QUALITY ASSURANCE

For example, in the German Accreditation Council made it possible for German institutions to accredit their own academic programs rather than rely on external accreditation. A number of factors, including the burdensome nature of program accreditation, the growing prevalence of institutional evidence-based decision making, and political pressure for quality enhancement led the German Accreditation Council to push for internal quality assurance options. Though international developments, many of which are too new to assess, hardly point a clear way forward for a U.

In many cases, international approaches have aimed to achieve these through differentiated systems that use threshold standards and intensive reviews for higher risk-providers new entrants, poorer performers , and focus more on systems of self-regulation for better established or better performing institutions. Examples and assessments show that approaches that give institutions more autonomy in creating processes and monitoring systems can incentivize institutional learning, but also point to the need for common outcomes standards to assure comparability and accountability.

Management-based approaches to quality assurance are also observable in systems outside of higher education and, in general, emphasize outcome and process standards, building capacity for self-regulation, and differentiated reviews, consequences, and ratings. For example, using the Plan-Do-Study-Act methodology of continuous quality improvement, which originated at Bell Labs but has been adapted to the health care sector by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, organizations engage in an iterative cycle of setting goals for outcome improvement, developing hypotheses for actions that may meet those goals, implementing those actions, studying the results, and making a policy decision or refining the hypothesis and testing again.

The Current Landscape and Principles for Reform

Plan-Do-Study-Act methods usually focus on small-scale changes and aim to promote organizational learning, but are often embedded in larger organizational improvement initiatives. The Six Sigma methodology focuses primarily on areas in which there are common errors and high levels of inconsistency, and uses evidence about these processes and their outcomes to create more predictability. The methodology has been used to achieve outcomes such as increased capacity in X-ray rooms, reduced bottlenecks in emergency departments, reduced length of stay, and reduced post-operative infections.

While evaluations have found that context has a significant bearing on effectiveness, many implementations of PDSA, Six Sigma, and similar methodologies show that these methods can reduce errors, improve safety and quality of care, and reduce costs in health care. Continuous quality improvement methodologies have been supported and developed by organizations and agencies like Institute for Healthcare Improvement, the Health Resources and Services Administration, and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid. Quality improvement plans and other processes are assessed through on-site and off-site evaluations.

Based on these plans, performance on other NCQA requirements, and performance on national measures of quality care and consumer satisfaction, organizations are assigned one of six accreditation levels that range from excellent to denied. Status is made publicly available on the NCQA Health Plan Report Card, and, those awarded a lower status must undergo review within eighteen months to demonstrate improvement.