Strategy for Implementation of Quality Improvement/Quality Assurance Procedures in UCC
In common with many universities world-wide, Irish universities have engaged in a process of formalisation of quality improvement and quality assurance (QI/QA) procedures. In January 1994 CHIU (Conference of Heads of Irish Universities) sponsored a seminar on QI/QA that was attended by representatives from all seven Irish universities. In 1995 the CHIU institutions established the Inter University Quality Steering Committee (IUQSC) and initiated a Pilot Programme on QI/QA.
Benefiting from the experience gained in the Pilot Programme all the Irish universities have been engaged in putting in place QI/QA systems that are in accord with international best practice. In each institution the emphasis is on ownership of the process by the people involved and on efforts to ensure that the process is an effective catalyst for quality improvement.
The Universities Act, 1997 assigned responsibility for procedures to improve the quality of education and related services provided by the universities to the governing authority of each institution, and established the legislative framework under which the universities? QI/QA processes now operate. The procedures must include a periodic evaluation of each Department/Unit, Faculty of the University and any service provided by the university. The evaluation must be made by employees of the university and by persons, other than employees, who are competent to make national and international comparisons on the quality of teaching and research and the provision of other services at university level. The evaluation process must include assessment by students and all others availing of the teaching, research and other services provided by the university.
There is a requirement that the findings arising out of the application of the procedures evaluating the quality must be published in such form as the Governing Authority in each institution thinks fit. Commencing in 2002, the Governing Body in UCC has approved the publication of the Peer Review Reports, following their approval by the Governing Body
In 1998 the Governing Body in UCC approved the setting up of a Quality Promotion Committee of the Governing Body. The President of UCC chairs this committee and members are drawn from both the academic, administration and support service communities (for membership details and Terms of Reference for the Committee see the Quality Promotion Unit web site at http://www.ucc.ie/quality). Described below is a summary of the procedures for implementation of QI/QA procedures in UCC that have been approved by the Quality Promotion Committee and the Governing Body.
The components of the methodology are:
- A Self-Assessment Report by a co-ordinating committee of the department/unit.
- Evaluation of the report by a Peer Review Group who visit the department/unit and discuss the report with representatives of staff and students.
- A final report by the Peer Review Group incorporating recommendations for quality improvement.
- On-going quality improvement.
Departments/units/directors of academic programmes together with a small group of colleagues from UCC and other Universities and/or other external bodies as appropriate will carry out the review. The review is of departments/units/academic programmes and not of individuals. When a review has been completed a report will emerge which will not identify individuals by name, and will be confidential to the department/unit/academic programme course team, the Director of the Quality Promotion Unit, the Quality Promotion Committee, Dean(s) if appropriate, and the members of the Executive Management Committee of the University, until the approval of the report by the Governing Body. Following this approval, the reports will be publicily available. As required under the Universities Act 1997 the Governing Body will publish a report on the Quality Reviews and the findings. This report will be made publicly available, when finalised. A report is prepared each year, following the conclusion of the reviews scheduled for the previous academic year.
A co-ordinating committee of the department/unit/academic programme course team will prepare a Self-Assessment Report. The purpose of this report is to provide a succinct, but comprehensive statement of the department?s/unit?s activities and, in the case of an academic department, will include an analysis of its teaching, learning and research. It will help the department/unit to identify its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOTs) and will allow it to suggest appropriate remedies where necessary. Benchmarking of the department's / unit's activities is an essential component of the Self-Assessment Report. Some of the data for the Self-Assessment Report will be collected in the form of questionnaires completed by staff, students, graduates and employers. The Quality Promotion Unit, if requested by the department, provides assistance in the conduct of the survey.
As the primary goal is Quality Improvement the formulation of strategies and recommendations for improving the work of the department/unit should be highlighted.
The Quality Promotion Unit provides detailed guidelines for the format of the Self-Assessment Report. The guidelines have been approved by the Quality Promotion Committee and the Governing Body of UCC. The guidelines emphasise the goal of quality improvement and the necessity to bring forward strategies and recommendations for how improvement can be effected. The guidelines indicate the information that should be supplied in addition to the recommendations for improvement. This information includes a summary of the staff profile of the department, the workloads of staff, and, in particular for the academic staff of a department, a breakdown of the distribution of effort between teaching responsibilities and research. All academic staff are required to submit a brief summary of their research activity, including publications for the past five years, number of postgraduate students supervised, number of postgraduate students supervised with degrees conferred, research income etc.
The Governing Body of UCC has decided that all academic departments and administration and support services units will be reviewed over a six year period commencing in 2000/01. The schedule of reviews for the six-year period is published on the Quality Promotion Unit web site at http://www.ucc.ie/quality
Detailed timetables of the review process are prepared by the Director of the Quality Promotion Unit and agreed with each department/unit on an individual basis.
It is important to get views of staff, students, graduates and employers. A collection of questionnaires has been compiled by the Quality Promotion Unit and are available to all academic departments and administration and support services units. The collection is not definitive and is intended as help only. Individual departments/units may have special requirements and these should be discussed with the Quality Promotion Director and the Chair of the Peer Review Group as early as possible. Software for the conduct of surveying staff and student has been recently acquired by the Quality Promotion Unit and access to the software may be gained by application to the Quality Promotion Unit
- Peer Review
The Quality Promotion Committee appoints the Peer Review Group who will conduct a peer review of the department/unit. The Quality Promotion Committee appoints the Chair of the Peer Review Group, who will normally be a senior member of staff chosen from within UCC. Departments/units will nominate the remaining members of the Peer Review Group which will usually consist of one other member from UCC (usually from a cognate department/unit) and two external experts, one national and one international, in the relevant discipline/area to be reviewed. The Peer Review Group will study the Self-Assessment Report and then visit the department/unit. The aims of the two-to-three-day site visit are to clarify and verify details of the Self-Assessment Report, to view the facilities and to allow members of the department/unit and students/users of the service to meet with the Peer Review Group. Before leaving the campus the Peer Review Group will complete the first draft of the report and will make an exit presentation to all members of the department/unit. The Peer Review Report is prepared by the peer reviewers in accordance with the guidelines for preparation of the report provided by the Quality Promotion Unit. Initially the Report is a confidential report. Reviewers are asked to comment on all the recommendations for improvement that a department/unit may make and, in addition, the report may include recommendations for quality improvement from the peer reviewers. The reviewers are requested to submit the report within one month of the site visit. Following verification of the factual content a copy of the report will be sent to the chair of the departmental co-ordinating committee, the Head of Department/Unit, the UCC Quality Promotion Committee, and Faculty Dean(s) / budgetary head, if appropriate. The Quality Promotion Committee will prepare a report on the review which is submitted to the Governing Body for approval. The Governing Body, in accordance with the provisions of section 35 of the Universities Act 1997, will publish a report on the findings of the review.
The site visit is central to the review process and must be carefully planned. Close liaison is required between the departmental co-ordinating committee, the Chair of the Peer Review Group and the Director of the Quality Promotion Unit.
It is envisaged that the majority of site visits will take place during the second teaching period of the academic year. Membership of the Peer Review Group will be decided approximately a year before the site visit is planned and the dates for the site visit fixed. The Quality Promotion Unit, UCC, will carry out all contact with the internal cognate members and external experts, including arrangements for their stay in Cork.
The detailed structure and timetabling of the site visit will be organised by the Chair of the Departmental Co-ordinating Committee in consultation with the Chair of the Peer Review Group and the Director of the Quality Promotion Unit. The Quality Promotion Unit will arrange the logistics of the site visit.
- Follow Up
Discussion will take place between the Head of Department/Unit, the Director of the Quality Promotion Unit and, if necessary, the Faculty Dean(s) and College Officers with a view to
- Implementing the recommendations contained in the peer review report.
- Ensuring continual quality improvement.
- Reviewing the self-assessment procedures.
Those recommendations which need additional funding resources will be considered in the light of College policy, having regard to the resources available to the University at the time (see sub-section 3 of section 35 of the Universities Act, 1997) and the strategic plan of the University.
Approximately eighteen months following on the completion of the review the department/unit is asked to report to the Quality Promotion Committee on the implementation and actions taken on the recommendations for improvement that were endorsed/made by the Peer Review Group and endorsed by the Quality Promotion Committee. A report on the Follow-Up will be made to the Governing Body as a part of the Annual report of the Quality Promotion Committee.