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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Quality Assurance in Education, Volume 18, Issue 1
I would like to begin this editorial by recording my thanks to Dr Gitachari Srikanthan for his devoted and effective work in his capacity as Associate Editor of the journal since I took over as editor in 2003. In the period since he became Associate Editor, Dr Srikanthan has worked very hard to develop the reach and the depth of the journal. I am sure that the readership will join me in thanking him for the significant achievements in extending both the reach, in the form of the international coverage of the journal, and the increased depth of the papers now being published. This has included special issues focused on education in developing economies and, more recently, the challenges of assuring quality in the e-learning environment. Of course, the context of quality in education is constantly developing and evolving and the factors that impact on quality of the teaching, learning and research experience continue to be identified and addressed. Dr Srikanthan has made a major contribution to ensuring that the journal continues to be at the forefront of debate, innovation and the dissemination of good practice in the education field internationally. I am delighted that he has agreed to continue his association with the journal as a valued member of the Editorial Advisory Board. Through this association, the editorial team will be able to continue to benefit from his extensive experience, erudite insights and wise counsel.
The articles in this issue reflect both the long standing concerns associated with quality in education together with some of the more current and emerging matters that influence quality in the education environment, including the innovative application of approaches and methods from other discipline areas to the quest for measurement and improvement of quality in the education sphere.
In the first article, Brian Poole explores the relationship between quality assurance professionals and their fulltime academic colleagues in universities. He starts from the definition of quality as “excellence” and moves through a variety of sources to discuss how that definition may be a source of misconstruction that leads to a barrier between quality assurance professionals and their fulltime university academic colleagues. Poole goes on to discuss how greater collegiality, a focus on quality enhancement and some changes in management style towards a more consultative approach might enable the divide between the quality assurance professionals and their fulltime academic colleagues in universities to be reduced. This may lead to the high quality we seek.
In the next article, Juan Tarí explores the use of self-assessment in the improvement of quality in higher education institutions. In particular, the European Foundation for Quality Management approach to self-assessment is considered and, following a review of the literature, the importance of following up on the outcomes of the self-assessment is highlighted. The literature review leads on to a set of case studies of self-assessment and follow up in a number of administrative functions in a Spanish institution. The case studies tend to confirm the conclusions of applications of business excellence in the business enterprise sector and the process of self-assessment is in itself beneficial in that it raises the awareness of quality in the minds of the staff involved. The barriers and impediments to success are also identified. The author stresses the fact that concluding with an action plan without a follow up phase supported by necessary data collection infrastructure is unlikely to deliver the desired service improvements.
In the following paper, Juha Kettunen addresses the issue of cross evaluation of degree programs by developing a framework for such evaluations. The European Union “Bologna Process” promoted the development of the “European Higher Education Area” that sought to assign equivalence and mutual recognition of academic awards and distinctions. In order to be assured that there is equivalence required for mutual recognition, it is essential to have a framework that enables cross evaluation of degree programs. The paper describes the principles underpinning the evaluation framework developed for an institution in Finland and then reports on how the framework was used internally in the institution. The results of the evaluation for the particular degree program reported in the article were disseminated widely and used in the quality improvement process. The report included the strengths and weaknesses of the program, recommendations to the course team and recommendations to the institution. The approach clearly recognises the contextual environment of the degree program and the fact that quality enhancement may be achieved at the institutional level through to the level of course delivery. The article concludes that cross evaluation of degree programs process enhances the organisational quality culture and thereby enables organisational learning and improvement.
In the penultimate paper, Ken Reid reports on the use of an external quality assessment instrument, the UK National Student Survey, in internal quality improvement. The results of the national survey and the results for the institution showed that an area of general concern was in feedback to students on assessment. Using this information as a starting point, the paper reports on how an internal audit of feedback to students on assessment was used to identify the processes and practices used in providing feedback on assessments in individual faculties and courses. The results of the audit indicated that there was significant variation in feedback to students and this evidence was used to revise and improve policies, procedures for the university. The author invites institutions to consider whether standard policies, procedures and practices might be uniformly mandated across other institutions.
In the final article, Dennis Law reviews the different approaches to quality and, in particular, total quality management, the use of performance indicators and external quality monitoring. The international trends towards increased participation rates in higher education have been a major driver of the approaches to quality in the sector, but this has led to two perspectives on quality, namely, the improvement focused approach and the accountability focused approach. There seems to be a tendency for the accountability focus to be dominant, but there is a convergence around the idea that quality in post secondary education is about “transformation”, “student learning” and the “student experience”.
Finally, I am sure that you will join me in wishing Dr Srikanthan a long and healthy retirement as well as continued support through membership of the EAB. I trust that you will find the articles in this issue provide a catalyst for reflection on our individual and collective contribution to the development of quality in education.
John DalrympleEditor, QAE, for the Editorial Team