Leaders plays an important role in the strategic direction of Quality Assurance and is instrumental in creating the conditions for a true Quality Culture. In order to fulfil this role, Leaders need to have a good understanding of the varied purposes that QA can have, generally at the same time and with different emphases on different levels and between different stakeholders within and outside the institution. The most important puproses of QA are quality enhancement and creating a quality culture.
(Santiago et al., 2008) distinguishes different reasons of developing quality:
i. Quality as exceptional/excellence – this view refers to quality as exceptional with regard to the highest academic standards and excellence. By definition, this kind of quality is not attainable by all.
ii. Quality as perfection or consistency – this approach looks at quality as a process to eliminate defects and aiming for a consistent or flawless outcome. In this view, quality can be attained by all by focusing on consistency (constantly improving and eliminating flaws).
iii. Quality as fitness for purpose – in this view quality is measured by the level of fulfillment of a stated purpose, mission or goals – either by an institution or an academic program; the exact meaning will vary depending on the actual purpose envisioned.
iv. Quality as value for money – the focus here is on the output per input ratio, with the aim of gaining more efficiency. In other words, this is similar to a return on investment approach. Quality is attained when a better or higher outcome can be achieved at the same cost, or if the cost can be decreased while the outcome level is maintained.
v. Quality as transformation – this approach looks learning that is centered on the student; views quality as value-added and transformation and empowerment of a student through the learning process. In this scheme, quality is achieved when the learning proves transformative for the student.
Internal vs External QA
“Quality culture refers to an organisational culture that intends to enhance quality permanently and it is characterised by two distinct elements: on the one hand the cultural/psychological element of shared values, beliefs, expectations and commitment towards quality and, on the other hand, a structural/managerial element with defined processes that enhance quality and aim at coordinating individual efforts” (EUA, 2006)
Quality culture depends on good management on all levels, giving space to staff for experiment and time to make improvements, encourages listening to students and the world of work and support when risks are being taken and errors being made.
Video below sum-up the main reasons of using Quality Assurance in Professional Higher Education (20 minutes).
External source: Santiago et al. (2008), Tertiary Education for the Knowledge Society (OECD).