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The review of affiliated institutions: A path for the enhancement of higher education institutions

Olga Ortega Solsona - Director of the Escola Universitària d'Infermeria del Mar / Del Mar University College of Nursing and Chairwoman of a Self-evaluation Committee

The programme for the quality assurance of institutions affiliated to public universities in Catalonia, developed by AQU Catalunya together with the Directorate General for Universities and the Catalan universities, promotes enhancement of the contextual conditions for the four basic mainstays of an institution: learning, management, human resources and physical resources. The approach to and delivery of undergraduate (Bachelor) and postgraduate degree programmes within the framework of the European Higher Education Area in a context of quality assurance is perhaps the main aim of this programme.

The basic objectives of the institutional review project at our institution were as follows: institutional change, innovation, reform and enhancement, with change and continuous improvement being the key elements and the raison d'être for review in our institution.

In order to achieve these aims, it was important for there to be a precise diagnosis of the institution's problems and their formulation, together with the recognition of its strong points and the resources available for resolving problems, in accordance with the different standards and criteria of the programmes being reviewed.

The institutional review also enabled us to recognise and identify good institutional practices and give them new meaning within the future scenarios for higher education in Europe, as well as being accountable to the providers and recipients of the institution's specific type of education.

From this perspective, review became a means to an end, and basically it has been a learning process that has enabled us to create a setting that facilitates and, at the same time, promotes self-evaluation processes, with regard to the basic standards of educational quality (learning, management, human resources and physical resources, research and innovation).

The success of (self)evaluation is very closely associated with the involvement of the educational community, with the singularities of each of the components of the community, and its comprehensive and interpretative handling by the institution. The members of the self-evaluation committee studied the different information available and assessed the institution's evidence according to the basic programmes for evaluation (learning, management, human resources and physical resources) and the criteria set for each standard, so as to construct shared opinions (judgments).

The purpose of this evaluation was clearly of a learning nature, given that it allowed us to understand the institution's particular dynamics and establish, through dialogue, which measures to adopt so that each sphere being evaluated could function as well as possible, including the people and resources actively involved.

From a comprehensive perspective, our interest as reviewers was directed particularly at interactive phenomena and processes in our institutional context without overlooking the causal relationships between the system's different input, process and output variables.

Particular attention should be drawn to the learning and training value of institutional review. In this regard, the experience allowed us to check and redefine the importance of this purpose of evaluation and consider it as a continuous, systematic and constructive process, which, through self-evaluation, participation, reflexion and autonomy on the part of the stakeholders in the institution, allows for the permanent updating of the levels of quality in the same.

In relation to the role of the self-evaluation committee, its members had access to all of the necessary information to establish and understand the educational facts about the institution and the degree programme. The various forms of evidence required to establish the strong and weak points in relation to the programme's were also jointly analysed and studied through comparison with the information obtained, as well as the predefined criteria for quality set by AQU.

The self-evaluation committee used a highly satisfactory work methodology that resulted in a clear and objective self report that was in line with the final report drawn up by the external review panel, which has enabled us to establish plans for institutional enhancement in order to attain more advanced levels of quality and to deal successfully with the educational requirements of the EHEA.

The self-evaluation and review process has served as a stimulus to the institution to continuously promote objectives for institutional enhancement and self-regulation, by taking the learning nature inherent to institutional review as the core of educational action and quality assurance processes, in both the Bachelor's programme as well as other lifelong learning and postgraduate projects.


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