September 2010

  • Send
  • Subscribe


Monitoring the quality of university studies: a relationship of trust

Flor Sánchez Fernández - Department of Social Psychology and Methodology, Autonomous University of Madrid

Insofar as the universities are free to propose new programmes within the regulatory framework of recognised university degree programmes, they are also responsible for monitoring the development of all programmes of study that are proposed. This is being carried out by the universities that make up the higher education system in Catalonia. Taking responsibility for the work of monitoring makes it possible for them to self-regulate control over the systems for the evaluation and assurance of the quality of university studies, thereby making the work of the quality assurance agencies, AQU Catalunya in the case at hand, one of an advisory and supporting nature.

Monitoring enables the commitment by the university with the various stakeholders to the studies that it offers to be appropriately checked and complied with. The success and sustainability of the system for monitoring degree programmes needs to be based on a relationship of trust between the universities and society. In this regard there are two important principles that can enhance such a relationship of trust, namely, competency and integrity.

As a guarantee of their competency, universities should have formal monitoring and review procedures to ensure their degrees and qualifications continue to be relevant and updated. An institution that wishes to be perceived as competent and trustworthy needs to have the necessary resources, in terms of both fast and effective information management systems and staff that are properly trained to deal with the tasks at hand, even though this may call for significant investment and effort at the beginning. Monitoring will show whether the model for the delivery of degree programmes set up through internal quality assurance systems works properly or not. Assessment of the institution's integrity has to do with information reliability and transparency. Universities must ensure the information they gather, analyse and publish on courses that are offered is updated, objective and meaningful. This information will allow students and other groups to make decisions best suited to their interests. At the same time, monitoring should enhance the trust within the institution by making it easier for teachers, administrative staff and managers to access information and thereby become involved in an articulate way and institutionally in enhancement proposals and in correcting any shortcomings arising in the actual delivery of degree programmes, thereby being involved in a proactive way in the assessment of the university and study programmes by others.

With internal quality systems set in place and certified, various aspects of the usefulness of programme monitoring for universities become evident. Firstly, in addition to being a factor of cohesion, programme monitoring becomes a learning process, not an examination, and one of maturity for the institution itself, which learns about itself through a process of autonomous assessment and evaluation of how the different processes and activities are being carried out and, following analysis of the results that are obtained, whether or not they are the most appropriate for achieving the proposed objectives. Monitoring is therefore an opportunity for the continuous enhancement that is necessary, because a curriculum is a project for obtaining specific aims and as such may require modifications being made to content, teaching, etc. that cannot be postponed until the end of the cycle. Monitoring also makes planned intervention easier through decisions that are made and modifications proposed on the basis of information management and the analysis of indicators, as part of a strategy or action plan to achieve certain proposed objectives. Monitoring is furthermore an aid to reflection and value analysis regarding the activity being carried out and of the results obtained in relation to what was anticipated, and it empowers the university to be the first to act and propose immediate enhancement measures.

To sum up, the monitoring of programme quality adds value to the system of university education and is an opportunity to reaffirm the mutual trust that exists between the university as an institution, on the one hand, and society and specific stakeholder groups, on the other. Universities that guarantee the monitoring process and are ready to effectively provide information on the progress being made in relation to their commitments, and which are accountable, will see their "hallmark" recognised by students, employers, professionals and families, and the quality and competitiveness of their programmes will become evident. The higher education system in Catalonia as a whole is on track in this process and headed in the right direction.


Generalitat de Catalunya

Via Laietana, 28, 5a planta 08003 Barcelona. Spain. Tel.: +34 93 268 89 50

© 2010 AQU Catalunya - Legal number B-21.910-2008