January 2012

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AUDIT, three years on

Editorial board - AQU Catalunya

Presentation of the certificates AUDITAt an event held on 15 December at the Technical University of Catalonia/UPC, ANECA, ACSUG and AQU Catalunya presented the AUDIT certificates to the 109 faculties and schools at 24 universities whose designs for the internal quality assurance system (IQAS) of their study programmes was positively evaluated in what was the third occasion that the AUDIT programme has been run. It was the third event of its type, following those which were organised by ANECA in Madrid in 2009 and ACSUG in Santiago de Compostela in 2010.

The event was an opportunity for the agencies to disseminate the positive results of the evaluation of the programme IQAS designs presented in the 2010 call and, at the same time, served as recognition for the commitment by the universities and other higher education institutions to the promotion and quality assurance of their study programmes.

The AUDIT programme was started in 2007 by ANECA, ACSUG and AQU Catalunya. ANECA and UNIBASQ subsequently signed a collaboration agreement according to which UNIBASQ would evaluate IQAS designs of universities in the Basque Country using the methodology established by the three agencies that promote the AUDIT programme. In accordance with the commitment to transparency that is required of all university institutions within the framework of the EHEA and according to the procedure for the design and introduction of university degrees laid down in the prevailing regulations, universities must ensure their actions comply with the intended outcomes of degree programmes that they offer. In order to do this, they need policies and systems for internal quality assurance that are formally established and publicly available. In this context, the agencies jointly started to implement the AUDIT programme, the aims being as follows:

  • To facilitate the development and implementation of internal quality assurance systems in faculties, schools, universities and other institutions of higher education (Royal Decree 1393/2007).
  • To ensure that these internal quality assurance systems are used as the instrument to monitor study programmes.
  • To recognise the design of internal quality assurance systems through a process of evaluation of the suitability of system designs and their subsequent certification after they have been implemented.

In order to achieve these objectives, the AUDIT programme has a three-stage structure. In the first, which is near completion, the agencies have focused on the design aspect of IQAS for study programmes; the second will consist of the monitoring of these IQAS; and the third will involve the start of the certification of IQAS that have been introduced and are running.

There are a series of guidelines to the AUDIT programme that primarily comply with the ENQA Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance and Royal Decree 1393/2007, concerning the structuring of recognised university degrees and awards, which is also linked to the VERIFICA programme (point 9, appendix 1). The AUDIT guidelines are as follows:

  • Quality policy and objectives.
  • Quality assurance of study programmes.
  • Student-centred learning.
  • Quality assurance and enhancement of academic staff and teaching support staff.
  • Management and improvement of physical resources and services and of the quality of administrative and service staff.
  • Analysis and use of outcomes.
  • Publication of information on degree programmes.

As a result of the meta-evaluation process carried out at the end of the first AUDIT call process, and on the basis of satisfaction surveys and active dialogue with the stakeholders (universities, reviewers and agencies), various modifications were made to the supporting documentation for the evaluation process, the criteria and the evaluation protocol. AQU Catalunya included an additional guideline, “General aspects of internal quality assurance systems”, in the evaluation methodology from the 2009 call onwards. From the second call onwards, ANECA and AQU Catalunya also offered participants the possibility of submitting general IQAS models for a university as a whole, applicable to all faculties and schools, instead of the criterion that was initially established of only specific faculty IQAS models could be submitted.

Following their participation in the AUDIT programme, a considerable number of faculties and schools in Spanish universities now have a defined design for an IQAS that is ready to be implemented. In the first call, 119 faculties and schools at 49 universities received a positive evaluation of their IQAS design; in the second, 258 faculties and schools at 38 universities; and in the third, 109 at 24. The IQAS design of study programmes in the fourth call are currently being evaluated. It is anticipated that UNIBASQ will organise the presentation of certificates for IQAS designs that are favourably evaluated in this fourth call of the AUDIT programme.

Following the first three calls of the AUDIT programme, the agencies reviewed the programme and detected a series of strong points and enhancement opportunities in IQAS designs.

The main strong points are as follows:

  • The existence of a university-wide IQAS support structure.
  • Adaptation of IQAS to the running of the faculty/university.
  • The existence of a connection with the faculty/university’s strategic planning and process-based management.
  • Connection with other review and evaluation programmes.
  • Inclusion of public information for the different stakeholders involved in the study programmes.

The main enhancement opportunities detected are as follows:

  • The absence of any explanation regarding how various stages of the enhancement cycle are developed.
  • In IQAS based on general models, the existence of limited specifics regarding the implementation of the guidelines at faculty level.
  • The way in which the stakeholders participate in the design and development of certain actions is not specified.
  • The lack of mechanisms to implement enhancements stemming from the review process.
  • Complex IQAS that may make it difficult to implement the IQAS.
  • A limited description of accountability.

The AUDIT programme has proven to be a useful tool for arranging processes already being used in faculties, schools, universities and institutions of higher education, and it has proved useful for discussion and analysis and for designing new processes in line with the prevailing legal framework and international quality standards.

The current challenge lies in implementing IQAS associated with study programmes. The monitoring of recognised programmes begins to provide the first evidence of the state of IQAS implementation. However, it is in the accreditation of these programmes that the value of IQAS in programme quality assurance will become clear.


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