January 2015


Essential training in quality assurance for the participation and empowerment of student representatives

Gemma Espigares Tribó - AQU Student Commission

On the 22 and 29 November 2014, thirty students from the public universities in Catalonia (UB, UAB, URV, UPC, UdL, UdG and UPF) plus two private universities (UOC and UIC), took part at the University of Barcelona (UB) in the Quality assurance training course for university students organised by CEUCAT (the Council for student representation covering all of the Catalan universities), the Catalan University Quality Assurance Agency (AQU Catalunya) and the University of Barcelona (UB).

The EHEA recognises students as full members of the university community and provides for their participation in the organisation and educational content of universities and the activities of other higher education institutions (1). The Berlin Communiqué, the Bergen Communiqué and the Leuven Communiqué make explicit mention of the need to promote the total participation of students; both Catalan and Spanish legislation (the Catalan Universities Act/LUC and the Spanish Universities Act/LOU) include clauses to this effect; and the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the EHEA call for the involvement of students in universities and QA agencies, as well as their participation in quality assurance processes in these institutions(1).

Between 2005 and 2012, more than 300 students were trained by AQU Catalunya(2). With a change in the format (inter-university and a 10-hour course), the aim of the new training course is to provide student representatives with tools and the necessary preparation to participate in both internal and external quality assurance and enhancement procedures, and as experts on QA committees and panels.

The first session dealt with an introduction to the concepts associated with quality assurance (European standards and guidelines, the Framework for programme validation, monitoring and accreditation, student participation, etc.). Those participating included AQU Catalunya, student reviewers, the UB’s Vice-Chancellor's Office and the Quality Policy Agency, and one student associated with the European Students Union (ESU).

Following a presentation of the AQU guides and handbooks, the second session dealt with the practical aspects, which were organised in three small group workshops: study programme validation, public information monitoring and programme accreditation, with the use of real examples in all groups.

The course has had an important impact via the social network: 44.79 points per tweeter according to Tweetreach, with 469 people having received via Facebook and 52 viewings of the first session of the video.

The participants gave the course an 8.48 rating out of 10 in terms of usefulness, and 8.35 for overall satisfaction (92% response rate, 23/25). They considered the duration of the course to be correct, although some participants suggested a second module with more practice is needed. For those giving the course, overall satisfaction was 9.13 out of 10 (61.5% of those participating, 8/13). An average time of 6.13 hours was spent preparing the materials and presentations, which all together totalled 49 hours.

All stakeholders in quality management (student representatives, academic and QA agency managers, quality experts, European entities, etc.) reiterate the need to train students so that they participate in QA procedures, and courses like this one contribute not only to this, but also to creating links and networking between students in different universities.

Good practices in QA by different universities have been identified and these can be implemented in other universities. In addition, as a result of the positive work atmosphere and peer-to-peer knowledge sharing, links have been created that point to future collaborations. In spite of the effort involved in organising a course at inter-university level, the benefits that have been identified are highly positive, and cooperation between the different agencies and organising bodies further extends the impact.

In addition to these courses, it is important for other mechanisms to be enhanced (such as semi-distance learning courses, tutorials, handbooks, informative videos, etc.), which publicise and increase awareness of quality management, because work is often done in this field without it actually being identified as such.

We students, as members of the university community, form part of the decision-making bodies in many universities and European agencies, and in order to carry out our job in a responsible way we need to be trained and empowered so as to thereby contribute to the system’s improvement and enhancement by providing added value and a distinct point of view.

(1) CEUCAT. Breu anàlisi de la participació dels estudiants en la presa de decisions a Europa. Available at: http://www.ceucat.cat/publicacions/informes-i-estudis/documents/breu-analisi-de-la-participacio-dels-estudiants-en-la-presa-de-decisions-a-europa/view

(2) Agència per a la Qualitat del Sistema Universitari Català. Implicació dels estudiants en la qualitat de la Universitat. Available at: http://www.aqu.cat/estudiants/implicacio.html#a2


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