January 2017


Primary challenges in the quality assurance of iqas implementation

Esther Huertas - Project manager

SGIQAQU Catalunya has started the process of reviewing the implementation of internal quality assurance systems (IGAs) with a series of pilots to test the design of the review methodology and procedure. Although the meta-evaluation process, which usually forms part of QA procedures, has still not been carried out, note can be made of certain methodological challenges for higher education institutions and for the Agency itself.

AQU Catalunya's Guide to ex-post IQAs certification defines 6 dimensions (1. IQAs review and enhancement; 2. Programme design, review and enhancement; 3. Learning support and student guidance systems; 4. Academic staff; 5. Physical resources and services; 6. Public information) with different levels of complexity. Overall, there is one factor that stands out due to its importance and that has also led to certain difficulties for faculties that have been reviewed, namely, the information management system. Faculties may have a large amount of available information (indicators) although it is not always organised in a swift or complete way.

Another aspect that requires more thought is the fundamental procedures that go on within a university and their application at faculty level. These normally form part of a faculty's processes although it may well a university-level body that is responsible for each one. The question therefore arises of the faculty's role in the context of the procedure and the way in which it contributes to set objectives being fulfilled.

On the other hand, note should be made of the fact that faculties are complying satisfactorily with dimension 2 "Programme design, review and enhancement" and dimension 3 "Learning support and student guidance systems". This may be due to the application of the Agency's VSMA Framework (for programme validation, monitoring, modification and accreditation) and the years spent by the universities in Catalonia working on the continuous improvement and enhancement of study programmes.
From the procedural point of view, thought needs to be given to the meetings between the focus groups between the stakeholders and the external review panel so as to simplify the review procedure and avoid similarities with other procedures, such as the site visit for accreditation.

Another aspect worthy of mention is the volume of documentation associated with the IQAs which not only includes the quality handbook and its procedures, but also deals with records, indicators, enhancement plans, in reference to the faculty itself and the series of programmes that are covered by the IQAs. This is one of the main challenges facing the external review panel when certifying the IQAs and one that requires an advanced ability of abstraction on the part of the members of the external review team.

And lastly, one can but acknowledge the efforts made by the faculties who have applied and prepared for ex-post IQAs certification. This is a quality assurance procedure that without doubt calls for additional effort, in addition to a high level of commitment on the part of both the university and all faculty staff.


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