September 2012

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The AUDIT programme. The responsibility of moving forwards with the model for quality

Ariadna Barberà Mata - Technical specialist, Quality and Teaching Innovation Unit, Universitat Ramon Llull

For many universities the launching of the AUDIT programme by ANECA, ACSUG and AQU Catalunya in 2007 was viewed as an opportunity. Since then, however, the growing importance of internal quality assurance procedures in the process of programme adaptation to the EHEA has become unquestioned.

At the present time, however, we are faced with the challenge of moving beyond the statement of intention to the assessment of the real usefulness of AUDIT for higher education institutions. Suffice to say that, despite the difficulties over the last few years, the experience in the case of the Ramon Llull University (URL) has undoubtedly been positive in many aspects, and it would not be an exaggeration to say that it has been fundamental in certain cases for integrating different QA policies and strategies developed up until now for degree programmes.

It should be pointed out that, during this period, there has been significant cooperation between AQU Catalunya and the quality units in the universities, which, in our opinion, has been essential for ensuring the implementation of the different QA systems.

As a technical specialist with the URL's Quality and Teaching Innovation Unit, I have had the opportunity to participate, right from the very beginning, in the design, development and implementation of many very different internal QA systems based on the AUDIT guidelines. The work has been complex bearing in mind that in recent years the volume of evaluation processes in which the universities have had to deal with has not allowed for much level-headed thinking regarding the ultimate objective of quality assurance and quality enhancement processes.

Those of us who work in a university's quality management unit are aware of the resistance that they have engendered, and still engender, in different sectors and on different levels in university organisations. It is certainly true that the implementation of an internal quality assurance system may lead to people thinking there is more control over what they do and an increase in red tape. It is precisely here, and according to our experience over the years, where QA agencies and quality management units have the responsibility to set in motion strategies that are more flexible and speed up the different processes as much as possible.

In the case of the Ramon Llull University, the proposal to opt for a specific IQAS model for each school or faculty and an internal organisation based on self QA management has been a key factor in the development of the programme and has made IQAS implementation more flexible and helped it become more consolidated within the organisational culture. This has only been possible however as a result of the excellent work carried out until now by the quality units and those directly responsible for IQAS design, implementation, monitoring and improvement, which has led to structures that are well-defined, functional and more fit for purpose.

From what is happening in institutions of an international character, another element that is bringing about important changes in the institutional culture is the growing participation of students in QA processes. Again, for progress to be made in this direction, it is important for HEIs to reinforce their trust in the students and to take best advantage of what their experience offers.

From my own personal point of view, and at a time when the universities are preparing to start the first accreditations, additional efforts now need to be made in focusing on these elements which are already provided for and in consolidating an internal QA system that will have a clear bearing on the different internal and external QA processes.

It is clear that, by committing to a top quality model, the universities will need to gain the respect of QA agencies by establishing their own management models, evaluation criteria, and by demonstrating their firm commitment concerning QA systems.

In short, the challenge facing us is not to design and implement a QA system that gives a “stamp" of quality, but one that opens up the possibility of the universities finally fulfilling their responsibilities and thereby reaffirming university autonomy.


Generalitat de Catalunya

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

© 2012 AQU Catalunya - Legal number B-21.910-2008