Institutional Quality Assurance Assessment
Institutional Quality Assurance Assessment; what does it mean for us?
The Dutch-Flemish Accreditation Organisation (NVAO) has carried out the Institutional Quality Assurance Assessment (ITK) in December and January in order to ascertain whether Erasmus University’s quality assurance system is in order, and whether a sustainable culture of quality exists. The quality assurance system is intended to guarantee that each programme offered at Erasmus University is of a high quality. A sustainable culture of quality exists if all stakeholders, lecturers and students continually discuss their own definitions of high programme quality.
To this end, a panel from the NVAO paid two visits to Erasmus University: one preliminary visit on 30 November and 1 December, and one visit for further investigations (‘trails’) on 17, 18 and 19 January 2018.
Proud of our programme quality
The ITK is not compulsory, but if Erasmus University has this accreditation, the quality audit for both new and existing study programmes will be less intensive. The special internationalisation accreditation makes it clear to partners and students that we are an internationally oriented university, and is an important tool for testing whether we are on the right track with our strategic ambitions.
For Erasmus University, participating in the ITK is a logical step to take: we are proud of our university and the quality of the education we provide. Many of our programmes have been awarded a ‘top-quality’ hallmark and attract a great many students from all over the world. At EUR we want to project this image to the outside world as well by demonstrating that we set great store by quality and that our programmes are of a high quality.
In April 2018, EUR was presented a positive assessment from the NVAO. This accreditation demonstrates that the EUR is more than capable of retaining educational quality at a high level. The university’s educational vision is also clearly recognisable.
With this positive assessment, the NVAO Board is expressing its complete confidence in the Erasmus University quality assurance system. The university has a distinct and recognisable educational vision that is implemented clearly in all study programmes. This educational vision is characterised by a significant emphasis on student graduation rates, the focus on the international context and the education of students who apply their academic knowledge actively in a global society.
NVAO has based its decision on the findings of an independent panel of specialists that visited the university for five days. The panel interviewed many employees and students. The panel was impressed with the tremendous engagement and commitment to innovation projects. According to the panel this demonstrates ‘shared ownership’. The panel noted: ‘Considering the extremely diverse student influx, diversity and inclusion are important topics, and EUR aims to create an environment in which everyone feels at home, can be themselves and can develop to become a critical world citizen.’
The ITK is not compulsory, but does offer considerable advantages. This institutional accreditation means that the individual study programmes only require a limited assessment. This saves a lot of time and work. For Erasmus University, participating in the ITK was also a logical step: we are proud of the quality of the education we provide. Various programmes have been awarded a ‘top-quality’ certification and we also attract a great many students from all over the world.
NVAO accreditation demonstrates that the quality of education is important for EUR. Good education is essential in our ambition to educate curious, talented students and to offer them a successful start to their professional careers.
This is a joint effort: an educational vision was determined last year together with participation bodies, lecturers and students. The Executive Board holds extensive discussions on programme quality with the faculties every year. These discussions focus on such things as whether all lecturers hold the required qualifications, and whether the degree programme committees and examination boards function effectively. Moreover, with a focus on innovation, the Community for Learning and Innovation was founded in 2017, to enable more systematic collaboration. This year, this CLI will be given a permanent location in the plinth of the Polak Building.
Collaboration is key
Rector Magnificus Professor Huibert Pols emphasised that the positive assessment offers a reason to work on quality in education with even more energy in the coming period. ‘Erasmus University will be using the panel recommendations to work further towards even more challenging education in the coming six years, with even more well-defined objectives for what we want to achieve.’The NVAO judgement confirms that the Erasmus University approach, based on own initiative and collaboration, is working. ‘We are not about one-size-fits-all. Faculties, as well as lecturers and students, are given a huge amount of space to determine together how high-quality, academic education should look like. Everyone subscribes to the importance of educating critical students who can use their academic skills across the world.’
With this goal in mind, the Rector founded the Community for Learning and Innovation (CLI), in which lecturers and students are given space to develop educational innovation projects that focus on more challenging education. ‘We’ll be making significant investments in the Community for Learning and Innovation: in collaborating to further elaborate our educational vision and further promote joint learning. Erasmus University continues to commit itself to world class education for talented thinkers and doers who have the ambition to make a difference.’
Visits from the NVAO panel
The first visit was of an exploratory nature. The NVAO panel members interviewed faculty and departmental representatives on 30 November and 1 December.
During the interviews, the panel members asked us to give specific examples of how we have set up quality assurance at the faculty and at institutional level.
For instance, did you know that:
• each programme is evaluated once every three years, once internally and once externally?
• students can systematically share their experiences on each course and each programme by participating in surveys and/or discussions?
• our Examination Boards supervise the quality of examinations every day and guarantee that they are of high quality?
• the degree programme committees have assumed their task of actively endorsing major components in the programme this academic year?
• we have a research programme that is able to investigate whether our education policy affects graduation rates
A dedicated Board
The Executive Board holds bilateral consultations with the faculties every year to discuss the quality of the programmes in detail. These discussions focus on the quality of education, whether all lecturers hold qualifications, and whether the degree programme committees and examination boards function properly. The discussions also examine the way in which programmes work towards internationalisation, online didactics and similar matters.
The second on-site visit consisted of trails. A trail is an investigation within a certain faculty, or an investigation as a result of a research question at several faculties.
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