Quality assurance in higher education
Quality assurance in higher education institutions has become a major strategic issue. Defining “quality assurance” is not that simple as it depends on the stakeholders and is based on internal processes. In most cases, institutions are also quality assured by external quality assurance agencies.
The Analytic Quality Glossary defines quality assurance as ‘the collections of policies, procedures, systems and practices internal or external to the organisation designed to achieve, maintain and enhance quality’. (Analytic Quality Glossary, updated January 2019)
Although quality assurance and the activities ensuring a robust quality assurance system are in many cases expensive and time consuming, it remains a necessary activity and the accreditation of higher education institutions is based on its quality assurance procedures and the delivery of quality programmes.
If we state that policies, procedures and systems must be in place as part of quality assurance, can we also state as indicated in the definition of quality assurance, that these activities enhance the quality of programmes?
Enhancing quality means that we work towards finding solutions to improve on the quality of our service and product, thereby ensuring the best student experience possible whilst working within the quality assurance procedures and processes.
One way to enhance quality is by building an academic community. Building an academic community means sharing best practice, ideas and debate around specific academic fields or the delivery of teaching and learning. With the development and growth of digital technology, many social media platforms are used not only for professional development, but also for mutual support among academics. These digital technology platforms serve in many cases as an online “class room” and substitutes the face-to-face teaching and learning aspects within the traditional classroom setting.
The development of digital resources increases the availability of information. Although these resources enhance teaching and learning, the downside remains that there is a danger of increased plagiarism and unethical behaviour. These issues are currently experienced by many higher education institutions tarnishing academic integrity, an inseparable part of the quality and enhancement of higher education. Considering plagiarism and unethical behaviour, it forced higher education institutions to not only implement punitive systems to prevent and deter plagiarism, syndication and unethical behaviour but to educate users to what is expected when using resources. Educating the students can take many forms such as best practice in in-text and referencing methods as well annotating information or apply theoretical concepts practically.
Teaching and learning must also be focused on the improvement of quality assured programmes for learners, parents, the workplace and society at large. In this regard the development of teaching and learning within the realm of online teaching and learning can play a major role to deliver cost effective education suitable to the learner’s specific needs. Innovation within the workplace is also constant, and higher education institutions have to ensure that graduates are well prepared for the workplace by following through on quality assured and innovative educational programmes.
Ensuring the quality of education and enhancing quality must and should remain the focus of all higher education intuitions. Christine Gregoire so aptly quoted: “One of the most powerful tools for empowering individuals and communities is making certain that any individual who wants to receive a quality education, can do so.”
Analytic Quality Glossary. Available from: http://www.qualityresearchinternational.com/glossary/assurance.htm [Accessed on 15 April 2019]