Quality: Compliance & Internal Improvement

Quality assurance and quality systems have been around for over fifty years in business and industry, but rather less in higher education, which has resulted in more and more sophisticated QA systems –  but have they resulted in improving the quality of education and training?

Originally following industrial and business models, QA, systems were adapted to try and improve the educational systems and processes. There are justifiable claims that the administration and educational structures have become more user friendly, transparent and efficient, but have the QA systems improved the educational teaching and learning process and achievement?

In developing countries, many have largely adapted QA educational systems from first world countries, but often these were implemented with little concern for the culture and context of the country, thereby producing a less than effective and efficient QA system.

The dominance of quality indicators and targets may also have diverted attention from real improvements in the educational process, due to the nature of meeting externally set quality benchmarks and indicators which have in many ways now lost sight of individual institutional vision and mission commitments. In other words, externally set targets are now setting the agenda for quality assurance in institutions rather than institutions themselves establishing the culture and context of improvements according to their own institutional values and commitments.

How can we create a balance between compliance and internal improvement? What are the challenges in higher education that we now face in the Arab world and worldwide? Qualification frameworks, institutional accreditations and university world ranking all have value but do they take our eyes off the real purpose of education and training and the process of turning our institutions into ‘Simply the Best’ in our terms, culture and context.

Ta’seel, through its capacity-building workshops, will respond to these questions and start a dialogue that may change the focus of our current quality assurance processes to a more meaningful, culturally appropriate approach that could revolutionise our current practice and restore institutional and academic independence whilst still satisfying external requirements.

Contributed by Dr Ian Morris, March 2017