LiU’s work with quality assurance to be assessed
On 18 February, the Higher Education Authority (UKÄ) will visit LiU to examine the university’s model for quality assurance of education. This is the first time such an examination has been carried out since the new Swedish system for quality assurance was introduced.
The national system for quality assurance introduced in 2017 means that institutions of higher education are themselves to be responsible for the systematic quality assurance of all education offered. The system obliges every institution to establish a unified system for quality assurance. The Higher Education Authority will examine the model adopted.
“The UKÄ does not itself measure the quality of the education: it examines whether the university has a system that can measure the quality”, says Ragnhild Löfgren, educational director at LiU. She uses the course evaluation system as a concrete example.
“A teacher may look at the points he or she is awarded by the students and how satisfied they are. The UKÄ, on the other hand, will look at whether the response rate is high enough to give reliable information.”
The UKÄ will examine six institutions of higher education in this round: four big ones (Lund, Uppsala, Stockholm and Gothenburg), and two smaller (Umeå and Linköping).
LiU has carried out a self-evaluation of six areas for which the UKÄ has requested information. These are:
- governance and organisation
- design, execution and results
- gender equality
- perspectives of students and doctoral students
- working life and collaboration
“The preconditions topic deals with such fundamental things as teachers. And other circumstances such as support functions, libraries, premises, IT systems, language labs., that sort of thing”, says Ragnhild Löfgren. Even such a detail as the availability of electrical sockets for the students is important.
When looking at gender equality, the examiners will look at hard data such as the numbers of men and women. But they will also look at soft factors, such as how examinations in the field of gender equality are arranged for the various study programmes.
LiU has a good track record when it comes to student influence on its various boards and committees.
“It can be difficult to get doctoral students involved. They are active at the departmental level, but not higher up”, says Ragnhild Löfgren.
The meeting with the UKÄ on 18 February is scheduled for 8.00 am- 6.00 pm. The timetable is rigid, with selected questions for each group. The questions for all groups are similar, to see whether there is a consensus. And some additional specific questions will be included. Many people at LiU will participate in various ways during the day:
- those with responsibility for how education is carried out, such as pro-deans and managers
- those with responsibility for research education, such as pro-deans and deputy heads of department
- representatives for departments
- all four deans
- those working in University Services with quality assurance
- the university management and university director
- the university board and internal auditor
- student unions
When the day is over, the university will be informed of a number of issues that the UKÄ would like to know more about.
“It’s not a matter of new documents, but background and evidence, such as minutes from meetings, showing how the work has been carried out. We will have three weeks to prepare this material”, says Ragnhild Löfgren.
The UKÄ will return to LiU in April for a three-day follow-up visit, and will pass down its decision in October. LiU will then be informed of how the UKÄ views the quality assurance work. It is possible for them to approve the work, approve it with reservations in one or more areas, or question whether the work at the university in several areas is acceptable.
“I’m sure they will approve the work we have done”, says Ragnhild Löfgren. “For other institutions of higher education, the most common decision is to approve the work with some reservations. The two areas that seem to be most difficult are governance and organisation and gender equality.”
And Ragnhild Löfgren can see that it’s possible LiU still has some work to do in these areas.
“It’s a case of breasting the administrative hump, and showing students and co-workers that we are working with these questions and getting everyone involved – not least the students and doctoral students. And we need to show them how we’re doing this. It’s important that they realise that quality assurance really does lead to better education.”
“Gender equality is also an area of misgiving. A requirement has been set down that institutions of higher education must appoint more women to professorships. LiU has had 20% women professors for the past 20 years, while our target is 48%. But again, we must remember that the UKÄ will not assess the result, but how we are working with the question.”
More about quality assurance at LiU
Translated by George Farrants
Last updated: 2021-02-04