The University is a unique place where parties come together to explore new horizons – to discover the unknown. In this situation the degree to which one party trusts another is paramount to the success of the YSLU in fulfilling its mission. For support and monitoring purposes a Quality Assurance Center (QAC) has been established prior to 2009-2010 Academic Years. The overarching belief for the Quality Assurance rests on three main pillars: honesty, benevolence and competence.
The quality process at YSLU is driven by the firm commitment to place policies and practices that do not grant any opportunity for dishonest and malevolent behavior. On the other hand, in ensuring the continued growth of competencies, the YSLU is committed to create a process and an environment, where students, professors and administrators will be willing to expand their knowledge, hone the skills, so that to reach a higher level of competence, which will be encouraged through the support provided to innovative practices and initiatives that try to question the common wisdom.
At our university and through QAC we commit ourselves to the continued quality growth and establishment of firm practices proving that quality is not only a management process, but more a culture. Thus, the mission of QAC is to support the strengthening of a quality culture at YSLU. It aims at (a) supporting policies and procedures comparable and compatible with that of the European Higher Education Area and (b) supporting the transformation of YSLU into a learning organization in a much broader understanding, encompassing all the players and internal units.
The main directions in which QAC are commence developing operations and research endeavors are:
- Policy and Procedures for Quality Assurance
- Approval, monitoring and periodic review of programs and awards
- Assessment of Students
- Quality assurance of teaching staff
- Learning resources and student support
- Information systems
- Public information
YSLU Standards and Guidelines for
Internal Quality Assurance
YSLU CONCEPT PAPER
Quality Culture and Our Commitment to it
The Hallmark of the YSLU is and will continue to be its state of the art linguistic education. Our staff strives to improve and maintain its up-to-date program structure and methods of learning. We endeavor to become an environment where learning is the key drive for everyone including the academic and administrative staff of the institution.
We are also committed to expanding the scope of our education by introducing new courses of study that would diversify the curriculum and broaden out research base. Our goal is to become a center of excellence, where new ideas are being generated and tested as part of the learning process in a more comprehensive sense and are being disseminated throughout the region using various modes of communication and learning.
Naturally, for a learning environment, where learning is not only a process, but a goal and a result as well, ensuring that quality of existing process and newly established ones is being closely monitored and continuously improved, is a crucial task. Moreover, for the YSLU quality is not a concept for narrow use and responsibility, it is rather viewed as something to be cherished by everyone who enters it. In our understanding quality is a culture that is based on trust. It is a relationship of reliance, i. e. of transparency and clear set of policies that entice and induce people to work and learn together.
The University is a unique place where parties come together to explore new horizons – to discover the unknown. In this situation the degree to which one party trusts another is paramount to the success of the YSLU in fulfilling its mission. Therefore, we believe that quality should place its belief system on three main pillars: honesty, benevolence and competence. Thus, the quality process at YSLU will be driven by the firm commitment to place policies and practices that do not grant any opportunity for dishonest and malevolent behavior. On the other hand, in ensuring the continued growth of competencies, the YSLU is committed to create a process and an environment, where students, professors and administrators will be willing to expand their knowledge, hone the skills, so that to reach a higher level of competence, which will be encouraged through the support provided to innovative practices and initiatives that try to question the common wisdom.
At our university we commit ourselves to the continued quality growth and establishment of firm practices proving that quality is not only a process, but more a culture. In doing our initial steps, the YSLU management presents the main directions that our Internal Quality Assurance will take stemming from the “Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area” of European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education and firmly based on the three fundamental principles of trust.
The following describes in detail what and how is going to take place in order to claim that we are a unique community of superb quality.
1.1 Policy and Procedures for Quality Assurance
The university policy and operational procedures will provide acceptable to our stakeholders, comprehensive, clear and feasible provisions that would decide the policy based on the political will of the academic community (i. e. management, professors, students and the administration) reflected in the university policies (UP) and detailed out in operational procedures (OP) that would allow to implement the expressed will in a honest, benevolent and competent way.
Relationship between teaching and research in the institution: The YSLU will formulate a clear policy concerning its stance on the synergy of teaching and research that will define the characteristics of it and provide a basis for measuring both teaching and research activities of professors and students. The UP on teaching and research will be formulated in line with the national legislation and international good practices. Furthermore, it will be broadly discussed by the institutional stakeholders and most particularly those who will be affected by it. Finally, it will be presented to the Scientific Council of the University for its final approval. This will serve as the basis for the further development of the OPs ensuring the implementation of the policy.
Institution’s strategy for quality and standards: Building on the previous academic excellence, the university will decide on the modes of operation. It will explicitly state the strategy for quality, define it, bearing in mind the European Area of Higher Education and need to further internationalize its education. When appropriate the European standards and good practices will be considered for further implementation given that they can fit our context. The CEF will become the guiding point for developing the course of study in linguistic areas and for other social sciences the European framework for Qualifications with the appropriate levels will be considered to start developing the learning outcomes and the concept/procedures for assessment for already existing or new specialties.
Organization of the quality assurance system: The University has created a Center for Quality Assurance that is going to be the main coordinating body responsible for issues related to the creation, inculcation and improvement of quality understanding and behaviors.
It will be the functional body that will strive to summarize all the aspirations and desires of the stakeholders, listening to their voices through consultations, dissemination of information and provision evidence based justification for the adjustment of our practices and behaviors. Apart from the Center for Quality Assurance, a Steering Body will be established that will be in charge of driving the consultation process and creating a common ground for action. The Steering Body will consist of the representatives of all the main stakeholders and will itself specialize by taking responsibility in one of the main areas of action in terms of the quality assurance process. It will be the highest organ of governance directly accountable to the general public of the Institution and Managed by the Rector of the University.
Responsibilities of departments, schools, faculties and other organizational units and individuals for the assurance of quality: The culture of quality entails full ownership of the process and absolute benefit of the results. The academic community and the administration will have to act in all honesty, benevolence and competence at all times. The two main components that are going to become part of the everyday life in this community would be the transparency of all intentions and actions and institutionalization of the analysis of flaws and errors.
In opening up the operations of the institution from its academic and administrative point of view, one allows the entire community to take part in the process of reflection of the efficiency of the process, as the standardization of the rules and followed frequency of repeated utilizations makes it possible to obviate the inherent flaws. This is where quality starts – in the recognition of own mistakes and deliberate and gradual correction of the problems.
At YSLU we recognize that perfection is not possible, instead it is a point in time that infinitely motivates one to move forward and improve oneself. Therefore, the community rejects the possibility of the absence of any flaws and errors. Taking this into account, and stemming fromthe principle of benevolence and honesty, the YSLU recognizes the need to voice those problems and try to find durable solutions that will eradicate it.
This necessitates institutionalized manner of reflection over our own mistakes, be it administrative staff division or faculties, chairs and departments. The performance appraisal that should become the appraisal tool of our actions on annual basis, should start from our strategic goals and link it to the measurable results that approximate the achievement of the goals we had set for ourselves as an institution. The various divisions should develop their departmental goals and objectives that will be synergistically linked to the strategic plan of the university and provide for measures that would ensure sound monitoring and evaluation of their own performance. The performance appraisal should engage all the parties without any exception. For instance for the Library the parties that should be included in their measurement matrix should be the students, professors, alumni, administrators and the public at large.
The various units of the institution should have annual reflection events, at least once per year, that will allow them to discuss their departmental strategy and the extent to which it has been fulfilled during the year. Besides, it should have a section on Failures and Lessons Learned. Where all the problems will be discussed, the reasons analyzed on the most objective way and documents thoroughly.
In summary, the university declares the REFLECTION as the key to self-evaluation that should become part and parcel of all its units.
Involvement of students in quality assurance: Students are the spirit and the reason why we are here, not diminishing the importance of the metaphysical search for truth. Our actions and thoughts should be directed at making their learning environment most suitable and conducive to the process of illumination that will become a constant drive, extending beyond their institutional placement, turning it into a desire to discover this world throughout their lives. Nevertheless, apart from inculcating this culture of lifelong quest, their education has to yield concrete results, i. e. ensure their employability in the local and global markets. Therefore, the students are declared the prime stakeholders and their voices should be institutionalized throughout the entire process by introducing tools and operationalising their participation in the management of this learning environment. Individual students and various groups, as well as their student body should have a variety of tools to provide feedback on all the aspects of the university. The students should be included in the reflections of the departments, chairs and faculties. The Administrative divisions of the institutions should develop a concept of how they are going to measure the needs of the students and what are going to be the mechanisms of incorporating them? The administrative divisions should develop strong tools for feedback and measurement of students’ needs, problems and concerns.
Ways in which the policy is implemented, monitored and revised: The UPs will be widely consulted and only then adopted by the Scientific Council, after they have been cleared by the Steering Body. Further to this step, the OPs will substantiate the mechanisms for implementation of UPs that will be again discussed with all the stakeholders of the institution. Along the UP/OPs, the QA in consultation with each department, division and chair will take stock of already collected data and develop a coherent set of criteria for the measurement of the policies and strategic objectives. The monitoring will first be done in all honesty, benevolence and competence by each academic and administrative unit of the university as a self-evaluation. It will be followed by a juxtaposed overall quantitative analysis based on the centralized database that will take stock of all the information and provide an needs based analysis of the overall situation and more importantly the problems. Once the problems are substantiated, then the university can include that in its annual reflection package to be reviewed and amended as to eliminate the institutional obstacle to it.
1.2 Approval, monitoring and periodic review of programs and awards
One of the main reference points in quality assurance is the measurement of the learning outcomes of the students and other learners. The learner and the society has the right to know (as this is the fundamental individual right and thus a responsibility for the institution) what, how and why is being transferred? What are the set of competences that they need to acquire, what does it solve and how it is going to be transferred and measured? Therefore, all the department and chairs should start developing their action plan on how and when are they going to address this need with all the justifications for it. The Department and chairs should keep in mind that for the purpose of compatibility and comparability of our qualifications they must be guided by the European Framework of Qualifications.
Development and publication of explicit intended learning outcomes: The University will establish a working group from its lead specialists that will serve as a secretariat and advisory body in the process of the development and adaption of the qualifications framework with explicit learning outcomes for all the specialties. The draft qualifications will be discussed with the social partners so that it is well linked to the demand of the labor market locally and is competitive in the global market.
The advisory group will discuss and suggest the overall framework format and will develop the action plan along with the timetable of the implementation activities. The process will be conducted in constant consultation and collaboration with each individual chair for the development
and finalization of the qualifications framework for each individual course of study/specialty.
Careful attention to curriculum and program design and content: The Framework will set the tone and the mode of the development of the program design, curriculum and its content. Keeping in mind the sanctity of academic freedoms, the administration and individual chairs
will refrain from suggestion and/or guiding individual professors and lecturers in choosing their content and method. Nevertheless, this requires the professors and lecturers to provide sound justifications form the choice of a particular content and set of methods that shall be reflected in the syllabus of each subject. The syllabus should become a tool that will provide the roadmap from the framework to each segment of the content to be covered during the course. The syllabus should also include the description of the method(s) used during the course and a thorough assessment model linked to the outcomes and achievement levels.
Specific needs of different modes of delivery (e.g. full time, part-time, distance-learning, e-learning) and types of higher education (e.g. academic, vocational, professional): Introduction of different modes of delivery will take some concerted action, thorough reflection and planning process over a number of years in order to become fully operational. The fact that today it is not possible does not render it impossible to accomplish. Therefore, as an institution we will start from reflecting on the possible pathways of introducing different modes of delivery over the upcoming several years. The departments and chairs along with the development of the framework of qualifications and appropriate assessment models and procedures, should start the process of conceptualization and planning of the diversification of the modes of delivery and types of programs. The chairs will have to decide what constituency do they serve, what part of the market share they target and thus, what kind of program academic or professional do they need to have? In the upcoming strategic paper of the university this will have to become one of the priorities that the university will strive to achieve.
Availability of appropriate learning resources: Learning occurs in a certain environment and requires resources that enable and facilitate it. From libraries to labs and computer rooms, the physical aspect of learning environment should reach a level that it is easily accessible to all the students, operations taking into account the needs of students and is based on clear and transparent UP/OPs.
Apart from that, learning resources are various clubs and thematic groups of professors, researchers, practitioners and students. This is an academic environment, where individuals have gathered as they strive to discover new frontiers and collegial formal and informal groups on various academic matters is considered as a learning resource furthering the understanding and competences of the parties.
Finally, the human aspect of learning resources is the tutors, counselors and advisers, who through their tailored approach try to further individualize the learning path catering it to the needs of each particular student.
Formal program approval procedures by a body other than that teaching the program: The University has a certain set of program approval procedures. These need to be compiled together in a user friendly format. Guidelines on planning and approval of programs will be developed to facilitate the formalization and open access to those faculty members from the university or outside of it. Besides, it will also ease the transformation of the program description and planning for the ones that already exist. Finally, this will allow us to introduce flexibility and open room for experimentation, introduction of single courses and/or programs that do not lead to specific qualifications, but instead are short-term individualized professional development courses of study that grant certificates and/or ECTS credits.
Monitoring of the progress and achievements of students: We need to understand where we are in order for us to be clear about where we want to get. What is the situation today? What are the assessment practices? How good they are? Do they measure what they are intended to target? How clear and transparent it is? How standardized is the assessment? These are some of the questions that we need to answer before we develop the assessment policy and pertaining procedures. Therefore, the University will create an advisory (research) group that will try to assess the existing practices in terms of monitoring student achievement, the criteria that affect it and policies and procedures that govern it. Beyond that the advisory group will provide recommendations on paths for improvement and the timetable discussed with the community.
Regular periodic reviews of programs (including external panel members): Peer Review…
Regular feedback from employers, labor market representatives and other relevant organizations: The University will over time build a database of employers by fields that have previously employed graduates of the institution and analyze its local market share and typology. Furthermore, the Institution will start building networks and finding modes of operation that will allow the employers to give feedback on the quality of our graduates. In additions to this, the alumni network will be revived and the opinions concerning provided education will be considered in order to balance the perceptions of employers and those who have been individual consumers of our services.
The tracking system of the students who have benefited from the ambiance, knowledge, competences of our academic environment and the services provided should be the key mechanism through which the incorporation of employer’s and alumni’s voices will be incorporated in shaping our corporate strategy.
Participation of students in quality assurance activities: From individual courses to overall program assessment, the students must be engaged in the validation of the outcomes provided by the department, chairs and faculty. Besides, the students can become part of the performance appraisal process of management practices that affect their everyday lives. From library to computer lab and personal requests, the system has to provide for mechanisms of feedback and institutionalize the paths for improvement. From standardized course evaluation questionnaires to overall institutional ones, periodic and ad hoc, those assessments will help the organization to shape its approaches and practices.
1.3 Assessment of Students
Student assessment is not only a tool that fulfills the individual right for education, it is simultaneously a mean for institutional assessment and public accountability of higher education institutions. Therefore, the student assessment at the university will be conducted bearing in mind the two facets of it: (a) ensuring clear and just assessment of learning progress and (b) guaranteeing reliability and validity of institutional/program performance.
- be designed to measure the achievement of the intended learning outcomes and other program objectives;
- be appropriate for their purpose, whether diagnostic, formative or summative;
- have clear and published criteria for marking;
- be undertaken by people who understand the role of assessment in the progression of students towards the achievement of the knowledge and skills associated with their intended qualification;
- where possible, not rely on the judgments of single examiners;
- take account of all the possible consequences of examination regulations;
- have clear regulations covering student absence, illness and other mitigating circumstances;
- ensure that assessments are conducted securely in accordance with the institution’s stated procedures;
- be subject to administrative verification checks to ensure the accuracy of the procedures.
In addition, students should be clearly informed about the assessment strategy being used for their program, what examinations or other assessment methods they will be subject to, what will be expected of them, and the criteria that will be applied to the assessment of their performance.
1.4 Quality assurance of teaching staff
YSLU already has a policy and procedures for assessing the performance of the teaching staff. It further needs to build a working mechanism based on these procedures and measure the impact on teaching. The paper adopted by the university will be further incorporated into a performance system. A study evaluating already existing data on teacher competences will be conducted using the local capacity of the Quality Assurance Center and Graduate students. The results will be discussed and published. Furthermore, the Center will work on the development of a model and semi-automated system for the factoring in the various indicators of teacher performance. Besides, the Center will explore the good practices and existing ranking systems in order to provide options for implementation.
1.5 Learning resources and student support
At the YSLU the commitment to provide state of the art education requires being well aware of the available resources at all times. Therefore, the University will develop UPs/OPs that will guide the process of monitoring and evaluation of the support services. It will also, as a part of the self-study process, use periodic comprehensive evaluations to provide the overall picture and areas for further improvement within the strategy of the institution.
For the self-study purposes a task team will be created to organize the activities of this segment and produce a final report with recommendations for short –term and long-term actions.
1.6 Information systems
The YLSU as a long-term goal will develop a comprehensive Management Information System that will allow analyzing various aspects and efficiency data concerning the institution, assess its level of internationalization and trace tendencies over time in order to understand how the strategies of the institution and actual activities have shaped itself.
During the first cycle of self-study the priority would be to assess the situation in regard to the below stated indicators and develop an action plan leading to the establishment of a measurement system incorporating them. The indicators to be considered immediately are as follows:
- Student progression and success rates;
- Employability of graduates;
- Students’ satisfaction with their programs;
- Effectiveness of teachers;
- Profile of the student population;
- Learning resources available and their costs;
- The institution’s own key performance indicators.
The task team will have to provide recommendations concerning the necessary actions in order for the indicators to be a routine part of the system.
1.7 Public information
YSLU will have to provide constant, impartial and accurate information about its study programs and other courses, as well as inform the public about its structure, extracurricular activities, all the policies and procedures that govern it. Therefore, within the first cycle of self-assessment a task team assigned to look at the issues of public access and awareness will examine the already existing means and activities aimed at the information provision, identify the problems and suggest paths for solution.