Centralised Support to the Network of Higher Education Reform Experts (HERE)
Technical Assistance Missions (TAM)
Institutional Accreditation: Developing a Culture Of Quality Improvement in Palestinian Higher Education, Ramallah, 17 December 2015
The Agenda of the Workshop focused on three main topics following the suggestion of the organisers, particularly from the head of the Accreditation and Quality Assurance Commission (AQAC), Dr. Mohammed Alsubu:
The expert brought his experience derived from his daily activities in the National Quality Assurance and Accreditation Agency of Spain (ANECA), as well as the six-year term as member of the Board of the European Association of Quality Assurance (ENQA) the European umbrella organization which gathers as full members those agencies which have succeeded in running an external review of its activities against the ESG and are listed in the European Quality Assurance Register (EQAR).
The audience consisted in senior representatives of Palestine higher education institutions involved in quality assurance matters as well as other academic and governing positions. Therefore, the goal of the workshop was to acquire practical information which could be rethought –rather than directly applied– to the current accreditation procedure in force in Palestine to be accomplished by the higher education institutions.
1. An introduction to the European approach on the Revised European Standards and Guidelines with a particular reference to institutional accreditation.
The expert started with an introduction to the current organization of quality assurance in the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) with a particular emphasis to the revised ESG version approved in the last Ministerial Conference at Yerevan in May 2015.
This overview led to a more detailed account on the importance of the Internal Quality Assurance Systems (IQAS) to strengthen the self-regulation of higher education institutions before external evaluation processes regardless the particular procedure established by the legal framework and run by the quality assurance/accreditation body in charge.
The expert emphasised the binomial between the “environmental conditions” defined by the legal framework regarding quality assurance or accreditation practices in a particular country and the “biodiversity” represented by the various profiles of higher education institutions operating. How one of the roles played by the QA/accreditation body should be develop a procedure that could ensure the maintenance of a quality threshold for all the system respecting the institutional diversity as well.
A particular emphasis on the way to develop a quality culture in the Palestinian higher education institutions was made by some academics over the session.
The presentation was followed by a vivid debate with a high participation of the representatives of the institutions which allowed commenting cases from the national setting as well as deepening in methodological aspects concerning the institutional accreditation approach.
The representatives of the institutions agreed on the importance of the IQAS to better approach the national institutional accreditation procedure and also as a way to promote quality culture within the Palestinian institutions.
Some of the attendees showed a big interest in receiving practical training on the designing and implementation of IQAS to either develop or strengthen this capacity in their institutions.
2. Site visit and team panel interview question and 3. Structure of the site visit report
Due to the close relationship between both topics, Dr. M. Alsubu suggested to discuss them jointly to make the most of the time available. Therefore, this part of the Workshop was approached in a more participative way by the expert, showing on each case a slide with a set of headlines relevant to both topics to promote the debate and letting the audience to focus on the topics more interesting for its practical activity.
The debate permitted to notice that the actual issues related to the practicalities of the site visit coming from the experience of the Palestinian higher education institutions, share a great deal of the common ones discussed by their counterparts within the EHEA.
Among the questions raised and the topics highlighted as relevant to the national context were the training processes of the experts for the accreditation procedures focusing particularly on the clear definition of the roles of the panel members (including even role-play cases in the training sessions for the president, secretary, etc.), as well as the need to include in the interviews the various relevant stakeholders (graduates, alumni, employers, etc.)
Regarding the reports of the accreditation procedures, the attendees agreed on the need of improving the quality and clarity of the text to be able to reach a broader audience.