The Essence of Quality Assurance
The topic of quality assurance has become one of the central topics in the context of recent educational reforms, and the concept of quality has become one of the most fashionable concepts in contemporary educational terminology. However, the understanding of quality and the possible ways and means of assuring quality in education varies from one place to another. One could name different structures and institutions in the system of education which are supposed to assure quality.
Quality Assurance comprises all the planned and systematic actions e.g. the policies, strategies, procedures, activities…etc which provide the necessary adequate confidence that quality is being maintained and enhanced and the products and services meet the specified quality standards. In higher education, quality assurance is the totality of systems, resources and information devoted to maintain and improve the quality and standards of teaching staff, administration staff, teaching methods, scholarship and research as well as students' learning experience.
The Directorate of the Quality Assurance - DQA has been established following the University official order No. 75 in 05-01-2010 based on the Ministerial Act No. 458 in 18-08-2009 to supervise the QA committees that work in the colleges and institutes at the universities and Foundation of Technical Institute.
- The main aim for the implementation of the QA is to assure a high a standard of education in every field and aspect of higher education and its belongings e.g. applying the new methods of teaching through the new instructions of how to modernize the teaching methods, prepare a course book for the students, and taking into account the student's feedback and evaluation, which is considered the most important point of the new process of QA.
- The activation of the process of QA is to stand upon on the strong and weak points exist in each university and technical institution of the Technical Foundations that will help the Institutes of Higher Education improve the standards of learning and education.
- The DQA has QA units in each college and department of the UoD. The Unit is headed by the main Coordinator of the college/department and they work under the supervision of the DQA at UoD. Also, each scientific department has a coordinator to supervise the different stages of the department.
- The other main activity of the DQA is to assure the Continuous Academic Development program which encourages the teaching staff to enhance their overall academic and scientific activities and the achievements made by them either inside or outside their Institutions of Higher Education
As quoted from the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MHESR), the message ensures that:
“The message of our quality assurance program is to assure students of the academic standards offered within the universities and institutes of the Kurdistan Region. The purpose of the TQA program is to create an environment in which members of society believe in the education, learning, and research processes of the higher education system in the Kurdistan Region. Helping the Higher Education system in Kurdistan to attain a high standard and developing them in away so that they reach the standards of excellence for which international universities are renowned will bring renewed hope and confidence in the universities and institutes of the Kurdistan Region. Graduates will be proud to graduate with degrees from regional universities and institutes because they know that they have achieved the same quality as competitive universities elsewhere in the world. Despite the efforts and the dedication of the administration, academics and students, the Ministry of Higher Education requires everyone to pursue their academic goals and fulfill their requirements without allowing personal interests to interfere".
There are many areas that have to be considered by the assessors and auditors. These areas are the most important elements or components of the HEIs. The most significant areas are nine and they could be more or less, and most universities do assess the all areas especially who are in with applying the process of Quality Assurance and Accreditation. But in order to make the process smooth, some prefer to check the weak areas at their higher institutions and then do a whole assessment of it. Though at the University of Duhok, we are at the beginning stages of applying the new educational structure, we do need an overall evaluation of the university sections and units. Then the report on this assessment will be raised or reported to the Directorate General of Quality Assurance at the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. Through these areas, a university could be ranked internationally after having the ISO level of standardization.
These areas are internationally recognized for the best practices which are aimed at helping public Universities attain at least minimum standards in each aspect of higher education. The areas are as following:
- Mission, Vision and Objective of the University,
- Curriculum design and development,
- Student acceptance and support services,
- Assessment of students,
- Academic and teaching staff,
- Resources of education,
- Program monitoring and review,
- Leadership and administration qualifications; and finally
- Continuous improvements.
- Mission, Vision and Objective of the University: through these elements a university will be identified and known. These elements either have to be derived from the ministry of HE or linked to it.
- Curriculum design: to review, check, and change the curriculum if it is out of date in order to match the nowadays knowledge and publications.
- Student selection and support services: i.e. student admission and selection comply with policies of Ministry of HE of minimum qualification, knowledge and capacity to pursue a program to facilitate learning and personal development. Student representation and participation to build self-confidence and wholesome development.
- Assessment of students: through regular assessment either at the end of the course/ semester or the end of the academic year.
- Academic staff: academic staff important contribution to quality of the program, qualified and sufficient staff and a balance between senior/junior, academic/nonacademic, and local/international staff, national and international linkages, colleges exchange to enhance teaching and learning of the program.
- Resources of education: adequate resources important to support teaching and learning including finance, expertise, physical infrastructure, ICT and research facilities with adequate financial allocations.
- Program monitoring and review: programs monitored, reviewed, evaluated quality enhancement include reviewing institutional structures and processes, curriculum components and monitoring student progress utility and performance.
- Leadership and administration qualifications: the leadership of an academic organization must emphasis excellence and scholarship. Every university must have the structure and decision-making processes that emphasizes in all academic and scholarly activities. The administrative staff of the institution must be appropriate and sufficient to support the implementation of the educational program and other activities to ensure good management and use of the resources.
- Continuous improvements: Need to continually and systematically review and monitor the changes and developments to ensure that:
- Learning outcomes of program are met
- Curriculum is current and industry relevant
- Program delivery is effective
- Assessment methods appropriate
- Educational resources adequate and up-to-date
- To identify areas of strength and concerns
- To identify areas that need further information or attention of institutions concerned
- To refine the areas of strengths and concerns after gathering and verifying information
- To achieving objectivity in collective judgment
- To determine whether a program merits accreditation
The structure of TQA-Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research In this structure, College of Science and the number of coordinators are set as example