Ghent University education receives the highest marks!

(22-09-2017) The marks from the institutional review held back in May 2016 were presented to all members of Ghent University, who were closely involved in the review, on 14 September 2017 in the Ghent University Aula.

Ghent University is especially proud of the very positive assessment of the educational policy and the educational quality assurance in the context of the Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders Institutional Review. The committee that carried out the institutional review was impressed by Ghent University’s new system for continuous quality monitoring.

Ghent University would not have been able to score such high marks on the institutional review without the significant contributions made by all colleagues, who have spent many years constantly providing quality assurance and implementing the educational policies within the programmes, the faculties, and at the centralised level. So another very big thank you to everyone!
What is in the report?

“The committee came to the conclusion that Ghent University has detailed a new, strong educational policy model that was developed at the central policy level and taking great care to ensure that the policy not only takes what happens out on the university’s campuses into account but aligns with that reality. Throughout the discussions, the committee was reassured that the participation in and the support for the educational policy being implemented at Ghent University was strong. Particularly striking was the significant involvement of the students. This support is not only for the strategic educational objectives, but also for the instruments that must guarantee the effective implementation of the policies. There is a general appreciation within the university for the framework that the portfolios offer formally and uniformly elaborate upon what previously happened out on the campuses in a much less structured manner. The uniform way of working and the communally utilised vocabulary promotes the vertical cooperation between various policy levels and stimulates horizontal (inter-faculty) communication and the exchange of good practices. In this way, the new educational policy model serves as an important stimulus for the quality culture within the university. This does not take away from the fact that there is sufficient room for the faculties to autonomously interpret the policy and implement it.

“The committee observed that the programmes, faculties, and central administration were aware of the critical points for improvement and adopted a proactive attitude concerning working on these. The consistently open discussions during the site visits further contributed to this trust. The feedback and follow-up systems set up by the university to monitor the actual implementation of the policy are sound. The portfolios make constant monitoring of the efficacy of the policy implementation possible. The peer learning visits, the annual quality consultation, and the Educational Quality Office (OKB) ensure that the quality improvement cycle (PDCA) is concluded on several policy levels and help to keep the improvement policy up-to-date, now that the stimuli of the external inspections is no longer there.”
What still needs extra attention?

The committee also formulated several points for attention that they noted during the discussions.
  • The committee recommended that we continue to invest in teaching networks for chairpersons on Educational Committees, in honours programmes, in involving students in defining the strengths and weaknesses of the educational programmes, and in involving the professional representatives in the educational programmes.
  • The committee had several critical comments concerning internationalisation when implementing the policy. This gives the committee faith that most of the programmes and faculties are aware of this issue and, moreover, that a top-down improvement policy is being carried out in which strict requirements are combined with support.
  • The committee recommended that we consider, from the centralised level, possible impetuses that could be created to support cross-faculty initiatives. The committee recommended that we build in stimuli for this when revising the allocation model. 
  • The committee also suggested that we continue to optimise the portfolio format and the defining of the indicators. The committee recommended that we strongly consider how the portfolios can be optimally integrated into the functioning of the programmes. It is important here that we continue to make sure that the load is not increased unnecessarily, e.g. by implementing formalities that offer little to no intrinsic added value.
  • Lastly, the committee recommended that we reflect on the role of peer learning visits, specifically on the balance between process and content, and the share that the external parties have in this. The committee emphasised that the external perspective concerning the programmes’ quality remains incredibly important and that international benchmarking plays a critical role in this regard.


Three actions for the future

1.    Recognise the commitment in education
The ratio of research to education remains a difficult balancing act, both for professorial and assistant academic staff. However, the impression remains that (exceptional) merits or important tasks in the field of education are still not valued enough. The evaluation of the educational component must be based on a broader framework and more varied information. The specific facultative interpretation of the functional career model also creates major differences between faculties – differences that must become the subject of future evaluation and adaptations.

2.    Reflection on the new quality guarantee system
Discussions have already been initiated with the faculties and the programmes on the rationalisation of the portfolios, on reflecting upon the indicators, on optimally embedding the new instruments into the current functioning of the Study Programme Committees (OC) and the Educational Quality Control Unit (CKO), on the optimisation of the peer learning visits, and on learning more from each other and sharing good practices. This reflection must lead to efficiency gains within the quality structure.

3.    From administration/burden to reflection/quality culture
The roll-out of the new system has taken a lot of time and effort from many people. These efforts were often considered to be purely administrative and just another burden. It is time to slow down and reflect on how to keep only those efforts and investments of time that ensure that we take time to reflect and build a culture of quality, and thus contribute to better education. Support will be offered from the centre out so that we can make this change.