What does it take to establish and develop a quality culture in higher education?

“Shared values and norms for high quality in teaching and learning is essential for succeeding with quality work, quality management and the development of quality cultures. This is a challenging task, but one of the most important success criteria for enhancing educational quality.”

This was the conclusion drawn by Ole-Jacob Skodvin, Director of the Department of Analysis and Development at the Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education (NOKUT), at this year’sNOKUT conference on higher education. He presented the report How Can One Create a Culture for Quality Enhancement. The report is produced by the Dutch research institute CHEPS in collaboration with CHEGG from Belgium.

Success stories to inspire

“The report is based on a literature review on quality culture in higher education. It also shows how quality culture is expressed by looking at five excellent centres for teaching and learning in Europe. On the basis of this, the researchers put forward some success criteria that they think need to be present for a quality culture to arise,” Skodvin continues.

The five centres for teaching and learning that were studied are all very different. Despite this, some commonalities can be found when it comes to factors that are important for the development of quality cultures, according to Skodvin:
“Educational leadership, resources, good communication, the development of a language for speaking about education and recognition of the education mission, is what is most often highlighted.”

“The idea is that this report will be an inspiration for Norwegian higher education institutions, and NOKUT will use it in our guidance and enhancement activities”, says the Director.

Start small

The leader of the National Union of Students in Norway, Marianne Andenæs, Professor at bioCEED, Vigdis Vandvik, Rector Mari Sundli Tveit at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences and the Director of The Department of Quality Assurance, Øystein Lund at NOKUT, took part in a debate with the report as its point of departure.

“The institutions must work within different areas at the same time. It is important to start small – to start with your own study programme and ask how far the programme should develop in these areas in the course of a year or two”, Lund emphasised.

The Director of The Department of Quality Assurance listed three elements that are essential for developing good quality in education.

“One must be able to see the totality in the quality work and not only focus on details. There must be an inclusive leadership culture and finally, good quality can never exist if those who teach are not solid academics.

Professor Vigdis Vandvik from bioCEED – Centre of Excellence in Biology Education at the University of Bergen, the University Centre in Svalbard and the Institute of Marine Research, singled out the integration of research and teaching as a success criterion. Education must be as highly recognized as research on all levels. Experience from the practice field gives the students better insights into their field of study, and they demand different things from their education after completing a work experience period.

Rector at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Mari Sundli Tveit, pointed out that all the work with and around teaching must be organized in such a way that it brings good educational quality.

Student Union leader Marianne Andenæs said that both students and teachers have a learning curve. She encouraged all institutions to start working on quality enhancement now and not to wait for the coming White Paper.

Bilde: Panelet
From the left-hand side: Guttorm Andreasen (chair of the day), Øystein Lund (Director of the Department of Quality Assurance, NOKUT), Marianne Andenæs (leader of the National Union of Students), Vigdis Vandvik (Professor and Centre Leader of bioCEED) and Mari Sundli Tveit (Rector at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences) in a debate at NOKUT’s annual Conference.

About the report

NOKUT has commissioned a research report entitled How Can One Create a Culture for Quality Enhancement. The target group is education leaders at all levels in the Norwegian Higher Education sector. The research institutes CHEPS and CHEGG have produced the report and the project managers have been Andrea Kottmann (CHEPS) and Jeroen Huisman (CHEGG).

The report is based on a literature review and five case studies. The case studies are:

  • Centre of Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CELT), Birmingham City University, United Kingdom;
  • bioCEED, Centre of Excellence in Biology Education, Norway;
  • Genombrottet, The Academic Development Unit at the Faculty of Engineering, Lund University, Sweden;
  • EDLAB, Maastricht University, the Netherlands; and
  • the Zentrum für Qualitätsentwicklung in Studium und Lehre (ZfQ, Center for Teaching Quality Development), University of Potsdam, Germany.

Read How Can One Create a Culture for Quality Enhancement


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