The Swedish National Agency for Higher Education´s introductionThe Swedish National Agency for Higher Education is now entering a cycle of evaluation of Swedish higher education in which the emphasis will be on auditing quality improvement initiatives at the higher education institutions. The purpose of the institution audits is threefold: control, development, and information. The control function will be more clearly defined than in earlier institution audits, which means that the audits are results-oriented in that the effects of institutions´ quality improvement initiatives are assessed.
In the spring of 2006, the Swedish National Agency for Higher Education decided to carry out a pilot study to test the new method for institution audits. Södertörn University College was approached and agreed to participate. The National Agency appointed a five-person assessment team:
* Bengt-Ove Boström (Chair), advisor to the Vice-Chancellor responsible for quality issues, Göteborg University
* Eva Hansson, Senior Lecturer and ex-Head of Department at the Department of Chemistry, Lund University
* Kerstin Keen, Senior Lecturer in History, previously manager of the School of Education and Communication at Jönköping University
* Annika Lundmark, Head of the Quality and Evaluation Unit and advisor to the Vice-Chancellor on quality issues, Uppsala University
* Niclas Sigholm, student, Chalmers University of Technology and ex-Chair of the Swedish National Union of Students, SFS
The National Agency´s project team was made up of Lisa Jämtsved Lundmark (project manager), Iréne Häggström, Eric Lindesjöö, Carin Olausson and Staffan Wahlén.
The auditing of the quality improvement initiatives at Södertörn University College thus had two aims. One was to audit the quality improvement initiatives at the university college. The other was to pilot the method and auditing model that the National Agency has developed. This means that the audit will be the basis for adjustments to the method and will thus affect the shaping and implementation of future audits, to be carried out as of the autumn of 2007. For Södertörn University College this brought certain disadvantages, including the fact that the instructions for self-evaluation probably were less clear than they will be in future.
As this is a pilot study, it is the National Agency´s view that it cannot make a decision in connection with this particular audit since the method is likely to be developed. Södertörn University College will therefore be part of the first batch in a six-year cycle of evaluations of all higher education institutions´ quality improvement initiatives beginning in 2007/2008. A review of this audit will be done at that point and will, together with the present report, form the basis for the University Chancellor´s decision.
This report first of all presents the results of the evaluation of the quality improvement initiatives at Södertörn University College. In an appendix, the assessment team reflect on the experiences of the pilot study and on what method development they believe is necessary in preparation for future institution audits. A dialogue has also been held in which representatives from Södertörn University College, the assessment team, and the National Agency have discussed the experiences of the pilot study.
The Swedish National Agency for Higher Education would like to thank Södertörn University College for participating in this pilot study.
Lastly, the Swedish National Agency for Higher Education would like to express its gratitude to the members of the assessment team, who carried out the work in this pilot study with a great deal of engagement. Their experiences will be very useful for the National Agency in its continuing work with institution audits.
The Swedish National Agency for Higher Education´s conclusionsBased on the assessment team´s report, the Swedish National Agency for Higher Education notes that Södertörn University College does not lack a positive will and involvement in developing activities at different levels in the organisation, either among management or teachers. What is missing, however, is a comprehensive structure for the institution´s quality improvement initiatives, which is a necessary prerequisite for such initiatives to work and to be continuous. The Swedish National Agency for Higher Education would like to highlight some parts of the quality improvement initiatives at Södertörn University College which need to be developed and strengthened: * Draw up a programme/steering document for a comprehensive and systematic way of implementing quality improvement initiatives * Strengthen the university college management´s knowledge about the quality improvement initiatives in progress in different parts of the organisation * Create a global approach to the relationship between the six overall quality goals and the operation * Specify goals which are common for all higher education for those running the core operation* Clarify and strengthen the role and responsibilities of the steering committee for quality assurance * Set up systematic routines for reviews as the basis for decisions on new initiatives and priorities. The Swedish National Agency for Higher Education notes that constructive work is already being done in various areas of the university college, and would like to highlight some aspects of quality improvement initiatives which appear to be working well:
* The steering committee for quality assurance has done constructive work on quality issues since it was established in the spring of 2006.
* In some areas, the results of staff inquiries, alumni studies and the student survey have been put to use in quality improvement initiatives.
* Operational plans and reports have been compiled by some organisational units and constitute an important part of those units´ quality improvement initiatives.
In conclusion, the Swedish National Agency for Higher Education would like to refer to the assessment team´s report, which ably describes and assesses the quality improvement initiatives at Södertörn University College, as well as the special aspects that were part of the audit.