An audit of any sorts sounds a little like a dental check-up; you know it needs to be done but you’d prefer to put it off as long as possible! Luckily for most audited and accredited systems, there is a schedule which can’t be missed if you wish to hold on to the accreditation and certificates. For Haaga-Helia, the quality management system is up for audit in February of 2023; so what thoughts does this stir?
Our audit is mandated by the law on universities of applied sciences (Ammattikorkeakoululaki, L 10 § 62) and audit is carried out by Karvi – The Finnish Education Evaluation Centre. The audit criteria is based on joint European criteria as in the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area. The international four member audit team for 2023 has representatives from Germany, Finland and Turkey.
According to the FINEEC Audit manual the four key determinants that higher education institutions are audited and assessed along are that
- the HEI creates competence
- the HEI promotes impact and renewal
- the HEI enhances quality and well-being and
- the HEI as a learning organization.
Since the definition of “quality” is often very relative and diverse, having such specified determinants in place makes assurance easier. After all, how we define quality has a clear and obvious implication into how we eventually will manage it.
The first evaluation area “HEI creates competence” assesses the procedures which support student-centered, working-life oriented planning, implementation and enhancement of education, which is based on research or artistic activities. This is perhaps the most traditional area of an HEI and one where through educational reform within the past few years, Haaga-Helia has made progress towards being more flexible and provide new educational pathways and options for our students.
The second evaluation area “HEI promotes impact and renewal” assesses the procedures used to manage and improve societal engagement, strengthen the impact of the HEI’s research, development and innovation as well as artistic activities, and support an innovative organisational culture. This refers to how as an organization we are able to create positive change in our community and to engage different stakeholder through meaningful research and innovation projects for example. This criteria pushes us to be more outward and reach further with our efforts to make sure we consider a wider set of stakeholder with our development initiatives.
The third evaluation area “HEI enhances quality and well-being” assesses the functioning and development of the quality system and how the system is used in strategic management. The procedures used to support the competence development and well-being of the staff are also assessed. This third area reflects the planning and management, among others, of quality; HR; strategy and competences. Within this area also lies the dilemma of whether we are talking about the quality of the product or service or the quality of the management system itself.
The fourth and final evaluation area “HEI as a learning organization” assesses an area selected by the HEI where it wishes to receive feedback for the enhancement of its activities. For Haaga-Helia we have chosen our “Work & Study” model to be evaluated more in-depth. This is central to our strategy and profiling and thus we want to emphasize it in our audit process.
The audit will involve numerous members of teaching, administrative, research and support staff, students as well as board members. It is a gargantuan effort that has been preceded by a self-audit. The audit will shed light on how external persons or stakeholders might view and assess our quality and our quality management. It will also shine a torchlight on how our staff interprets and produces quality in all the different functions represented. All these observations will be used to compile a public audit report.
Perhaps the quality audit could be a motivator for employees to spare a few additional through to the idea of quality in their work; perhaps it would be a time ponder what quality exactly means and how it can be delivered in an educational setting. Perhaps it can set off some thought processes leading to even better educational and societal outcomes. We really should be striving to make our student’s learning and educational experience relevant, informative and engaging; let’s hope the audit and our internal quality processes support us in that endeavor!