Quality Info

You will have head the term ‘quality’ many times before in your academic career but what does it really mean?

In basic terms quality is how well your institution (college, university, conservatoire, etc.) manages students’ learning experience.

Now there are two more terms; quality assurance and quality enhancement. To explain these concepts we are going to use an analogy.

If you think of a community as a plane. Just like communities planes are moving forward, they are going somewhere. What drives planes forward? Its engines. These pieces of machinery are what keeps the plane in the air and heading towards it destination.

But what drives communities forward? Education. Education informs, it empowers and allows the people that make up a community to achieve their goals. The community uses institutions to educate itself and drive itself forwards.

Taking a closer look at this engine there are many parts to it. It’s got combustion chambers, fans and pressure turbines. It’s the same with education, but its parts include things like:
• The curriculum.
• Learning resources.
• The learning and teaching process.
• Assessments and the feedback from those assessments.
• Guidance and support.
• Student progression and achievement.
• Quality enhancement and assurance.

Engines as complex as these have to be built to a certain standard. When we talk about standards we mean the level of learning that you need to achieve to gain the qualification that you are studying for.

To make sure the engines meet these standards engineers do safety checks, and go through checklists and procedures to make sure all the parts are working properly. This is how they make sure that the plane doesn’t fall out of the sky, and that it reaches its destination.

This is what we call Quality Assurance. Institutions continually ask themselves ‘how are we making sure our students learning experience meets the standards we have set out?’ They check each of part of the student learning experience to check it’s working properly. In other words making sure your qualification is going to get you to where you want to go.

But engineers don’t just make sure their engines are working properly, they also keep trying to make their engines better. They look at their engines and think about how they could make them in a different way to be faster, safer and more efficient.

Institutions ask themselves the same questions. This is what we call Quality Enhancement. Quality Enhancement is about how you’re learning experience is being continually improved to make sure you have the best possible experience whilst studying.

With aeroplanes, it’s very easy to know when this process works. If your engine doesn’t work properly, it falls out of the sky, and when you design a new engine, you can do tests to see that it’s faster than the previous one. But how can we check whether the learning experience is working properly, and is as good as it could be?

One of the key groups of people who understand what that experience is like is students. They are the ones who are attending classes, doing the reading and taking part in the assessments day in day out. That is why Student Engagement is so important. Students know whether their education is working properly, so we have to make sure they’re involved in these processes of Quality Assurance and Quality Enhancement. Student Engagement is how students, either individually or collectively, are involved in improving their learning experience.

When staff and students work in partnership we can make sure everyone has the best possible experience.

Different countries use different quality systems and mechanism to assure and enhance quality. Explore this section to find out more.

Please click on the glossary if you want to access a useful list on common terms used in quality assurance activities.