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University of Copenhagen
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Education

Experts: UCPH problems with study programmes’ quality assurance

Research-based education — The University of Copenhagen will only receive a ‘conditional’ positive accreditation. All new study programmes must seek approval

It should be what defines it as a university: Yet the University of Copenhagen (UCPH) does not do enough to ensure that students get a research-based education.

This is according to an international accreditation panel, which has examined the UCPH system to ensure the quality of its education programmes. This is in contrast to the university’s own value statement on education quality, which states that “education programmes at all levels, but in different ways, should be based on research and be carried out in connection with active research environments. Active researchers teach and give guidance. The content of the teaching is based on research-based basic knowledge and current research insights.”

Nevertheless, the expert panel in their report writes:

“The UCPH guidelines and the faculties’ procedures have not adequately ensured the research basis of the education programmes. There has been no systematic, continuous flow of information between the evaluations every six years, and thereby an overview from management. And the selection of experts and their tasks in connection with the education programme evaluations has not secured an external assessment of the research basis. Finally, some quality standards are in practice not sufficiently ambitious.”

The experts do conclude, however, that UCPH has generally established a quality assurance system with an appropriate division of responsibility, well-functioning core processes, and a continuous development of the system.

Three categories of evaluation

Positive

Rating: The quality assurance system is – possibly with the exception of a few, clearly defined, issues – well-documented and functions in practice.

Consequence for the university: Option of setting up new study programmes if they are prequalified and approved and adjust existing programmes.

Conditional

Rating: Most of the quality assurance system is well-documented and works reasonably in practice.

In its decision, the council will point to the less well-functioning areas that the institution should subsequently follow up on within a given timeframe.

Consequence for the university: All new education/study programmes must go through accreditation process before they are established. A follow-up plan is to be worked out.

Rejection

Rating: There are several significant deficiencies in the quality assurance system’s structure or function in practice.

Consequence: The educational institution cannot set up new education programmes. Existing programmes must apply for accreditation in turns in accordance with a plan.

Less freedom

According to Anette Dørge, Director of the Danish Accreditation Institution, a positive accreditation would have led to a huge administrative relief for the University of Copenhagen.

“A positive accreditation proves that you, as a university, have control over your own house and that we as a society can therefore trust the organization and the management,” she said in May 2016 to the University Post.

A positive accreditation would have meant that UCPH could freely establish new programmes without having to go through a comprehensive approval process, and that the accreditation institution could not shut down existing programmes or give them the yellow card.

With the conditional positive accreditation – which the university is now getting – all new education and study programmes need to be approved. And the university needs to plan to resolve the problems.
More frequent evaluations

In February and March of this year UCPH had a draft of the report of the accreditation panel for consultation, where UCPH got the opportunity to comment on the panel’s evaluation.

In a news story from UCPH Communication on the KUnet intranet, the rector writes that UCPH will accede to the criticism.

The education programme evaluations are carried out every six years, but in an effort to oblige the experts and achieve a positive accreditation, the University of Copenhagen proposed an annual evaluation.

But this was not enough to have the accreditation panel change its assessment rating, according to the report:

“The panel acknowledges that, according to the consultation response, UCPH wants to introduce an annual monitoring of its research basis and that it is an important step. But we believe at the same time that it is still too early to assess how the planned monitoring is actually implemented, and how faculties and departments in practice will carry out systematic and specific action plans that will follow up on the programmes that may have problems with the research basis.”

Looking forward to a new visit

Prorector for Education Lykke Friis is still confident however.

To KUnet she says:

“We are pleased that the accreditation panel has taken our consultation response seriously and that the panel has, in fact, approved our system. UCPH does not have to carry out major changes, but should in the future document its practices. This gives us the peace to do our work and focus on the quality of education, and we look forward to welcoming the panel again if the Council follows the panel’s recommendation.”

The Accreditation Council takes the final decision at a council meeting on 8th-9th June, 2017.

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