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External quality assurance of the agency

Part II: Agency reports

Standard 4: The quality management system is based on the quality approach of the higher education institution and provides for the systematic involve -

II.6 Finnish Higher Education Evaluation Council (FINHEEC)

2.4 External quality assurance of the agency

FINHEEC is required by law (794/2009) to participate in the international evaluation of its own activities on a regular basis. The legislation also permits FINHEEC to accept other commissions relating to evaluation from Finnish and foreign operators.

FINHEEC values its memberships of both ENQA and the EQAR. In accor- dance with the ENQA membership criteria, FINHEEC is required to undergo external reviews once every five years. The ENQA Board approved FINHEEC’s application to renew its full membership on 2 September 2010. FINHEEC’s listing in the EQAR is valid until July 2015.

Sirpa Moitus

3 Scope

The audit targets and criteria are defined in the FINHEEC Audit Manual.

FINHEEC appointed a working group for the preparation of an audit manual for the first and second audit rounds. The working group included representatives from universities and universities of applied sciences, from student organisations in both sectors as well as from the world of work.

It was clear as far back as 2005 that the model should correspond to the ESG. In the FINHEEC audit model, the quality management of higher education covers all degree cycles. Furthermore, in 2010 FINHEEC conducted a separate evaluation of the implementation of the Bologna Process in Finland.5

When preparing the audit model, FINHEEC organised a national event to discuss the focus of the auditing. In this context, higher education insti- tutions considered it important that auditing of quality management should cover the entire range of their operations. As a result, a decision was made to incorporate the following aspects into the FINHEEC audit model for the first round of audits, carried out between 2005 and 2011: research, development and innovation activities, societal impact and regional development work, support services and stakeholder participation. The higher education institu- tions also expressed their wish that the consequences of the audits be in the form of re-audits.

When developing the audit model for the second audit round, it was possible to utilise feedback collected from higher education institutions during the initial round of audits as well as feedback obtained from the external evaluation of FINHEEC. On these grounds, evidence concerning samples of degree education was added to the list of audit targets. These can be used, for example, to assess how quality management related to the national qualifications framework, recognition of prior learning, lifelong learning, the relevance of degrees for working life and internationalisation is implemented during programmes leading to a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree.

5 Niemelä, J. & al. 2012. Evaluation of the Bologna Process Implementation in Finland.

FINHEEC Publications 6:2012. http://www.finheec.fi/files/1471/KKA612Evaluation_Bologna_


Quality Audit in Europe 2013

The audit targets in the second audit round, implemented between 2012 and 2017, are:

1. The quality policy of the higher education institution 2. Strategic and operations management

3. Development of the quality system

4. Quality management of the higher education institution’s basic duties:

a) Degree education (including first-, second- and third-cycle education) b) Research, development and innovation activities, as well as artistic


c) Societal impact and regional development work (including social responsibility, continuing education, open university and open university of applied sciences education, as well as paid-services education)

d) Optional audit target

5. Three samples of degree education: degree programmes 6. The quality system as a whole.

The audit process of an individual higher education institution covers all of the abovementioned audit targets. In addition, each institution must choose one optional audit target. The intention is for each higher education insti- tution to select a function central to its strategy or profile on which it would like to receive feedback from the audit team. Themes chosen by higher education institutions up to now (July 2013) have included sustainable development, the wellbeing of students, the promotion of entrepreneurship through studies and lifelong learning.

The work of the audit team is supported by a set of criteria, defined in the Audit Manual, in which the stage of development of higher education institutions with reference to each audit target are described using a four- point scale: ‘absent’, ‘emerging’, ‘developing’ and ‘advanced’. The audit team determines the higher education institution’s stage of development for each audit target and produces a report that corresponds to the stages of development identified. In the final chapter of the report, the audit team provides an appraisal of whether the institution should pass the audit or whether a re-audit is needed. The audit team can propose that the institution passes the audit if none of the targets is ‘absent’ and if the quality system as a whole is at least ‘developing’.

Sirpa Moitus

The quality system of a higher education institution is at a ‘developing’ stage if it displays the following features:

• The quality management procedures constitute a functioning system.

• The system covers the essential aspects of the basic duties of the higher education system and provides meaningful support for developing operations.

• There is evidence that the system has an impact on the development of operations.

• The development of operations is based on an existing quality culture.

The FINHEEC Council decides on the audit result on the basis of a proposal by the Secretary General. The Council and the Secretary General are responsible for ensuring that the audit decisions are impartial and of equal quality. The Council is responsible for determining the national thresholds for passing the audits, and may thus diverge from the proposal put forward by the audit team, where necessary. In addition, the uniform level of the audits is ensured by providing the auditors with sufficient orientation and using the same auditors in several different audits. FINHEEC project managers, who often have expe- rience of numerous auditing projects, play a central role in supporting the work of the audit teams.

4 Audit procedure