Accreditation – is it a threshold to maintain minimum standards or a starting block for quality improvement?

I was trying to answer the above question during my presentation at the 4th QS-Maple Conference held in Abu Dhabi this year. The main point I stressed was about a period of time between accreditation and re-accreditation referred as an accreditation cycle.

I have no doubt how important role accreditation plays when it comes to assuring an acceptable and minimum level of quality. It is very much visible in the national accreditation systems whereby all higher education institutions in a given country are expected to adhere to local requirements. I call it Mc-reditation, meaning that all experience the same – minimum and acceptable level of quality for a long period of time and regardless of the delivery site. And don’t get me wrong – I find it very positive (at least as something to begin with). Nevertheless, I strongly believe we are here for more – to aim for some sort of continuity in quality improvement.

Except for meeting the minimum standards, and therefore improving at the initial stage of the accreditation process, does accreditation really make us strive for excellence?
I don’t think so. I dont’t think we can rely on the accreditation standards nor accreditation procedure in this matter. It rather depends on our quality culture – the maturity of our quality management system…

For more information, please refer to my presentation here.

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Filed under Accreditation

McDefinition of Quality

In a few days I’m starting to teach my next Total Quality Management class at the Bachelor level. As it happens every semester, first I need to make my students think what quality in fact means.
What is it? How to define it? What is this “thing” which they are supposed to know how to manage and improve?

Often I start my talks on quality with a description which basically says that quality is simply indefinable – it’s like love*. “Everybody knows and feels when there is love. Everybody recognises it. But when we try to give a definition of it, we are left standing with empty hands” (Vroeijenstijn, 1995).

20130905-170046.jpgIn 1997 I went with my friends to Croatia. We were driving from Poland and back. We didn’t have enough money to be able to afford anything we wanted. At the same time we wanted to have fun. Such a dilemma made us choose between different options of our diet. The main component of it happened to be a watermelon. These were very cheap comparing to everything else. Nevertheless, after a week of our holiday, we basically were starving, lacking a concrete food.

We started our return trip to Poland. I can remember it was heavily raining when we reached the outskirts of Zagreb. Suddenly we saw it – a big billboard, informing that there would be McDonald’s only a few kilometers ahead. All of us were so excited. We started planning what we would eat at the venue. You probably know the McDonald’s menu. You can imagine what options we had. My friends and I, we all decided what we wanted, and at the same time – what we expected to have. We arrived, we ordered what we had planned to eat, we ate it, and guess what happened next?
We were extremely happy! Our expectations were met.

The point is that it doesn’t matter where you order your McRoyal, whether it is Zagreb, Warsaw or Fujairah. It always tastes the same. Genichi Taguchi would say that this is a “uniformity around a target value”. I’m saying, if you want to reach such a state of quality, you need to be aware of different kinds of requirements, standards, procedures, approaches… You’ll have your high quality McRoyal, meaning a consistent quality of your product or service, only if you know what you are doing and what the measurable standards are. Once you know that, you can manage quality since quality is a result – the result of being aware!

If you think I’m saying that McDonald’s offers higher quality food or is of higher quality than your favorite restaurant, you didn’t understand what I had to say.

*Note: there are circumstances under which you must not start your lecture in this particular way.

 

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Filed under Just thoughts / Wolne myśli, Quality

Accreditation: a pessimistic reality or an idealistic hope?

Yesterday I finished my part of the self-assessment report. The goal has been very clear from the very beginning – to get an institutional accreditation.
WritingAfter a few weeks of gathering evidence I was able to write something up about the entire institution. I was (I guess I still am) responsible for Standard 10 – Community Engagement of the Standards for Licensure and Accreditation of Technical and Vocational Education and Training published by the Commission for Academic Accreditation (CAA).

As usual, it was an interesting experience. The way people understand evidence, self-assessment process and accreditation itself varies a lot. I admit, sometimes it’s quite amusing.
I’m a big fan of treating accreditation experience (especially the self-assessment process) as a bottomless well with enduring opportunities for quality improvement. To me – this is actually where everything begins – everything what’s the most exciting and meaningful when it comes to managing quality in higher education. However, in reality, does it really mean the same to the vast majority of those involved? Is accreditation a threshold to maintain minimum standards or a starting block for quality to be improved?

Accreditation means something different to various groups of stakeholders. To potential students it supposedly means the guarantee that an academic program, in this case an institution as a whole, meets minimum quality requirements, increasing their chances on the labor market. To government it means the accountability in spending public money.
What about the perspective of a higher education institution? Is accreditation more a static obligation “imposed” externally or a viable and dynamic quality improvement tool? I wish it was the second option, and I believe there is space to understand it in such a way…

Don’t you think that a common perspective and practice is a bit less idealistic?

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Filed under Accreditation

Introducing the concept of quality: an orientation session for new faculty

New faculty are here. Recently they have been going through the orientation process to get familiar with their new work environment.
The number of sessions to attend, the number of names to remember, and more importantly, the amount of information to digest is simply unbelievable.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHaving known all of this, having been in the same situation a couple of years ago makes you think carefully what you really want to tell them during your orientation session – the session on quality at your college.

Quality is contextual. Its description depends on where you are and how you operate as well as where you are going. What are the requirements you meet, what are the policies and procedures you follow, and what are you aiming for?
An access to such information (awareness) will constitute your own quality – the quality which you understand as you have defined it yourself. Now you can start improving it because now you know what you want to improve.

Let your faculty and staff make themselves aware!
Let your faculty and staff have a constant access to information which make them understand what quality in fact is, and what describes it in a particular context.

What do you think I did when I met the newcomers during my orientation session on quality?

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Filed under Quality

Quality Improvement Award Ceremony 2012-13

“Is there anything more important than quality?
Yes – there is… high quality, an exceptional quality!”

Yesterday’s Quality Improvement Award Ceremony 2012-13 was fun. I must admit I enjoyed it very much. More importantly, I believe others enjoyed it as well.
I was glad to see the Winners’ smiles and hear the applause – a genuine RECOGNITION.

Faculty and staff were awarded under 4 categories: Student Success, Service Improvements and Innovations, Teaching and Learning Innovations, and Recruitment.

Do you recognize your employees’ high performance? Do you appreciate your faculty and staff?

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Filed under Performance, Quality