Success factors for quality management systems in higher education institutions (HEIs)
At the CHE meeting which took place in Kassel yesterday, the first comprehensive study on quality management systems (QM systems) in German universities and higher education institutions was presented. There was great interest because the topic is presently enjoying a great deal of attention for two reasons:
On the one hand, the discussion on the introduction of “system accreditation” raised the question of the criteria a QM system that is appropriate for universities should satisfy. Separately from this, however, many HEIs want to streamline the glut of QM instruments and procedures that have been flowing in over the past years with the help of more systematic approaches and thus reduce the “quality bureaucracy“. To illustrate this, the CHE study “Institutional QM systems in universities and higher education institutions” lists examples for implementation. In addition, the study contains findings from interviews carried out with 2,400 professors from 15 disciplines about the usefulness of QM instruments.
Presently, there is no standard model for QM systems in Germany. Moreover, depending on the type of HEI and on the disciplines it focuses on, there are different approaches. So the universities examined, for example, focus on evaluation procedures in the QM systems, mainly on peer reviews, whereas Fachhochschulen place emphasis on process-oriented approaches such as Total Quality Management (TQM, EFQM) or on the norm ISO 9000pp. All HEIs included in the study are still in the layout and development phase – in spite of many years of practice. This suggests that quick implementation along traditional patterns is not possible. Nevertheless, we can learn a lot from the existing case studies: HEIs that want to start implementing QM systems now can build upon the experience provided by the study.
A crucial success factor for QM systems is a close coupling with the institutional strategy of the HEI. In addition, all executives in the rectorates/president’s offices as well as the dean’s offices must accept responsibility for the procedures and findings of QM systems. As far as participants at the meeting were concerned, the involvement of employees at HEIs was an important success factor for QM systems. Without active participation of all the acting parties in all areas of higher education organisation, a QM system will not be able to function, according to the Kassel credo.
For this reason, the CHE study examines not only the “system perspective“, but also the individual viewpoints of the professors affected by QM measures. It turned out that the acceptance of QM is generally high. Lecturers are especially interested in quality data on their students, e.g. in the form of graduate and dropout analyses. They regard financial incentives as a good instrument for quality improvement. The data reflects clearly visible differences between disciplines. Languages and cultural studies in particular require a set of QM instruments that are tailored to their needs.
120 participants in Kassel discuss different models of quality managements systems
The CHE study contains 233 pages and has been published as working paper No. 94 under the title: “Institutional QM systems in universities and higher education institutions. Concepts – instruments - implementation”.