Quality assurance of higher education in Аustria

Normative and legal regulation of quality assurance of higher education in Austria. The peculiarity of internal and external control. Description of the legal status and activities of the Agency for Quality Assurance and Accreditation of Austria.

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УДК 94. 378(436)

QUALITY ASSURANCE OF HIGHER EDUCATION IN AUSTRIA

О-F. Melnychuk

Higher education guarantees innovative development of the country, its compatibility, spiritual and material growth of a person and a society in the whole. Quality higher education has a direct impact on human capital formation. It is no accident that the quality assurance of higher education is a priority of reforms taking place in this area.

The said theme is the scientific interest of many scientists. Thus, the merit of work, which reveals a system of quality assurance in some European countries and prospects of its development in Ukraine [1], the modernization of national education and science in the way of innovative development of the country [2]. Among scientists, whose subject of study was to ensure the quality of university education in Austria, we should mention O. I. Shyika, who has made a significant progress in this direction, thoroughly highlighting educational aspects of the problem [3]. However, in our view, the achievements of Austria in ensuring the quality of higher education, the experience of the Agency for Quality Assurance in Higher Education and Accreditation of Austria, against the background of educational reforms in Ukraine require coverage of the legal aspects of the problem. In particular it is necessary to clarify the legal regulation of quality assurance and implementation of its requirements in an educational environment in Austria.

The article is to outline the legal regulation of quality assurance and its practical implementation in Austria.

The quality assurance system of higher education of Austria provides for both internal and external controls in this area. According to §14 of the Federal Law «On organization of universities and university studies» from 2002, higher education institutions are obliged to form their own quality management system of education and to monitor its activities continuously. Unlike internal systems, external evaluation of the quality of higher education is the initiative of the University Board, the Rector or the Federal Minister [4]. Thus, the core of the quality evaluation of higher education in Austria is internal control, while external is considered an additional procedure.

The procedure of external quality control is regulated in detail by the Federal Law «On external quality assurance and the Agency for Quality Assurance and Accreditation of Austria» from July, 29, 2011 (hereinafter - the Law). It is extended to all universities in Austria, regardless of the form of ownership, which is the responsibility of the Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economics. External quality control of higher education is carried out by independent agencies in Austria and other countries registered in the European register of quality assurance. Thus, according to the order of the Federal Minister, to audit the quality of higher education in Austria are entitled to the following institutions: Agency for Quality Assurance and Accreditation of Austria (AQ Austria); Institute for accreditation, certification and quality assurance (ACQUIN); Accreditation Agency for Health care and Welfare (AHPGS); Accreditation Agency for research programs in engineering, informatics, natural sciences and mathematics (ASIIN); Certification Agency of Baden-Wurttemberg; Finnish Higher Education Evaluation Center (FINEEC); Foundation for International Business Administration Accreditation (FIBAA); Swiss Agency for Accreditation and Quality Assurance (AAQ); European Association of Institutions for Veterinary Education (EAEVE); European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD); European League of Institutes of Arts (ELIA), etc [6].

The leading role in the external evaluation of the quality of higher education plays Agency for Quality Assurance and Accreditation of Austria (hereinafter - the Agency), the legal status is regulated by law. Agency is a public entity with clearly defined objectives, powers and a system of fixed procedures for the audit and accreditation in higher education. Thus, the agency has a number of tasks, such as it is authorized to: develop and implement procedures for external quality control according to national and international standards; conduct accreditation of higher education institutions; publish reports and issue certificates to educational institutions upon results of an audit; inform and advise on quality assurance; carry out international cooperation in the field of quality assurance and so on [5].

The bodies of the Agency is the General Assembly, Board of Trustees, the Board of Appeal Committee. Characteristically, during the formation of these bodies Austrians follow gender policy and ensure the presence of no less than 45 percent of females. This fully applies to the General Assembly, which includes 23 members. They shall serve on a voluntary basis for five years with the right to reappointment. The General Assembly is formed by the quota principle and presents Advisory Council for Economic and Social Affairs, the Austrian students, university conference of labor collectives, Federal Ministry for Science and Research. education control quality accreditation

The General Assembly is involved in the formation of the Board of Trustees, the Board and Appeal Committee. Yes, it elects five members of the Board of Trustees for five years with the right to re-election. Out of its consist the last elects a chairman and its deputies. The Board of Trustees determines the policy of the Agency on standards and procedures for quality assurance, it is responsible for the formation and implementation of the budget, the recruitment and appointment of managing director and auditor, preparation and conduction of meetings of the General Assembly.

Another collective body is the Council which is also formed on quota principle and consists of fourteen members. The advantage of the Austrian law is that it clearly defines qualification requirements for members of the Council and the procedure of their appointment. Thus, eight members (representatives of the academic community) should have the academic qualifications and experience in the field of higher education; two members are representatives of the students; four members represent employers. They should be aware of the problems of higher education at the national and international levels, experienced, and to contribute to the tasks of the Agency. At least half of the members representing the academic community and students must be foreigners.

Members are appointed by Ministers or Profile Federal Minister for submission to the General Assembly (two thirds) for five years with the right of a single reappointment. They perform the functions entrusted to them for a fee, an amount determined by the Minister, and are entitled to compensation for travel. The powers of the Council members are terminated early at the request of the Minister in the event of gross violation or failure to perform their tasks. In our opinion, formation of the Council should be more democratic, because such a form as the appointment of a member by the government official, yields, for example, the competitive selection of candidates. In addition, the Profile Ministers involvement in the process of formation of such authority does not add independence, as required by the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area. However, the rule of law guarantees the independence by prohibiting entry to its consist members of the Federal Government or the State Government, National Council, Federal Council or any other representative body, political parties, General Assembly, Ministries responsible for education.

The Concil powers are legally defined. In particular, it decides on accreditation and certification of educational and research institutions, policymakers, standards and quality assurance procedures, prepare a report and make public the results of inspections, informs the audit results, monitors educational and scientific institutions on compliance with accreditation requirements, cooperates in quality assurance and more.

For appeal consideration of educational institutions on quality assurance functions the Appeal Committee, members of which are appointed by the General Assembly. The procedure for appeals is clearly regulated. Thus, the appeal is submitted in writing to the office, which immediately forwards it to the Appeal Committee and informs the Council. The appeal is reviewed by two Austrian and one foreign member, who have experience in quality assurance and legal education. The members of the Appeals Committee do not belong to any other organ of the Agency and shall perform its functions in accordance with clearly defined instructions. Their term of office is three years with the right of reappointment.

The law stipulates not only the procedure for the formation of the Agency and their powers, but the procedure for auditing the quality of higher education. During its implementation the following areas are evaluated: strategy and implementation of quality management system of the university; measures and quality control methods in research and teaching; integration tasks in the quality management system; information systems; quality control procedures of educational programs. These areas correspond to four auditing standards that are consistent and based on algorithm implementation of a «plan-conduction-check-act» [3, p. 139-140]. Let us find their essence.

Standard 1 consists in that the higher education institution determines the strategy and goals as a prerequisite for internal quality management system. Universities are autonomous in developing their internal quality management education.

Standard 2 provides for a system of management of quality higher education, which would help the University achieve its goals. The quality management system shall include internal quality assurance measures that support higher education institution in achieving its objectives. The main responsibilities of higher education institution should be: education, including postgraduate education, research development, and cross-cutting objectives in the field of organization, administration and support, human resources, resource management and internationalization.

Standard 3 uses a system of quality management as its integral component, assessment, monitoring and information. That strategy, organization and services of higher education are subject to systematic monitoring. Higher education institution in the development of goals and strategies and management decisions should be based on the results of its internal controls and information systems. Results of internal and external evaluation should be integrated into the quality management system.

Standard 4 essence is that the quality management system provides a systematic involvement of various interest groups. Quality of higher education is encouraged by active communication strategy. The composition of interest groups should be defined by the profile and goals of the University [7].

Analysis of a series of reports of the Agency gives us reason to believe that these standards are applied in practice during the audit of higher education institutions. Their implementation will be demonstrated on the example of quality assurance at the Vienna University of Technology, the audit carried out by the Swiss Accreditation Council, March 4, 2016.

Vienna University of Technology today is the largest scientific and educational institution in the science and technology field. The university has about 4,600 employees and has about 29,000 students. The report of the Vienna University of Technology on conducted internal audit was prepared in 46 pages and signed by the Rector of July 15, 2015. Actually self-analysis was carried out by a group of five experts November, 25-27, 2015. The expert group had the opportunity to test different areas of the university - the strategy of the quality of education, management, training, research, internal and external communications, recruitment and staff development [8].

The audit found that the Vienna University of Technology has its own quality assurance strategy, officially published on the website and printed in a booklet. This strategy aims to ensure continuous improvement of the quality of educational and scientific activities of the institution. The role of a certain quality assurance tool performs published «Code of Conduct».

Group noted that the university quality assurance system includes three elements: staff, processes and resources. The quality management system is an integral part of the overall strategy and focused on its development. Responsibility for the quality management system is carried by the university Rector, and for the quality of teaching and research - by faculty. Therefore, there is division of responsibilities in the system of quality assurance.

Notification system is well established in the university, the meetings of Deans of all departments are convened on a regular basis.

Experts said that in order to implement the strategy of international development at the University a series of different events is conducted. International mobility programs in the institution are coordinated by the International Bureau, which, moreover, supports the development of research and implementation of EU projects. However, to improve international cooperation the expert group recommended that more attention should be paid to the implementation of academic mobility and validation of its effectiveness. To this end, the University should expand the post graduate study in English, and clarify the number of students wishing to study abroad.

The institution has quality developing scientific research activities, as well as technology implementation with the active participation of all departments. The scientific directions and research areas are clearly defined and documented. The University has a research department, which consists of 11 full-time employees. Their responsibilities include the coordination and management of the department, addressing research funding, research cooperation, consultation and information management, research partnerships, legal services according to the concluded research agreements and projects.

Ensuring the quality of higher education includes periodic evaluation of the results. The University has a «dual system» of research evaluation. On the one hand, this is annual evaluation, and on the other is to check the results of scientific activities for three years. The school has various instruments to collect data related to research, publications database, project database and reporting system. These instruments are open to all researchers.

The experts had a positive impression on mechanisms of ensuring employees training and their career development. Particular attention is paid to the development of young researchers of the university, as well as advancement of women and provision of conditions for their scientific career.

The University provides transparency of reporting by systematically putting objective information in periodicals, on the official website in Internet (German and English) and so on.

In general, experts noted that the strategy ensuring the quality, selection and personnel development, internal and external communication at the University fully meets the requirements of evaluating the quality of higher education. However, improvements need indicators such as education, management and research. Overall noted that the school has achieved significant progress and has made significant efforts in the field of quality management to position itself in international competition.

After the audit, universities are issued a quality certificate for up to 7 years. If during the inspection there were found deficiencies that can be remedied within a reasonable period, the certificate is provided conventionally with further control over the activities of the university. If the institution due to significant deficiencies does not receive the certificate, after two years the Agency must repeat its check.

Empowering the Agency sufficient authority in the area of quality assurance requires the establishment of proper control over its activities. This control provides the profile Minister or the profile Federal Minister and Ombudsman Service. These ministers are entitled to the Agency information on all matters within its competence. In turn, the Agency must provide the ministers with the information about their activities and documents for inspection. The profile Minister or the profile Federal minister have the right to cancel the resolutions and decisions of the Council or prevent their execution if they are contrary to the applicable laws and regulations. In this case, the Council is required to prepare the appropriate legal opinion to Ministers immediately. Service Ombudsman office in the Federal Ministry of Science and Research represents the interests of students. Of course, the existance of an institution of student ombudsman in Austria, which oversees the Agency and at the same time performs human rights protection of students is to be praised and needs to be introduced to the educational system of Ukraine.

Thus, the legal regulation of quality assurance of Austria meets European standards and provides for both internal and external controls. Organization of internal quality evaluation of higher education is the responsibility of each university and determined by local acts. External quality control of higher education is carried out by the independent agencies in Austria and other countries registered in the European register of quality assurance. The leading role plays the Agency, whose activities are strictly regulated by legislation, it is transparent and aimed at ensuring the quality of higher education of Austria.

List of sources and literature

1. Development of quality assurance in Ukraine: information and analytical review; Ed. by V. Kalashnikova and V. Lugova; Dobko T., I. Zolotarev S. Kalashnikov and others. - Kyiv: SE «SPC» Priory-tety «, 2015. - 84 p.

2. Education and science in the innovative development of modern Europe: Coll.nauk. expert. materials / by Society. Ed. SI Zdioruk. - K., NISS,2014. - 124 p. - (Sir. «Humanitarian Development», no. 2).

3. Shyika O. I. System of ensuring the quality of university education in Austria: Thesis ... candidate.

ped. Sciences: 13.00.01 /Shyika Oksana Ivanovna. - Lviv, 2016. - 276 p.

Annotation

The article reveals the legal regulation of the higher education quality assurance in Austria. It indicates that its implementation system provides internal and external control. It highlights the legal status and activities of the Agency for Quality Assurance and Accreditation of Austria.

Keywords: Austria, Agency, quality assurance, quality evaluation, quality of education, quality of higher education.

У статті розкрито нормативно-правове регулювання гарантування якості вищої освіти в Австрії. Вказано, що система її забезпечення передбачає проведення внутрішнього та зовнішнього контролю. Висвітлено правовий статус і діяльність Агентства із забезпечення якості та акредитації Австрії.

Ключові слова: Австрія, Агентство, забезпечення якості, оцінювання якості, якість освітньої діяльності, якість вищої освіти.

В статье раскрыто нормативно-правовое регулирование обеспечения качества высшего образования в Австрии. Указано, что система ее обеспечения предусматривает проведение внутреннего и внешнего контроля. Освещены правовой статус и деятельность Агентства по обеспечению качества и аккредитации Австрии.

Ключевые слова: Австрия, Агентство, качество, оценка качества, качество образовательной деятельности, качество высшего образования.

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