The work to ensure and develop quality in education and research is ongoing at departmental level, faculty level and university-wide. The aim of our quality work is to follow up whether the faculty’s programmes live up to laws and regulations as well as national and international standards and guidelines. The aim is also to create preconditions for pedagogical development.
Quality management in education
Work to develop and assure the quality of our education is a daily activity that involves students, teachers, management, and support staff. Participation, peer review and sharing of experiences across departmental boundaries characterise our view on quality management. Various forms of meeting places and forums for dialogue and discussion are particularly important elements of our quality culture
At the departments, continuous and systematic quality management is carried out in accordance with the University’s quality policy. The smallest component of this work is at the course and study programme level and is about incorporating students’ views on our courses and study programmes through course and programme evaluations.
Course evaluations are generally submitted anonymously, in digital form, at the end of a course and are used to compile a forward-looking course report which weighs in the teachers’ own reflections and experiences from the course implementation and the students’ achievement of the intended learning outcomes. In many courses, the students’ anonymous course evaluations are supplemented by various forms of oral dialogue with the students during the course or study programme. In many cases, it is better that action can be taken on things that may not be working well in a course at an early stage.
Course and study programme conferences
The departments work systematically to follow up and develop courses and study programmes through some form of regular course and study programme conference. A common model is regular review of the course (e.g. every third time it is given) by a teacher who is external to the course. The course coordinator(s) thus get assistance from a colleague in shedding light on the constructive alignment of the course with a focus on its intended learning outcomes, reading list, types of instruction, and examination formats as well as the results of the course evaluations. The result is a forward-looking report that generally leads to actions such as revisions of reading lists and course syllabuses.
Robust teaching teams
Regular meetings with the teachers involved in study programmes and courses are another hallmark of quality management at the local level. Many of the Faculty’s courses are of an interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary nature and therefore have an even greater need for close dialogue between the teachers who teach the course or study programme. In some cases, all teachers who are involved in teaching a study programme meet as often as once a week to continously solve problems as they arise, discuss common development needs, and keep each other informed about different parts of the study programme.
In addition to giving students the opportunity to submit their views in course evaluations, various forms of student dialogues are a common feature of the Faculty’s courses and study programmes.
Course and study programme preparation
In addition to its Department Board, all departments have some form of education board and/or course syllabus group in which teachers and student representatives participate in reviewing and drafting decisions on revising or establishing new course syllabuses. This kind of group is led by the person appointed as the Department’s education coordinator, as well as the deputy or assistant head of department responsible for first and second-cycle courses and study programmes.
Education coordinators are responsible for stimulating educational development in their departments. Regular seminars on teaching and learning, mentors for junior teachers, support for teachers who want to become distinguished university teachers, and internal calls for applications for educational development funding are some examples.
The Faculty Board is responsible for ensuring that the Faculty’s courses and study programmes are of high quality and for monitoring quality management in the departments once each year. The drafting committee for first- and second-cycle courses (BFU) prepares and discusses all questions related to quality assurance and educational development at first- and second-cycle levels. The agenda contains a standing item on quality. The BFU is chaired by the dean responsible for first- and second-cycle courses and study programmes and includes the education coordinators at each department (seven in total), two student representatives, as well as the Faculty Programme Director and quality coordinator from the Faculty Office.
There is systematic follow-up of the departments’ quality management in various forms in an annual cycle. The three most important forms of follow-up are:
- Operations dialogues (March/April)
- Quality seminar (April/May)
- Residential school with education coordinators and directors of studies/programme coordinators (October)
In the spring term, operations dialogues are conducted where the Faculty management meets with the departments’ management. The dialogues focus on follow-up of courses and study programmes as part of the review of the previous year’s Action Plan and Business Plan (HP/VP), recruitment, the results of courses and study programmes, and the teachers’ qualifications in teaching and learning in higher education. Standing items on the agenda for these dialogues are sharing experiences from the course evaluations and follow-up of the Action Plans drawn up by the departments in light of course evaluations.
Based on Tools for monitoring and developing the quality of education developed at the University level, a quality seminar is conducted annually. At the beginning of the year, the BFU agree on a theme for the year’s quality seminar. The theme is chosen on the basis of the development needs generated by the departments’ systematic quality management and in relation to the themes in the inventory tool. The questions contained in the inventory tool are used to shed light on the courses and study programmes in relation to the theme, which then forms the basis for the content and structure of the seminar.
|2018||Supporting students’ capacity to write academic text|
|2019||Linking education with the labour market|
|2020||Pedagogical development as part of the digitalisation of teaching|
|2021||The research–teaching nexus|
Representatives for all courses and study programmes at the faculty, for example directors of studies, programme coordinators, education coordinators and other relevant functions, depending on the theme, participate in the quality seminars. By bringing together people who work with the quality of our education in different ways, the quality seminar is an important opportunity to share experiences and to share knowledge across study programme and departmental boundaries. It is also an opportunity to develop a common language and approach to quality in our education.
Retreat with education coordinators and directors of studies
Each autumn, a retreat is held for the education coordinators and directors of studies/programme coordinators. The purpose of the retreat is mainly to allow the departments to share their experiences on issues relating to the various processes involved in quality management. Whereas the focus in the quality seminar is on the quality of courses and study programmes, the retreat provides an opportunity for joint reflection at the meta-level on how our systematic quality management is being done and how it can be developed at both the department and Faculty levels.
Quality management in research
It is of the outmost importance that the research conducted at the Faculty of Social Sciences is of high quality. This is achieved through systematic quality management at all levels. The bedrock of this work is peer review, which is characteristic of academic activities and something in which we have a great deal of experience.
At the department level, research is mainly audited in seminar form, often with a nominated principal quality auditor from a national or international higher education institution other than our own. This applies to senior researchers as much as it does to doctoral students. In principle, all published research results have been preceded by peer review, often international, regardless of the form of publication. Most researchers at the Faculty publish their research results in international scholarly journals or international publishing houses. Our researchers are also well acquainted with the quality of publication channels (e.g. through the Norwegian Register for Scientific Journals, Series and Publishers). A quality-enhancing aspect is the large number of researchers who are themselves peer reviewers for scholarly journals and external reviewers at defences of doctoral theses and doctoral seminars.
At the Faculty level, quality management is coordinated as part of the work of the Research and third-cycle education committee (BFF). The BFF consists of representatives from each of the departments with responsibility for research and/or doctoral education, two doctoral student representatives, and the Vice-Dean and the Faculty Officer. The Faculty has a quality assurance role and monitors that active and systematic quality management is being carried out at all levels.
The BFF has an annual cycle for quality management. At a start-up day in January, the priority areas for the coming year of operations are set for research and doctoral education. At a quality day in November, each department reports on its work during the past year. The Faculty management then follows up on the work done and the planned actions in operations dialogues with each of the departments during the following spring.