The need for a quality culture for higher education in Malta was first established in the Further and Higher Education Strategy 2020 for Malta by the fore-runner of the NCFHE. The concept of a quality culture in higher education is not a new one. The European Standards and Guidelines (ESG) from the first version in 2005 were clearly premised upon the development of a quality culture that placed the primary locus of improvement within the provider. The 2014 'Report on Progress in Quality Assurance in Higher Education' [PDF] by the European Commission highlighted the importance of a quality culture in higher education and referred to the need for “a genuine culture of continuous quality improvement” (p.4).
The foundations for a quality culture were established by the 2006 Education (Amendments) Act, which places the onus of ensuring quality in teaching and learning on the providers through their internal developmental processes. This particular relationship between internal and external quality assurance can be seen in all the relevant references with respect to the further and higher education institutions and structures set up or reconstituted by the Act. Indeed, Subsidiary Legislation 327.433 ‘Further and Higher Education (Licensing, Accreditation and Quality Assurance) Regulations’ [PDF], that implemented the relevant sections of the 2006 Act, stated clearly that: “Providers shall have the primary responsibility for the quality of their provision and its quality assurance” (Regulation 36(1)).
The QAC was set up by Senate in May 2015 to review the current QA structures of the University so as to ensure that the quality culture of the University is further enhanced, so that the actions of its staff and students are inspired by a desire to continuously improve their practice, learning experience and outcomes. Quality Assurance is thus not about the ‘ticking of boxes’ simply to make sure that the appropriate procedures or processes are in place. It is about fostering an academic community of reflective practice that engages, both internally and externally, in an ongoing cycle of quality as an integral component of its striving for excellence in teaching, learning, research and outreach.
The cycle of quality is one of the principles of the National QA Framework for Further and Higher Education. It is a planned sequence of systematic and documented activities and has many adaptations in diverse fields of knowledge. Essentially it refers to a reflective-active cycle that:
Students play a critical part in the evaluation, development and enhancement of the quality of their learning experience. A number of the areas of feedback including teaching quality and assessment and feedback used as measures to assess the overall quality of the delivery of the University’s provision. Students’ feedback has been empirically established as the single biggest driver of improvement which allows the University to evaluate how its service provision is viewed by its most important group of stakeholders.
Feedback also ensures that lecturers and Boards of Studies are made aware of problems perceived or encountered by students, and provides an opportunity for the conduct of self-evaluation and revision, where necessary.
The Bologna Process has put an increasing emphasis on the need for involvement of students in the quality assurance of higher education. Student involvement requires that students act as collaborators in, rather than merely passive receivers of, teaching and learning.
Further information on the national IQA Standards is provided in this document [PDF] published by the NCFHE.
The code of professional academic conduct is included in Chapter 4 of the Manual of Conduct and Procedures [PDF] [Intranet]
The standards of administrative conduct and service that the University has set for itself are included in the Students' Charter [PDF]
The web-pages of the University Research Ethics Committee (UREC) have full information on the University’s Research Code of Practice and the University’s Research Ethics Review Procedures and links to the ethics self-assessment form that all researchers at the University are required to fill in, and to FAQs.
The Programme Validation Committee (PVC) has been entrusted by Senate to ensure that programmes of study offered by the University are of the required academic standard, are supported by the necessary resources and are responsive to national and market needs.
The Academic Programmes Quality and Resources Unit (APQRU) is the administrative arm of the Programme Validation Committee.
The process for the approval of new or amended study-units is similar to that for new programmes of study, in that it requires the completion of an approval form which must be submitted Senate, through the Programme Validation Committee (PVC), via APQRU.
Programme review is an ongoing process and has as its basis the existing audit practices which take place as part of quality assurance mechanisms in place at the University.
After each semester, only a selection of study-units are evaluated to avoid student fatigue associated with this exercise, however all study-units will eventually be evaluated over a definite period. Results of the feedback process are made available to the lecturers of the study-units concerned, Heads of Departments, Deans of Faculties and the Rector, and areas for appropriate follow-up action are identified and communicated to the Departments. The results of the student feedback process, as well as the recommendations and the action taken on the basis of such recommendations are important considerations for the Programme Review which each Department is required to undertake.
The Visiting Lecturers and External Examiners Committee was set up to consider the eligibility of foreign academics nominated by Faculties / Institutes / Centres / Schools to give lecturing services on various study-units and to examine in undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.
Student engagement in quality assurance procedures is an integral aspect of the quality culture of the University. The links below provide the many ways how students can be actively involved in enhancing the quality of processes and outcomes:
Students who have sought the help of lecturers or KSU representatives and need further assistance, may refer their problem to the Pro-Rector for Students and Institutional Affairs and the Students' Charter Committee, should the problem be related to the Students' Charter [PDF]
The Student Services page provides all the services and UM committees available to support current students.
Students who, after trying to resolve their complaint with the University authorities, still feel that they have not been treated fairly, can lodge a formal complaint in writing by submitting an online Complaint Form or in writing to:
Commissioner for Education
c/o Office of the Ombudsman
11, St Paul Street
Valletta VLT 1210
For more information, please contact Ms Marisa Xuereb by phone on +356 2248 3214, or by email on firstname.lastname@example.org.