The Quality Assurance and Academic Accreditation Workshop

The Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research-KRG plans to review and reform the entire system of Higher Education in the Kurdistan Region.  An effective collaboration process has been established between the MHE-KRG and Appalachian State University (Boone, North Carolina, USA) to prioritize Quality Assurance and Accreditation Processes. This cooperation is important for insuring a higher quality of education by utilizing successful international experience in the fields of accreditation and quality assurance. His Excellency the Minister of Higher Education Prof. Dlawer Ala’Aldeen stated in his introductory remarks that these initial steps will lead us toward the noble objective of improving education. The Minister emphasized the need for a clear road map, i.e., a well-designed strategic plan that will help us take successful steps toward achieving an advanced quality of education.
The workshop was conducted January 23-26, 2010 and was attended by the vice-chancellors for scientific affairs at Salahaddin University, Hawler Medical University, Sulimaniya University, Duhok University, Koya University and the faculty members from each university who have been nominated to head up the quality assurance offices in their respective universities.

The content of the four-day workshop was designed to:

  •     Highlight the process of quality assurance and accreditation principles and their framework in US universities.
  •     Learn from US Models of Teaching Quality Assurance as we design a Kurdistan Quality Assurance model.
  •     Identify the roles and tasks of the quality assurance office.
  •     Outline the next steps of the Accreditation and Quality Assurance process in Kurdistan.

Dr. Carla D. Sanderson, Provost of Union University in Tennessee, presented the quality assurance framework and principles of accreditation as adopted and practiced in US universities. She explained the mechanisms required for implementing the quality assurance process. Several questions were raised:

  1.     Do students need to be graduates from accredited universities in order to secure jobs or opportunities in the labor market?
  2.    Which agencies, governmental or non-governmental, can enforce accreditation standards?
  3.    What is the Code of Ethics relating to the accreditation process?
  4.    What is the main obstacle Union University has encountered during the accreditation process?
  5.    Does a good course evaluation indicate good faculty and bad course evaluation indicate bad faculty?

Dr. Sanderson answered all questions and commented on the issues arising. She demonstrated several ways to achieve better results from the quality assurance process. For example, it is necessary to articulate the process to students and it will take a few years to acculturate them. Attendees commented on teacher-student relationships and discussed methods for strengthening it. Dr. Sanderson indicated that students’ evaluative data will serve as one input in the accreditation process. However, these data will not be the only data relied on for evaluating faculty. There are other methods that supplement student input and which are equally as relevant in assessing the teacher’s performance. Student evaluations can aid faculty development and teaching performance, however. Several other points were raised during the workshop:

 

  •   The central admission system and its negative impact upon a student’s choice of study
  •   The gap between older faculty and the young generation of students
  •   The availability of written mission statements for KRG universities
  •   Financial resources required for implementing the project
  •   Examples of educational systems in Austria and Malaysia 

Dr. Sanderson presented an example of the international institutions affiliated with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, highlighting its core requirements, comprehensive standards and federal requirements. The Workshop ended with a presentation of teaching quality assurance which included information and examples of US courses of study.

A draft of the course book that was developed by the Ministry for the Quality Assurance Model was presented and discussed. The course book is to serve as a tool for evaluating the quality of the curriculum provided to students. It requires  each teacher to have a coordinator to submit course books to students for each course. Despite the challenges of applying the project, the attendees expressed their keenness and enthusiasm for it. All agreed to have pilot departments within their respective universities in which the project will first be adopted and tested.
Dr. Sanderson presented on the importance of leadership and how essential it is to have a relational leader to head the project of quality assurance if it is to be successful and advance deep and permanent change. Kurdish educational leaders have the opportunity and privilege to be the heralds of educational reform. Dr. Sanderson recommended a distinctive model of quality assurance in which transparency, democracy and accountability are highlighted. It might be difficult at first, but it will work out step-by-step. She suggested that it is not good to do things alone, isolated from others. The process requires cooperation which will facilitate a partnership mentality among the universities and result in benefitting all. Kurdistan has a great opportunity to carry out some advanced activities on the road to achieving a ‘top flight’ education.