by Dawid Wosik
Mea Universitas (latin) is the culmination of a two-stage study conducted at Poznan University of Economics, Poland, in 2004. The findings of the study were then validated over the course of 15 years both in Poland and in the United Arab Emirates. The concept of Mea Universitas is based on the premise that quality is a result – the result of being aware, therefore, disseminating quality awareness is the only possible way to enhance quality in academia and elsewhere. It implicates that the more complex perspective there is, the easier – more transparent and obvious it is to decide and prioritize – it is to assure and manage quality. Mea Universitas = my university.
Keywords: quality, awareness, mea universitas, academia, education quality
This paper is based on the study conducted in Poland, in 2004, the results of which were validated over the course of 15 years both in Poland and the United Arab Emirates. The study consisted of two stages. The first stage of the study was an in-depth interview conducted among chairs of the Polish accreditation agencies. The second stage of the study was quantitative research, targeting chairs, deans and directors of academic units offering academic programs, which were accredited.
The main aim of the research was to assess the effectiveness of university accreditation in the process of improving quality management in Polish higher education, as well as to identify possibilities and needs of supplementing the accreditation standards and processes. The author adopted the requirements of ISO 9001:2000, the most common global standard for a quality management system, as the basis for research in this area. There were one main hypothesis and two secondary hypotheses put forward. The main hypothesis was that increasing the effectiveness of independent (non-state and voluntary) Polish accreditation depends on supplementing the standards with requirements initiating the improvement of quality management. As auxiliary hypotheses it were assumed that:
- The establishment of the Polish Accreditation Committee (state and mandatory accreditation) does not exclude the legitimacy and the need for existence of the independent, formed by university associations, accreditation agencies (university accreditation);
- Improving the quality of higher education depends primarly on meeting the accreditation requirements for systemic acquisition and dissemination of information.
In the light of the theoretical research conducted, the effectiveness of university accreditation can be considered from two different perspectives. The first is the undoubted added value for graduates of the accredited major, the second – the implementation of quality assurance-oriented organizational solutions at university stimulates the improvement of the quality of education.
A positive verification of the main hypothesis took into account that increasing the effectiveness of university accreditation depends on supplementing the standards with requirements initiating the improvement of quality management. Based on the analysis of the qualititative and quantitative data, it should be concluded that:
- First, the usefulness of university accreditation results primarily from meeting the standards, which can be defined as elements specific to quality management or more broadly, knowledge management. The essence of their use is the absorption and dissemination of knowledge. At the same time, this conclusion leads to the positive verification of the second of the auxiliary hypotheses;
- Secondly, the system elements included in the ISO 9001:2000 standard, such as setting quality objectives, management review and an internal audit, are complementary to accreditation standards and it is justified to use them in the aspect of balancing university accreditation;
- Thirdly, although the establishment of the Polish Accreditation Committee does not undermine the legitimacy of the university accreditation agencies (as independent and non-mandatory means of accreditation), university accreditation should distinguish a university unit or program on the higher education market. This, in turn, determines that a greater emphasis should be placed on the sphere of quality management with special focus given to such practices, which determine the improvement of processes implemented in a university.
- Quality is a measure. It is neutral, unless put into a context.
- Quality is a function of awareness – it is indefinite in its description.
- Only awareness of the relevant quality attributes will allow one to define what quality is and what it measures.
- Awareness serves as a means of contextualization.
- Quality awareness is a function of dissemination, communication and knowledge sharing.
Considering the above, it is certain to the author that quality is a result – the result of being aware and spreading quality awareness is the prerequisite for quality to be enhanced.
Mea Universitas is a concept based on the premise that quality is a result – the result of being aware, hence an inevitable way forward for quality assurance agencies is to disseminate quality awareness – the awareness of requirements, approaches, tools and best practices in the field of quality assurance, institutional research and quality management in higher education, among all interested parties.
It is a university, that today is obliged to offer programs which tomorrow will have an impact on the quality of life of its graduates and the quality of life of society in general.
Disseminating quality awareness in higher education is to help various groups of stakeholders, including the following:
- University candidates and students, who are planning to start their studies and those who are studying already;
- University faculty and staff, who offer educational services;
- Employers and society, who use education either directly or indirectly.
The activities of all quality assurance agencies in higher education should be driven by the principle of social justice and should be based on the belief that every citizen of any country is fully entitled to the largest possible access to the objective data, information and knowledge that helps them make the best choice on a university that meets minimum quality standards. Their activities should advocate integrity through awareness of quality.
Wosik D. (2009) Towards Excellence in Higher Education through Quality Awareness. Available at: https://www.inqaahe.org/sites/default/files/pictures/26_Wosik_Towards%20excellence%20in%20HE%20trough%20quality%20awareness.pdf (Accessed: November 2020).