(Original Swedish post published 15 January 2017, English version posted 17 January.)
The Quality Advisory Board held its annual overnight conference on 11–12 January. This is when the Board has the chance to dig deeper into certain issues, discuss its working procedures and plan its activities. In addition to some progress reports – the Quality Advisory Board functions, for example, as a reference group for Q&R17 and for the self-evaluation component of the Swedish Higher Education Authority’s evaluation of Uppsala University’s measures to promote sustainable development – the focus this time was on two topics.
The topic for the first afternoon was “Quality and skills provision”. Some aspects discussed were the ongoing work on skills provision plans, how to further develop our recruitment processes to ensure that we succeed in recruiting teachers and researchers who will make the greatest possible contribution to quality enhancement at the University, and how we can use career support to enable our young teachers and researchers to develop professionally.
Day two was mainly devoted to “Evaluation and development in education, research and administration”. To begin with, Åsa Kettis described the changes in the Swedish evaluation landscape from 1993 (the higher education reform) to the present day. After that we discussed how to ensure that development and evaluation are more of a benefit than a burden, how to coordinate internal and external evaluations, and how to balance local and joint initiatives in the University. The discussion produced the following (among other) recommendations:
- Give departments support in the form of background material and compilations of data, etc., to enable self-evaluations to focus on reflection and analysis.
- Create a positive attitude towards evaluation and quality enhancement by clarifying the benefits and reporting results, spreading good practice, etc.
- Take a research approach to evaluation, see it as part of academic activities.
- Make sure to optimise the evaluation process over time by ‘evaluating the evaluations’, so as to only keep the elements that really ‘give something’. Avoid time-consuming data collection.
- Think about how often to evaluate – on the basis of need, developments, continuity and resources. Don’t overuse the evaluation instrument and link it more clearly to measures in response.
- Inform staff and plan well in advance on the basis of the known timetables and purposes of external evaluations, and avoid internal evaluations of things that are evaluated by other actors.
The conference was Anders’s last as chair of the Quality Advisory Board. The new chair, starting immediately, will be Professor Torsten Svensson, Vice-Rector of the Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences. Torsten, of course, previously led the work on developing the model for Uppsala University’s new quality assurance system for education. Good luck with this important and exciting responsibility, Torsten!