Quality assurance and innovation are important objectives of the education policy of UAntwerp. To strengthen the quality culture within the institution, all stakeholders are involved in education policy, quality assurance and innovation. A number of processes, tools, resources and policy bodies have been created, with the common aim of supporting the faculties.
All Flemish higher education institutions are periodically subjected to an institutional review by NVAO. The institutional review is the periodic assessment of the quality of the education policy of an institution, including the conduct for confirming the quality of its programmes.
The Institutional Review of UAntwerp in fall 2021 resulted in a very positive assessment.
The committee witnessed great enthusiasm and commitment among participants. “Students, lecturers, employees and administrators are aware of the importance of quality in education”, says the committee. “UAntwerp exhibits a real quality culture and can truly call itself a learning community”.
The conversations with the (student) representatives showed that “their trust in the expertise and approachability of the lecturers and staff is high, and that trust is well-deserved”.
During the COVID crisis the university had the necessary agility. There was a quick switch to online education and the (mental) wellbeing of students was recognized as an important issue that also deserves structural attention after the crisis.
UAntwerp has a clear vision on education and that vision has been translated into appropriate policy measures that are implemented on a daily basis at the central level as well as in the Faculties and study programmes.
Regarding the strategic policy theme of diversity, the committee concluded that subsidiarity as a governance principle works really well. Faculties and study programmes can evolve at their own pace, taking into account their specific context.
Faculties have a large degree of autonomy within a well-defined institutional policy framework. This offers opportunities for working on interdisciplinarity and educational innovation. There is a balance between bottom-up and top-down initiatives, which creates a strong dynamic that is much appreciated by both the organizers and the participants, e.g. the students.
The quality system for study programmes follows the international standards and is robust: “The combination of systematic monitoring through the educational portfolio (a tool in which information about the quality of the programme is collected) in six-year cycles with an internal and external audit is a useful system”.
Finally, the committee gave a number of recommendations to further fine-tune the current approach:
- the university's services to students can be communicated more frequently;
- the educational portfolio can be updated more systematically and more colleagues can be involved in this;
- the external expertise in the peer reviews of programmes can be strengthened by involving representatives from the professional field and academics from international institutions.
“As an institution, we are obviously very pleased with the excellent result of the review. This was only possible thanks to the cooperation and daily commitment of many people.”, says rector Herman Van Goethem. Arne Cobben, responsible for education matters in the Student Union is also satisfied with the result of the review: “Many students were involved in the assessment of the committee. In general the involvement of students in education matters is strongly valued at UAntwerp.”
The result of the review is an opportunity for UAntwerp to further enhance the quality of its education in the next years. “We will follow up on the recommendations of the committee in the Education Board and in relevant working groups,” concludes vicerector for education, Ann De Schepper.
24 February 2022
To assure the quality of its study programmes, the University of Antwerp has developed a six-year cycle for study programme evaluation. The system is based on the confidence in the quality assurance and quality culture of the study programmes, which all have been accredited by NVAO twice.
The programme evaluation complies with the European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in Higher Education.
The six-year cycle consists of three parts:
- Systematic care of educational development (SYZO): Systematic processes
- Internal process monitoring and guidance (IPS): in year 3 of the cycle
- Self-reflection with peer review (ZPR): in year 6 of the cycle
Systematic care of educational development: Throughout the six-year cycle, the study programmes and faculties organise different evaluations, analyses and follow-up, such as the evaluation of courses by means of student surveys, measurement of study time, sounding board group discussions with alumni and the professional field, discussions with focus groups, programme evaluations andan external benchmark of the master thesis. The resulting documents or actions are demonstrated in the education portfolio of the faculty and the programme portfolio.
Internal process monitoring and guidance: The department of Education evaluates the programme, and examines to what extend the systematic care of educational development is sufficiently and qualitatively embedded in the daily functioning of the Educational Commission. Based on the education portfolio of the faculty and its programmes, the department of Education defines strengths and weaknesses. The department of Education and the vice-rector of education discuss the results with the representatives of the faculty and the programme. The report of this discussion is presented to the Education Board.
This planning table shows which study programme is scheduled for Internal process monitoring and guidance in the future and when the results are presented to the Education Board.
Self-reflection with peer review: Ones every six years the study programme reflects more systematically and thoroughly on the quality of the programme, the results and future challenges and discusses these with external and internal experts and a student (not in the faculty of the study programme). This peer review team visits the study programme and looks into the quality of education, based on documentation and discussions. At the end of the visit the peer review team expresses whether it has confidence in the (future) quality of the study programme. In a feedback conversation with the study programme representatives, the peer review team also highlights strengths and weaknesses of the study programme. Based on this feedback the study programme writes a development plan. The peer review report, together with the development plan, is presented to the Education Board and to the Executive Board of the university. The university Board for Programme Evaluation validates the experts and the peer review report and guarantees that the final judgement of the peer review team has been made accurately, fairly and objectively.
This planning table shows which study programme is scheduled for a peer review visit in the future and when the results appear on the website of the study programme.
Approved peer review reports of English-taught study programmes:
- Master of Applied Economic Sciences: Economic Policy
- Master in Business Economics
- Master of Biology
- Master of Biomedical Sciences
- Master of Chemistry
- Master of Computer Sciences
- Master of Digital Text Analysis (former: Master in Linguistics)
- Master of Epidemiology
- Master of Electronics and ICT Engineering Technology
- Master of Laws
- Master of Physics
- Master of Rehabilitation Sciences and Physiotherapy
- Water Sustainability: integrating Technology and Nature-based solutions (Think Water) (former: Advanced Master Technology of Integrated Water Management)
All programmes are scheduled in a six year quality assurance cycle. The programmes below have not yet gone through a self-reflection with peer review but will do so shortly. You can find more information on the quality of these programmes in the table below. This information is based on the latest visitation and its follow up and on the internal process monitoring and control in these programmes.
Processes and tools for quality assurance in education
During a programme assessment, students, alumni and those who have dropped out assess the entire study programme. By canvassing these groups, we attempt to assess all aspects and stages of the programme: from students' initiation into university education right through to when they finish their studies and enter the labour market. The results constitute important input for the programme's self-assessment.
Self-assessments and external reviews
External reviews and their preparation and processing are key elements of the quality assurance cycle. In the self-assessment report, members of staff related to a given programme reflect on its strengths and weaknesses and indicate how any problems will be tackled. This self-assessment report serves as a starting point for the external review committee which visits and reviews the programme. The results of the external review are recorded in a review report, which is later published on www.vlir.be.
The curriculum procedure ensures that programmes place enough emphasis on all aspects of quality education when developing a new programme or overhauling an existing programme, and includes certain rules about how to draw up a curriculum review file. The programme's Educational Commission looks at how to overhaul the curriculum and their plans are then approved by the faculty, the Education Board and the Board of Governors.
If only a small number of changes are proposed, then these can be approved at faculty level.
Assessment of the programme components
Programme components are assessed by means of student surveys. Feedback is then given to lecturers, enabling them to improve their courses where necessary.
Study time measurements
One of the elements of a programme's 'studyability' (the ability to complete a course within the allotted time) is student workload, measured as the total time that a student needs to spend on that course. The University of Antwerp uses methods such as theoretical analysis and time registration to track students' working hours, with the aim of optimising each programme's workload.
Focus group discussions
During focus group discussions, a representative group of students from a given programme are asked about various aspects of the quality of the education provided. This qualitative research method allows students to flag up any educational problems so that lecturers can respond quickly.
Resources for innovation in education
As part of its mission to provide high-quality student-centred education, the University of Antwerp focuses on establishing a powerful learning environment. More specific, educational innovation at the UAntwerp is funded through UFOO and the fund for practicals.
A key tool for supporting innovation in education at the University of Antwerp is the university's Fund for Educational Development (UFOO). Each year the Education Board provides resources that allow the faculties to innovate their education and to work on certain priorities in their educational policy. A number of educational innovation topics where UFOO has been focusing on in the last few years are:
- Bridging the gap between secondary and higher education (2010)
- Assessment policy (2011-2013)
- Digital and blended learning and assessment (2014-2017)
- Reinforcement of student inflow, study path and outflow (2018-2020)
Fund for practicals
The fund for practicals (practicumfonds) aims to invest in the quality and innovation of practicals. This includes the renovation of and investment in, practical spaces, equipment and teaching and learning aids in function of practical trainings. Furthermore, the fund for practicals aims at encouraging the cooperation between faculties, and the policy making capacity of the faculties.
The professionalisation of education
The Centre of Expertise for Higher Education (ECHO) supports and develops activities for professors, assistants, policy makers, researchers and faculties aiming at improvement and innovation of education at UAntwerp. ECHO has developed structured systematic educational trainings for academic and teaching staff. In addition, ECHO organizes workshops and seminars to raise awareness for relevant educational developments among the academic community.
There are other supporting services that also provide educational training at UAntwerp. For example, E-Campus organizes workshops in the Blackboard learning environment and the New Media Office on using audiovisual techniques in education. Linguapolis provides language tests and courses.
Furthermore, the Education Department organizes an educational policy day each year. At the faculties, CIKO- and UFOO-staff members organize courses and workshops on educational development.
The faculty cells for innovation and quality assurance in education (CIKOs) organise and provide support for quality assurance at faculty level and in the educational commission for each programme. In order to implement consistent, university-wide policy on innovation and quality assurance in education, the Working Group for Innovation and Quality Assurance in Education (WIKO) regularly organises consultations between the CIKOs and central policymakers (Chair of the Education Board and key policy staff).The faculty cells for innovation and quality assurance in education (CIKOs) organise and provide support for quality assurance at faculty level and in the educational commission for each programme. In order to implement consistent, university-wide policy on innovation and quality assurance in education, the Working Group for Innovation and Quality Assurance in Education (WIKO) regularly organises consultations between the CIKOs and central policymakers (Chair of the Education Board and key policy staff).