It’s all systems go as NWU prepares for institutional audit

Preparations are well under way for one of the most important upcoming events in the academic life of the North-West University (NWU): the external institutional audit that will be conducted in August 2022.

The NWU’s institutional audit is part of a series of audits planned for higher education institutions under the ambit of the Council on Higher Education (CHE), which recently announced an action plan and broad framework for the institutional audits.

The university has already set the wheels in motion for its preparations for these important audits. The Quality Enhancement Office, which is driving the NWU’s preparations, has established institutional audit working teams and has already hosted initial induction and orientation sessions.

This is just the beginning of the institutional audit journey. eish! spoke to Dr Mariëtte Fourie, quality manager for academic programmes at the NWU’s Quality Enhancement Office, about the audit and what it means for the NWU.

Why is the audit important?

“Institutional audits are used to determine the extent of an institution’s capability to use integrated quality management systems and processes to improve the quality of its learning and teaching, research and integrated engagement with the community,” says Mariëtte.

An audit also takes into account how the institution’s quality management systems enhance the likelihood of student success.

What is quality?

The Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC) of the CHE defines quality in terms of three overarching drivers.

The first is how is a university’s core business of teaching and learning, research and community engagement aligns with its vision, mission and strategic goals. The second driver is the value for money the university provides to its students and other stakeholders, and the third one is the university’s capacity for and success with transformation.

Mariëtte says the HEQC’s emphasis on “fitness for purpose” means that the committee will evaluate the quality of our academic programmes and our internal quality management systems, and how they contribute to the transformative goals in the higher education context.

Mariëtte says the institutional audit process is closely aligned with the CHE’s Quality Assurance Framework, which emphasises curriculum transformation, pedagogic renewal and the flexibility of provision.

Next steps in the preparations

In preparation for the audit, the NWU must submit a self-evaluation report to the CHE at the end of May 2022. This will be followed by a visit from the CHE during August 2022.

To manage the planning, preparation and execution of this audit process, a NWU Audit Steering Committee has been established, with various members of the University Management Committee (UMC) serving on it. The Quality Enhancement Office will be responsible for managing the institutional audit process on an operational level.

“The institutional audit will look at our self-reporting and evidence-based practices to evaluate how we engage in systematic and continuous quality assurance and enhancement processes. The audit panel will also determine if these processes are appropriate to our context, as well as our mission and strategic goals.”

Mariëtte says the institutional audit will also assess the coherence and effectiveness of the NWU quality assurance and enhancement systems for student success. A critical factor that will be taken into account is how the NWU responded to the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic from early 2020.

The NWU wheels are rolling!

In addition to establishing the working teams, the Quality Enhancement Office will hold training sessions during September 2021, followed by facilitation and support sessions that will focus on writing the self-evaluation report and compiling a portfolio of evidence throughout October 2021 to April 2022.

“We are committed to a Scholarship of Quality Assurance approach,” Mariëtte says. “This entails achieving an appropriate balance between quality development and accountability. We adopt a reflective approach in showcasing how the NWU, in the context of differentiation, transformation, social impact and social justice, strives towards student success at our institution.”

For more information, contact Mariëtte at mariette.fourie@nwu.ac.za or watch this video.

Submitted by MARELIZE SANTANA on Mon, 08/30/2021 - 16:19