Background of the project
Quality assurance policy in higher education in Croatia is based on the Higher Education Law (adopted 1993, amended 1996, 2001) as well as on related faculty statutes, rules and recommendations. These documents define the principle responsibilities and tasks of:
· the Ministry of Science and Technology, which is responsible also for the area of higher education,
· the National Council for Higher Education, and
· higher education institutions and their units (faculties, departments, special units).
An analysis of the state of the art in the area of quality assurance in Croatian higher education has shown that the adopted quality assurance system has been in many aspects inadequate and inefficient, and has not reflected the actual needs of the higher education. The demands of the society on the higher education have changed in the last years. The increased demands on the flexibility of the education, quality of courses, transparency of the performance in teaching and learning, type of admission procedures, exchange of students within national and international programmes, etc. require a new approach to the definition and practical implementation of the quality assurance system in higher education. The development and implementation of an efficient quality assurance system in higher education is a rather sophistic task requiring a very close co-operation of all actors involved – Ministry of Science and Technology, National Council for Higher Education, and higher education institutions.
On the basis of the analysis, the following main problems in quality assurance in higher education in Croatia have been identified:
- Inadequate jurisdiction and roles of the institutions and units which should care for quality at national, university and faculty levels within the existing quality assurance system.
E.g. National Council for Higher Education is in charge of the quality assessment of the study programmes and, as it is a time consuming procedure, no feedback can be done in time, or as judgements and data about quality are not gathered at the university level (due to disintegrated structure of the University), they cannot be integrated into the central university quality policy.
- No standardised effective mechanism for recognising and rewarding excellence and quality. This is a serious constraint for efficient quality management.
- Non-efficient information and promotion policy.
At the moment, the implementation of new rules for improved operation of the university faces barriers and resistance from the side of the academic community, mostly due to the lack of information or fear of change.
- Insufficient motivation factors and pressure of the law or other legal documents for a really consequent quality management and assurance.
In many cases, the quality indicators have neither been systematically collected, nor adequately interpreted. In other cases, where quality indicators have been collected and interpreted correctly, recommendations for improvement actions have not been implemented. In many cases, there is also incomplete control, monitoring and evaluation of the quality of the university performance, or lack of an adequate policy.
- Insufficient definition of the enrolment policy: The enrolment policy has not been discussed or defined neither at national nor at university level, although it significantly influences the quality of higher education performance.
- Insufficient feed-back information concerning the skills and knowledge of the graduates, or their relevance for the labour market. No information concerning the future requirements of the industry and social sector for the profile of graduates.
- Lack of mobility not only between universities at national or international levels, but also within the same university. This is related to the rigid curricula, strict division, and legal entity of faculties.
In addition, the results of the self-evaluation of the University of Zagreb, which was followed by two external institutional evaluations - CRE (CRE reviewers’ report: Institutional Evaluation of the University of Zagreb) and Salzburg Seminar (Universities Project Visiting Advisors Program: Report on the University of Zagreb), encouraged all Croatian universities to reform and improve the university quality policy.
Therefore, the wider objective of this project is to contribute to:
· Development of new quality culture and quality policy in higher education in Croatia, resulting in broad acceptance of quality management measures and overcoming the resistance of the academic community against changes.
· Development and implementation of a comprehensive effective system for quality assurance in higher education in Croatia, which will include aspects of quality management and assurance at both national and university levels. This will result in the use of new strategies in financing of higher education, in improved quality of university organisational and quality management structure, higher quality of education, improved career chances of the graduates, wide national and international academic recognition. Assurance of a high quality of the higher education is very important also from the viewpoint of the ambitions of Croatian higher education institutions to become a part of the European integration process and to develop a successful international co-operation in the area of education. This system should motivate and encourage Croatian universities to reform the university quality policy, their processes, procedures and criteria assuring quality. This will open the ways to building up a modern and competitive university system.
The specific objectives of the project - to develop and implement a quality assurance system - will focus on:
a) establishment of sustainable enrolment policy
b) enhancement of quality culture; focal points are:
- higher education structure, curricula development, use of ECTS, teaching and learning methods
- human resources development (the raising generation, criteria for advancement)
c) development of institutional evaluation model:
- institutional structure of quality assurance system
- institutional evaluation, self-evaluation, quality indicators, site visits, student evaluation, teacher evaluation, course evaluation.
d) development of corrective procedures to be applied in case of unsatisfactory results of the evaluation process.
One of the important outcomes of the project will be a Handbook on Quality Assurance System and Quality Management in Higher Education. This publication will provide an analysis of the Croatian higher education system from the viewpoint of quality management (including recommendations for legal framework, management approaches, quality assurance in education and research, international co-operation, etc.), definition of bottlenecks and problems, and recommendations or proposals on possibilities to solve these problems.
The broad spectrum of the project partners will enable the use of the recommendation, practical application of the know-how, and best experiences from many European countries and different management levels. This recommendation will be a valuable information source for Croatian Ministry of Science and Technology, National Council for Higher Education, as well as for Croatian universities, with a high relevance for further development of the quality assurance system in Croatia. This Handbook will be widely disseminated in printed form, on CD, and will be available also via Internet. Thus it will significantly contribute to the achievement of the wider objective of this project.
The developed quality assurance system will be designed for the area of higher education. Therefore, the main target group of the project are Croatian universities and other Croatian higher education institutions. In addition, the project will have benefits also for the National Ministry of Science and Technology as well as for the National Council for Higher Education which can use the project outputs and experience for the development of an advanced national policy and strategies in the area of quality assurance in higher education. As the implementation of the quality assurance system is a top-down process, very important role in the project will have the decision-makers from Croatian universities - rectors, vice-rectors, and deans. Of course in the development of the system many other experts in the area of quality management will be involved.
An important aspect for a successful accomplishment of the project are existing close links among the project partners based on their previous co-operation. Croatia was excluded from EU-programmes in the past, but the Croatian universities have developed co-operation with their EU-partners within bilateral actions, international associations, participation in conferences and seminars.
Vienna University of Technology, which acts as the project contractor, has a long co-operation with most consortium members from EU-countries. The co-operation includes activities within bilateral partnership agreements, joint participation in Tempus, Leonardo and Socrates projects, etc.
A special part of the project consortium form experts from Europe which have valuable know-how and experience in the area of the development and implementation of quality assurance systems in higher education. It is expected that their know-how will fasten the reform in Croatia and will help us avoid possible mistakes.
Concerning the priorities set for Croatia, the project
· fully meets the Tempus priority University Management – development of internal quality assurance system, and
· partly meets the priority University Management - reform of university governance, management and finance aiming at the development of integrated institutions of which faculties are constituent parts.