Running the PDCA cycle is a continuous process in the course of which the university level, the faculties and the study programmes develop and implement education and quality assurance policy in a structural manner. To facilitate this continuous process we availed ourselves of digital technology. We developed an online platform in a SharePoint environment, enabling study programmes and faculties to monitor their policy plans, processes and actions, results and points for improvement properly. We have termed this digital data-driven reflection instrument 'monitor'.
We developed and implemented Education Monitors at all three policy levels, i.e. for each of our study programmes and faculties, and for the institutional level. These monitors are a data-driven reflection tool, a digital document repository, and a dashboard and follow-up tool for improvement processes. Specifically tailored to each policy level, the Education Monitor enables a continuous reflection on (complex) processes of education policy, implementation, monitoring and improvement, involving all the relevant stakeholder groups (students, lecturers, the professional field, alumni and international peers). The competent councils or committees at each policy level are in charge of checking, and making sure that information in the monitor is supported. If a programme committee is responsible for both the Bachelor's and Master's programmes, these are combined into one monitor.
The instutional monitor (at university level) contains 44 operational objectives. The Education Department sets out an overarching vision and policy for these objectives (Plan), carries out the actions to achieve these objectives (Do), checks whether each objective has been achieved (Check), and, if necessary, formulates improvement actions (Act). Faculty staff working with their faculty’s and/or study programmes’ monitors can consult the institutional monitor for university-wide eduction policy decisions and implementations. They can also link to the instutional monitor from their own monitor(s).
The eleven faculty monitors and underlying study programme monitors – the latter each being linked to a programme committee – have an analogous structure. The faculty and study programme monitors contain 28 and 39 objectives, respectively. These objectives are binding in the sense that we expect our faculties and study programmes to pursue a policy to achieve them. How they do so, which actions they set out, and with which focus, and whether or not these actions are organized at faculty or programme level, is the responsibility and autonomy of the faculty/study programme. Each faculty/study programme implements processes and actions that are in line with their identity and culture. Ownership is crucial, albeit within the contours and frameworks that have been set out at university level.
The operational objectives were established in close consultation between the Education Department and the faculties/study programmes, and were finally approved by the Education Council. They take into account the government’s Quality Code for Higher Education (dated 18 May 2018), and its eight quality characteristics, the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG dd.2015) and Ghent University’s six strategic education objectives.
The Education Monitors are linked to Ghent University’s integrated business intelligence system (UGI), which is a repository for important education-related data (survey results, success rates…). Supported by the data available in the education monitors, and based on a Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle, the Education Department, the faculties and study programmes regularly engage in self-reflection to check to what extent the operational objectives are being met. This is always done in close consultation with all the relevant stakeholders (students, lecturers, the professional field, alumni, …). The Education Monitors, in other words, have a proper dashboard function for education policy, allowing a swift detection of education-related strengths and weaknesses.