Can Invitational Institutional Audits make a Cost-Effective Contribution to Quality Enhancement?

Clarke-Okah, Willie
Daniel, John
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Commonwealth of Learning (COL)

Second International Conference on Quality Assurance in Higher Education in Africa, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, 17-19 September 2007, Can Invitational Institutional Audits make a Cost-Effective Contribution to Quality Enhancement? Willie Clarke-Okah & John Daniel, Commonwealth of Learning // Most national quality assurance agencies conduct quality audits of higher education institutions in their jurisdictions. This paper draws lessons from institutional audits that were carried out on the initiative of universities themselves, either in anticipation of a future audit by the national QA agency (UNISA, South Africa) or as a catalyst for reform (University of Ghana). These audits provided useful guidance but their direct and indirect costs were considerable (at least $100,000 in out-of-pocket expenses and many hours of institutional staff time) because they involved large international teams of experts. Can such audits be made more cost-effective whilst retaining their credibility? The paper suggests four measures for doing this. // First, most QA agencies require self-assessments to be conducted prior to audit visits using set procedures. These should also be carried out before invitational audits under procedures agreed by the institution and its audit team and should include any student or graduate survey data. Where self-assessment is a novel experience, this process has the additional benefit of providing a basis for ongoing QA structures and processes. // Second, the institutional authorities (Vice-Chancellor/President; Governing Board Chair) must be committed to the audit and the audit team must understand the context for reform and any major national or institutional constraints. The institution should make experienced staff available as a secretariat for the audit team. // Third, an invitational audit will likely highlight significant issues of governance. Audit teams must be equipped to analyze them and institutional leadership be ready to address them. // Fourth, in inviting members to join the audit team, the institution must choose both local and international figures likely to be perceived within the institution as both credible and objective. The team should include (or be able to call on) expertise in academic programmes, governance & management, and infrastructure & resources. // If this model is followed it should be possible to provide the institution with a cost-effective audit on the basis of a visit of a week or less by a team of not more than six members.

Quality Assurance