Recommendations for the Universities

For many in the universities, changes at the national level are uncertain and it may take much time before they are realised. In light of the uncertainty of parliamentary processes, it is important to enact changes in the universities as well. These changes can be enacted even if politicians are slow in responding to the problems identified here. The following changes can improve the 'internal' evaluations.

Objective 1: Simplify the procedures

Recommendation 1.4: Foster informal evaluation practices as well as formal practices.

Current evaluation practices put too much weight on formal assessment methods, such as questionnaires and reports. However, often quality is debated in a less formal environment, without explicit planning or measurement behind it. Such informal practices have been present in universities for a long time, and in some cases continue to be the most important evaluation method. Therefore, we suggest, that informal assessments should be also accounted for, by encouraging individuals to constantly assess the quality of their own work and that of their institution, and providing formal ways to share this knowledge between professors and students.

Objective 2: Allow professors and students to influence the standards

Recommendation 2.2: Enable a more flexible approach to evaluations within departments.

It is extremely difficult to assess national standards across departments and scientific disciplines. Many fields of knowledge are so specific that the meaning of the criteria gets distorted (a problem of scientific validity). We therefore recommend a more flexible approach at the institutional level. Particularities of the teaching and research traditions of each department should be allowed to influence and change the outcome of the assessment.

Objective 3: Apply a more consistent and open concept of 'quality'

Recommendation 3.2: Organise structured discussions about the meaning of quality in faculties and departments

Individuals tend to define the quality of academic practice differently. Nevertheless, without structured discussions on this topic among academics, the existing practices will likely remain superficial or technical. These discussions can be used to adopt professional standards for faculty and students. Promoting organized deliberation on the quality of work at the university, the quality of teaching and research, the quality of administration and management, and so forth, is essential for developing a shared understanding on what quality is in the context of a particular institution. These events should be initiated on a regular basis by the top-management of the institution, and be open to professors, students, employers, and representatives of the wider community.

Recommendation 3.3: Develop professional networks between people working on evaluations.

Professors and administrative staff carry out evaluation exercises in most of the universities. Over time, these individuals build up extensive experience in carrying out evaluations, and some develop manuals, reflexive literature, or other new ideas. Organizing professional networks between people working on evaluations will help the institution to make good ideas travel from one organizational unit to the other, or to help the involved individuals to overcome some of the emerging challenges more easily. Certainly, the more isolated the involved stakeholders remain from each other, the harder it becomes to organize evaluations across the university.

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