NMBU’s system for Quality Assurance of Education (QAE)
NMBU’s understanding of quality
Quality of education areas
Programme design and programme management
Learning (teaching and assessment)
Relevance (society and working life)
Processes in quality assurance work and organisation of the work
Systematic development of courses
Systematic development of study programmes
Systematic development of the study programme portfolio
LMU’s annual report
NMBU’s annual report
Link to corporate governance
NMBU’s quality assurance work is intended to ensure that NMBU reaches the goals set on the basis of the university’s strategy and learning philosophy.
NMBU’s quality assurance system for education is a common, overarching framework for work on establishing, maintaining, monitoring and further developing study programmes. The system comprises descriptions of responsibilities, roles and lines of reporting and a set of procedures for various processes and activities.
National laws and regulations, NMBU’s strategy and learning philosophy, and own regulations and provisions govern and define the requirements for study programmes at NMBU and how we organise the work on developing them and ensuring that they are met. NMBU’s governance and management regulations form the basis for the organisation and division of authority, and responsibility for the work described in the quality assurance system.
NMBU’s quality assurance system shall:
- Help NMBU to implement its strategy and attain the goals set for NMBU’s educational activity
- Ensure compliance with the laws and regulations that apply in the field of education
- Help to clarify the responsibilities and roles of staff and students in quality assurance work
- Facilitate the continuous and systematic development of courses, study programmes and the portfolio, and the development of staff
- Identify quality deficiencies
- Ensure a satisfactory flow of sufficient relevant management information throughout the organisation that can form the basis for decisions on the allocation of resources and measures within the field of education.
Developing the quality of education and teaching is a continuous learning and change process that takes place in conjunction with teaching and in close cooperation with academic development. NMBU assumes that, within the bounds of the system, the faculties will themselves decide how they organise their quality assurance and development work.
NMBU’s understanding of quality is reflected in NMBU’s strategy and NMBU’s learning philosophy. NMBU’s quality of education areas reflect the different aspects of how quality is understood and are the areas in which we monitor status and development.
NMBU’s strategy sets the course for the development of study programmes. The strategy’s overriding priority is ‘Joint efforts for a sustainable future’. Through excellent research, education, innovation and dissemination within the environmental and life sciences, NMBU shall contribute new knowledge that can help to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Producing graduates with a mindset geared to sustainability is the key to success in this context. Knowledge sharing and extensive national and international collaboration are essential.
For the university’s educational activity, the strategy’s two most important goals are that:
- NMBU shall produce graduates who are competent and reflected, and who have an international perspective that can contribute to change and development
- NMBU shall take steps to ensure that its research and education lead to innovation and value creation that promote sustainable development of society.
Four priority areas have been defined that underpin the overall focus: Interdisciplinarity, The Digital Society, Learning for Life and A United University. These four priority areas are important development areas for the study programmes at NMBU.
NMBU’s learning philosophy reflects how we wish to facilitate learning among students studying at NMBU. It reflects the university’s view of learning and forms the basis for developing teaching at the university.
The university wishes to ensure that students can develop their knowledge, skills and competence through
- inclusive learning environments and good ‘academic homes’ for both students and staff
- student-active processes that promote reflection and independence
- ensuring that the students take responsibility for their own learning and act as learning resources for each other
- ensuring that teaching staff promote learning processes by providing constructive feedback.
The quality of education is about ensuring that the students can achieve the defined learning outcomes for study programmes and courses. High quality of education is the result of a number of different factors – everything from applicants’ initial competence, the standard of teaching infrastructure and premises, staff competence and the suitability of teaching and assessment methods to the administrative framework around study programmes. Defining quality areas helps to structure the focus on quality and to monitor the status and development of the quality assurance work.
The following figure shows the quality areas NMBU has selected as important to students’ learning, and it illustrates the process leading to graduates’ learning outcomes after completing their education. The quality areas form the basis for work on and the assessment of the quality of education at NMBU.
Illustration of quality areas that affect students’ learning path and outcomes.
Photo: Illustration, Department of Academic Affairs, NMBU.
Recruitment, information, admission and induction. The students’ initial competence affects their learning path and the learning outcomes they will have achieved upon graduation. Initial competence includes both the general and specific academic competence students bring with them, including their motivation, ambitions and inquisitiveness.Framework quality
The physical, organisational and psychosocial learning environment and the academic environment around the study programmes. A good and inclusive learning environment means that physical, organisational and psychosocial factors are organised in such a way that the students can achieve the defined learning outcomes in a secure academic environment comprising students and staff. Academic environments with high international competence that work continuously to renew knowledge and to be at the forefront of developments in both research and education are a prerequisite for offering research-based teaching. NMBU’s ambition to provide good ‘academic homes’ is an important element in this context.Programme design and programme management
The academic content, organisation and management of study programmes. A good programme design entails that the programme is structured in such a way that the students achieve the learning outcomes through the teaching methods and assessment forms for the programme, and that the programme nurtures good progress. The integration of research, education and innovation in an international and interdisciplinary perspective is intended to produce graduates who can contribute to development, value creation and the sustainable development of society. Good programme management is intended to ensure that staff, students and external parties contribute actively to the development of study programmes.Learning (teaching and assessment)
Educational competence, learning methods and assessment forms, the students’ own efforts and other factors that contribute to learning. To be able to offer good, relevant learning methods and assessment forms, teaching staff must have good educational competence. Among other things, this entails providing harmonised teaching that is at the correct level for the study programme. Teaching staff shall facilitate students’ learning through student-active processes that promote reflection and independence. This will contribute to a lifelong learning process. Digital learning and assessment resources will be utilised to enhance students’ learning outcomes.Relevance (society and working life)
The relevance of the education to society, working life and long-term value creation. NMBU shall produce graduates who are well equipped to meet the major global challenges facing society and who can contribute to change and development. NMBU graduates shall be capable of working in an international, interdisciplinary context and shall possess generic skills that are relevant to society and working life. Cooperation with society at large and working life is therefore decisive if the study programmes are to achieve a high degree of relevance.Learning outcomes
The students’ academic performance, achieved learning outcomes and study progress. The students’ learning outcomes consist of the knowledge, skills and general competence they possess upon graduation. The descriptions of learning outcomes must be relevant and updated, and they shall give students a mindset geared to sustainability and the ability to cooperate in interdisciplinary teams. The other quality areas form the basis for the learning outcomes achieved by the students.
The quality areas are enshrined as focal points in the systematic processes for the development of courses, study programmes and the portfolio. The areas also form the basis for reporting on the quality of education, and the focus of the reporting can switch between different quality areas over time based on risk and knowledge needs.
The overall understanding of quality in the strategy and learning philosophy forms the basis for all phases of the quality assurance work: planning, implementation, evaluation, correction and development – described as a learning cycle (the figure below). This learning cycle will form the basis for all development of education and teaching.
It is the faculties’ learning cycles – at course and programme level – that are the cornerstone of the university's quality assurance work. The academic environments administer the most important standards within each quality area, and it is there that the ongoing quality assurance work is done. They are closest to the students’ learning paths and are in the best position to assess the connections between learning activities, assessment forms, learning outcomes, the structure of study programmes and NMBU’s strategic educational goals. It is the dean’s responsibility to ensure that the faculty’s learning cycle functions as it should, it is part of the teaching staff’s job and professionalism, and it part of the students’ role.
To support continuous development work, systematic annual and periodic processes have been established (illustration of systematic processes and the connection between them and the bachelor’s and master’s programmes and illustration of systematic processes and the connection between them and research training). These processes are organised based on the principle that evaluation, reporting, and measures for development, follow-up and feedback, are dealt with at the lowest possible level. The procedures are intended to ensure that relevant parties and students are included in the processes and that decision-making bodies have the basis they need to set the course for the university’s development. A clear and well thought-out division of tasks and responsibility in this work is important to ensure that the processes are of good quality.
A system for handling nonconformities (corrective actions, improvements) is a precondition for a well-functioning quality assurance system. Most of the feedback and measures shall go via the ordinary lines and channels. Together with the evaluations, representation on boards, councils, committees and groups will give all involved parties, students and staff an opportunity to raise challenges and points for improvement. Feedback shall be dealt with at the lowest possible level. In addition, the students have a separate channel, ‘Speak up’, for reporting nonconformities when follow-up in other channels has been tried or is not possible.
In addition to the systematic processes, NMBU has a number of support functions and incentive schemes that are intended to support development work. Examples of this include the Learning Centre and the University Library, support for the development of innovative teaching, NMBU’s Education Prize and Alf Bjørseth’s Inspiration Prize for the best PhD project in natural science disciplines.
The evaluation of courses at NMBU plays a key role in the work on developing the quality of teaching. Evaluations are an integral part of the ongoing work on a course and shall contribute to students actively participating in their own learning. Course evaluations are carried out in three steps: annual interim evaluations and final evaluations, as well as periodic evaluations of courses.
The course coordinator shall prepare a course report each time a course is offered. The report shall contain an overall assessment of the results of the students’ course evaluation, and a list of improvement measures. The course reports are available online to both staff and students at NMBU. Further follow-up of the course reports is decided by the faculties themselves. The reports are primarily intended as documentation the faculties can use in the development of courses, and they are an important basis for programme evaluations.
A periodic course evaluation shall focus on the course as a whole, connections between courses, and the course’s place in the study programme. The academic environment is free to design the evaluation so that it furthers the development of the course. A periodic evaluation can be carried out of several courses at a time if this is expedient. Students, peers and other relevant representatives from the academic environment shall take part in the evaluation.
New courses – regardless of whether they are part of a study programme or are free-standing courses, for example as continuing and further education courses – are established in accordance with a defined procedure.
Like the evaluation of courses, the purpose of evaluating the study programmes at NMBU is to facilitate continuous work on the quality of education. A study programme evaluation is a means of checking that overarching learning goals and programme elements, such as courses, mandatory seminars, research activities etc., are up-to-date and relevant. The evaluation is also intended to ensure that the development of the programmes is in line with NMBU’s strategy and is relevant to the labour market and society in general. Work on the evaluation shall be based on criteria and shall ensure that the requirements in the guidelines Requirements for degree-granting programmes of study at NMBU , are fulfilled. NMBU’s guidelines cover all the requirements for degree programmes set out in national laws, regulations and provisions, and NMBU’s own regulations. Together, annual and periodic programme evaluations are intended to give the environment around a programme the knowledge it needs to further develop the programme.Annual programme evaluation
An annual programme evaluation is carried out for each bachelor’s, master's and PhD programme at NMBU. The dean has primary responsibility for the annual programme evaluations.
It is the programme coordinators, together with the programme councils, who evaluate the programmes. The result of the annual programme evaluation is summarised in a brief programme report. The report provides an assessment of the quality of the programme, discusses the quality assurance work that is carried out and the effect of this work. In addition, new measures are proposed to improve the quality of the programme. Over time, the programme reports will describe measures and development work initiated for a programme and what effect they have had on its quality development. The reports also enable the academic environment around the programme to identify whether resources or other factors that affect the programme environment need to be changed.
The annual evaluations of the programmes also check that the programmes meet all the requirements for degree programmes at NMBU. Any nonconformities that are identified through this process will be included in the programme report and follow-up measures implemented.
Based on the reports for the bachelor’s and master’s degree programmes, the dean is responsible for ensuring that an overall assessment is prepared of the quality of the programmes at the faculty. This is the faculty’s quality of education report. The report also includes the faculty’s input to the coming year’s study programme portfolio (including the creation and discontinuation of study programmes) and proposals for which programmes will undergo a periodic evaluation. New study programmes that are to be included in the portfolio must be developed in accordance with the defined procedure.Periodic programme evaluation
A periodic evaluation of bachelor’s, master’s and PhD programmes is a supplement to the annual programme evaluation that is intended to provide a holistic and external perspective on the programme's form and content. Like the annual evaluation, it is intended to be a tool that the academic environments can use in their work on further developing a programme.
NMBU’s study programme portfolio must at all times be in accordance with its strategy and social mission, and reflect NMBU’s research-based knowledge development. Developing the study programme portfolio is a continuous task that is carried out through the faculties’ annual and periodic evaluations of the study programmes, through the assessments of the faculties’ portfolios that take place in various forums at the faculties, through the development of new programmes and discontinuation of old ones, and, moreover, through discussions of annual reports on the quality of education at different levels.Consideration of the study programme portfolio
The central consideration of the portfolio is based on the faculties’ programme and quality of education reports. The Director of Academic Affairs and Director of Research assess the reports and make preparations for consideration of the study programme portfolio by the Rectorate and the Rector’s management team. The matter is then submitted to the University Board. The Board adopts the university’s study programme portfolio for the coming year in November/December each year. The process is intended to ensure strategic development of the programmes offered by NMBU. Based on the annual report, the Board identifies areas for improvement in research training in the year in question.Annual reporting on the quality of education to the University Board
Two annual reports are submitted to the University Board relating to the quality of education: the Quality of Education Report and the Annual Report on Research Training at NMBU. These reports constitute the information the Rector submits annually to the University Board on goal attainment and work on the quality of education. The content of the reports is based on the faculties’ programme reporting. The reporting shall describe the status in the quality of education area and measures to increase goal attainment. The measures are endorsed by NMBU's Academic Affairs Committee (NMBU-SU) and Research Committee (MNBU-FU). The Learning Environment Committee (LMU) proposes measures relating to the physical and psychosocial learning environment. The quality assurance system itself is also evaluated and changes to the system can be proposed.
The Learning Environment Committee’s annual report gives the University Board a status report and assessment of both the physical and psychosocial learning environment at NMBU.
NMBU’s annual report is the university’s annual report to the Ministry of Education and Research. The annual report summarises NMBU’s activities and results for the year seen in relation to the Ministry’s sector goals, the institution's management and control, and it contains an assessment of NMBU’s prospects. The annual report forms the basis for the management dialogue between the university and the Ministry.
NMBU’s overarching goals for its work on quality of education are described in the institution’s operational objectives. The Government’s overarching goals for higher education come in addition.
These goals play a role in setting the course for all the university’s activities. These goals are subject to control parameters and result requirements at all times. They express what the Ministry, the Board and the management wish to focus on in the management of the institution, and the level of ambition for the work. The reporting and dialogue about the development over time – both internally and with the Ministry – shall be based on these focal points.
The quality assurance system is connected to other areas of corporate governance in that it generates a basis for reporting on goals and control parameters, and thereby also for decisions on the allocation of resources and measures at different levels of the organisation.
An annual management dialogue takes place between the university’s management and the faculties about the results achieved, implementation plans for the year, and more long-term development trends. The management dialogue meetings are organised as an arena where the results achieved are subject to meaningful discussion. After the management dialogue meeting, the Rector drafts a written summary that is sent to each faculty. In the education area, the programme reporting forms an important basis for the dialogue, in addition to data from FS/DBH and from large-scale student and graduate surveys.
Moreover, the results of the reporting and the management dialogue are included in the university’s annual plan for corporate governance together with planning and budget conferences, the consideration of concrete matters and tertiary reporting to the University Board.
The division of authority, responsibility and roles in NMBU’s quality assurance system for education is described below, based on NMBU’s governance and management regulations (which follow from the Universities and University Colleges Act), guidelines for NMBU’s councils and committees, and job descriptions.
Overview of responsibility and roles in the organisation of NMBU’s quality assurance work.