Internal quality assurance system for doctoral studies

At each University of Barcelona faculty or school, the Internal Quality Assurance System is modelled on the standards and guidelines for quality assurance in the European Higher Education Area established by the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) and adopted by the European Ministers for Education at the Bergen Ministerial Conference in 2005. Implementation of these standards and guidelines is overseen by the Catalan University Quality Assurance Agency (AQU Catalunya), the National Agency for Quality Assessment and Accreditation (ANECA) and the Galician Agency for Quality Assurance in University Studies (ACSUG) through the AUDIT program. Each faculty and school’s system also complies with the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science regulations on official university programs of study.

The Faculty Internal Quality Assurance System (hereafter, IQAS) is the instrument that brings together all those activities related to the quality assurance of EHEA bachelor’s degrees and university master’s degrees and is used both in the design phase of the faculty’s course offerings and for the teaching of these courses, to ensure that the necessary learning outcomes and related goals are achieved. The IQAS is also used to ensure the quality of the faculty’s doctoral programs.

Certified by AQU Catalunya under the framework of the AUDIT program, the IQAS model is based on three lines of action: planning and documentation of the system; a process-mapping model of management organization; and the rendering of accounts on the faculty’s education programs through an annual quality review. These lines of action reflect the result of systematic analysis used to improve the quality of the faculty’s study programs.

In each faculty or school, the development of IQAS for UB doctoral studies considers the following criteria and guidelines:

Education quality policy and goals

  • The establishment of a quality culture must be based on an education quality policy and goals that, through the appointment of IQAS managers, are publicly accessible and known.

Quality assurance in the design of education programs

  • The maintenance and renewal of the range of educational courses and programs on offer must be founded on the development of methodologies for the design, approval, implementation, review and ongoing quality improvement of education programs. These methodologies must also make provision for the eventual cancellation of specific programs and for responding to complaints and suggestions.
  • Development of education programs to encourage student learning and other student-oriented actions
  • The actions undertaken, including the design and development of mobility activities, must serve to promote student learning.

Teaching and research staff (TRS) and administrative and service staff (AdSS)

  • The actions undertaken must ensure that the admission, management and training of TRS and AdSS are conducted in such a way that these staff members may work satisfactorily and complete the duties for which they are responsible.

Quality assurance of material resources and services

  • It is necessary to ensure that material resources and services are suitably designed, approved, managed, reviewed and improved in order to develop student learning in an appropriate manner.

Compiling and analysing results for the improvement of education programs

  • The results of the education program must be compiled and analysed in order to review and improve its content and implementation. The results refer in part to learning outcomes, access to the labour market and the satisfaction of stakeholders (how far needs and expectations are met).

Public information and rendering of accounts

  • Instruments must be in place to ensure that up-to-date information on education programs and related aspects is published regularly.

Pursuant to Article 46 of the University of Barcelona Statute and approved by the Governing Council in October, the Agency for Policy and Quality is the official instrument by which the UB oversees quality assurance.

As a consultative and supervisory body, the Agency is charged with the quality management of all the UB’s academic offering (EHEA bachelor’s degrees and master’s degree courses, doctoral degrees and lifelong learning courses), and with the entirety of its doctoral studies and the evaluation of these programs.

Until doctoral studies are adapted to Royal Decree 99/2011 on Doctoral Studies, a committee officially called the Doctoral Program Committee will be established for each doctoral program at each UB faculty or school. A minimum of three members shall sit on these committees, one of whom will be the program coordinator, who will act as committee president. The committee will supervise and ensure the quality of the program, in accordance with the guidelines set out by the Agency for Policy and Quality, and will analyse results, draft proposals for improving the program and deliver an annual report on the program to the Faculty’s main committee for all its doctoral programs, the Doctoral Studies Committee.

The Faculty Doctoral Studies Committee, delegated by the University’s Governing Council, ensures that there is a satisfactory system for coordination between the different doctoral program committees and the decision-making bodies which have been assigned responsibilities of different kinds, both within and across the faculties, schools and departments. The committee analyses the report drafted by the Agency for Policy and Quality and supervises the implementation of doctoral studies across the UB with a view to introducing improvements as required. The Faculty’s Quality Assurance Committee ensure the implementation and effectiveness of the IQAS. Together with the other quality organs described above, this committee helps to design and implement the IQAS with the drafting of an annual review, and overviews strategic planning actions with the following aims:

  • To measure, analyse and use the results of education programs, which refer in part to learning outcomes, access to the labour market and the satisfaction of stakeholders, with a view to improving decision-making and the ongoing quality enhancement of programs offered by the Faculty.
  • To supervise the execution of education programs and render public accounts on aspects pertaining to quality.
  • To ensure at all times that the programs on offer meet the requirements to pass monitoring and accreditation audits carried out by external quality agencies, as stipulated in national regulations.

The UB Agency for Policy and Quality commissions satisfaction surveys to be completed by students at three points in the taught and research stages of the doctoral program:

  • Students in the process of completing the Diploma for Advanced Studies (DEA).
  • Students who have successfully completed a university master’s degree (the taught stage of a doctoral program).
  • Students in the process of preparing the doctoral thesis (the research stage of a doctoral program).

The procedure for processing complaints and suggestions is governed by a general protocol established by the Administration of the Centre (note that the term ‘centre’ refers to any single UB faculty or school and the ‘Administration of the Centre’ is the basic management body) and approved by the Faculty Board.

Basic features of the complaints and suggestions procedure:

  • All complaints and suggestions are lodged at the Secretary’s Office for Students and Teaching Staff, which forwards them to the UB governing body or officer responsible for the area in which complaint or suggestion has been made.
  • Once the governing body or officer has prepared an official response to the complaint or suggestion, the response is sent to the Secretary’s Office for Students and Teaching Staff to be delivered to the interested party. A copy of the response is also sent to the manager or head of the governing body affected by the complaint or suggestion.

If the faculty or school does not have the necessary authority to process complaints and suggestions, the Secretary’s Office for Students and Teaching Staff must forward the complaint or suggestion to the official UB body with the relevant powers and inform the interested party of this circumstance.

Each academic year and in each faculty, the Dean’s Office and the Administration of the Centre receive a list of all complaints and suggestions that have been received and the official responses provided, and a report on the steps that have been taken by the official UB body or officer involved to remedy the matter in question. Furthermore, and in line with an agreement between the Catalan University Quality Assurance Agency and trustees at the seven Catalan public universities, a report is compiled on access to the labour market for doctors graduating from the Catalan university system.

The results of the satisfaction surveys indicated above are used for the institutional evaluation of doctoral programs and are sent to the Doctoral Program Committees of each faculty. A series of mechanisms are also established for evaluating the scientific production of doctoral students. These include access to an institutional database at the time of registering the doctoral thesis in order to maintain and update CVs, and the creation of the University of Barcelona Board of Trustees prizes for the best scientific projects deriving from doctoral theses defended at the UB, to provide a record of the quality of UB alumni’s academic and research achievements and to foster scientific production and knowledge transfer to wider society.

The IQAS mechanisms ensure that the results of surveys and other information-gathering procedures are analysed by the faculty’s governing bodies with the aim of improving those aspects highlighted, where applicable. The Doctoral Studies Committee and the Quality Assurance Committee are responsible for planning different measures to improve the range of processes associated with doctoral studies at the faculty.