National evaluation model for quality management systems
In Finland, evaluation and monitoring are used in the development of universities and universities of applied sciences. The Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture steers higher education institutions through an increasingly extensive review of indicators at least once a year. The quality management system of each higher education institution is audited at least every six years. These audits are carried out by an independent expert, the Finnish Education Evaluation Centre, FINEEC.
Finland's own national model defines what the quality management system should be like both in view of national and European requirements. In auditing, the quality management system developed by each higher education institution from its own viewpoints and objectives is evaluated. The quality management system refers to the overall entity of developing activities, which consists of the organisation for quality assurance, division of responsibilities, procedures, and resources. Quality management refers to the procedures, processes or systems with the help of which a higher education institution monitors, maintains and develops the quality of its activities.
The objective of auditing is to support higher education institutions in the development of quality management systems that conform to the principles of European quality assurance, and thus to demonstrate that Finland has well-functioning and consistent quality assurance both in higher education institutions and at the national level. Another national-level objective is to collect and disseminate best practices relating to quality management, promote their spreading within higher education institutions, and to further develop higher education in general. In other words, auditing is rooted in sustainable assessment, which has a strong tradition in the Finnish evaluation practice and which supports the autonomy of higher education institutions.
FINEEC plays a key role, as it coordinates the development of the Finnish auditing model on the basis of feedback received from higher education institutions, by carrying out surveys and studies, and by monitoring the activities of European evaluation organisations. Auditors are appointed separately for each audit, and each audit team has both experienced and junior auditors. The task of the auditors is to prepare a written report after the audit, presenting their views on the level of the quality management system.
After this, FINEEC decides whether the higher education institution’s quality management system conforms to the national requirements.
The decision involves, in line with the Finnish model, a pass-fail evaluation without any sanctions. The pass-fail evaluation refers to a decision on whether or not the quality management system conforms to the national requirements, i.e. whether the higher education institution passes the audit or not. If it passes the audit, the next audit will according to the current model be organised in six years’ time. If it doesn’t pass the audit, the higher education institution is expected to put the targets that require development up for a new review in approximately two years’ time of the original audit.
UEF’s FINEEC audit in 2016
The Finnish Education Evaluation Centre, FINEEC, evaluated the Quality Management System of the University of Eastern Finland on 13–15 December 2016. The previous audit was carried out in December 2010.
FINEEC has conducted an audit of the university on 21. April 2017 and has awarded the university a quality label that is valid for six years. The quality management system of the University of Eastern Finland fulfils the national criteria set for the quality management of higher education institutions and correspods to the European quality assurance principles and recommendations for higher education institutions. You can find the Audit report here.
The audit examines how the organisation uses received and collected feedback and other monitoring data in the planning and development of its activities. The objective of the audit of the Quality Management System is:
to evaluate how the university’s Quality Management System works as a tool for quality control and development;
to evaluate the Quality Management System in relation to six targets and to make a proposal on whether the university passes the audit, or whether a re-audit is required;
to help the university to recognise its strengths, good practices and targets for development;
to support the university in the achievement of its strategic goals and in defining direction for its future development; and
to create preconditions for continuous development on the basis of the audit.
A key element in preparing for the audit was a self-evaluation of our activities. With respect to this, the academic year 2015 witnessed a seminar held to prepare for the university’s FINEEC audit in the early spring, kick-off events on the campuses in the autumn, and faculty-specific kick-off days to support their drafting of the self-evaluation reports. Participants to these events were invited extensively from the different sectors of the academic community.
The early spring 2016 witnessed a final seminar on benchmarking, continuing the series of benchmarking seminars held at the university in 2012 and 2013. These seminars have focused on best practices of the faculties, independent institutes and service centres. A summary of them has been prepared to be included in the university’s materials for the FINEEC audit. Over the winter and spring 2016, the faculty-specific self-evaluation reports have been compiled into the university's overall self-evaluation report for the FINEEC audit.
The university had also prepared for the FINEEC audit by informing the staff and students about the audit, and by organising separate briefing sessions.
The functionality of the Quality Management System is evaluated through the following audit targets:
1. The higher education institution’s quality policy
2. Linkage of the Quality Management System to strategic leadership
3. Development of the Quality Management System
4. Quality management in the higher education institution’s core missions (including the key supporting activities)
a. Degree education (including the first, second and third cycle education), in which UEF’s samples of education are:
Bachelor’s and Master's level education in pharmacy, and the Doctoral Programme in Forests and Bioresources.
b. Research, development and innovation activities, as well as artistic activities
c. Societal impact and regional development work (including social responsibility,
continuing education, teaching offered through the Open University and universities of applied sciences, as well as fee-charging, tailored training)
d. Optional audit target, in which UEF’s sample is:
International academic affairs, incoming and outgoing exchange students.
5. Samples of degree education: degree programmes or similar degree-awarding entities
6. The Quality Management System as a whole.
FINEEC chosed in the end of October the third degree education audit target which was
Master Degree Programme in Border Crossings: Global and Local Societies in Transition.
In the audit uses the university's staff members, students and representatives of stakeholders were interviewed on a broad basis during the three auditing days. The interviewees represented different staff groups such as the university's leadership, admistrative and auxiliary staff, persons in charge of quality in the units, teaching staff, research staff etc. Students who were interviewed represented different fields and years. Members of the university and representatives of the university's stakeholders were interviewed from all campuses. The university's units appointed their own interviewees, and the Student Union appointed the student representatives. Representatives of the university's stakeholders were charted and sought together with the units, if necessary.
The interviewees were appointed in October-November, and they were briefed about the audit in early December.
The audit uses a set of criteria that comprises a scale of four development stages. The criteria involve descriptions of
- developing and
- advanced quality management for all audit targets
The stage of development of each audit target will be defined separately, also for targets 4 a–d. In addition, the stage of development of quality management
of each sample of degree education will be defined separately.
Audit process – timetable
1. Registration for the audit (completed in 2013)
2. Agreement negotiations and agreement on the optional audit target (24 February 2016)
3. Appointment and training of the audit team (FINEEC, 13 June 2016)
4. Delivery of the university's audit materials produced in advance of the audit (5 September 2016)
5. Information and discussion session at the university (22 November 2016)
6. Visit of the audit team to Kuopio (13–15 December 2016)
7. Decision of the Finnish Higher Education Evaluation Council on the audit result, and publishing of the audit report (21 April 2017)
8. Dissemination of information within the university (21 April 2017)
9. Concluding seminar (19 May 2017).
Auditprogramme as an attachement here.
Composition of the audit team:
The Higher Education Evaluation Committee appointed an audit team for the University of Eartern Finland on 13 June 2016 :
Timo Aarrevaara (Finland)
Timo Aarrevaara is a Professor of public management at the University of Lapland. Aarrevaara has acted as a chairman of the audit group at the University of Eastern Finland in 2011.
Other team members
Gabriele Althoff (Germany)
Gabriele Althoff is head of the International DAAD Academy, a section within the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) dedicated to the professionalization of university staff by offering seminars and workshops on topics related to the internationalization of universities.
Juha Isotalo (Finland)
Juha Isotalo is a master student (major study: cultural history and minors in philosophy, comparative literature and creative writing) at the University of Turku.
Christopher Stephens (UK)
Emeritus professor Christopher Stephens has worked as a medical practitioner who became an educator and worked with many stakeholders at a strategic level in education management at the University of Southampton.
Eva Werner (Austria)
Professor (FH) Eva Werner is the Rector of the IMC University of Applied Sciences Krems.
Materials relating to the FINEEC audit:
Audit manual for the quality systems of higher education institutions 2015–2018
Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG)
Preparing for the FINEEC audit at UEF
Materials of the kick-off events (only in finnish)
Preparing for the FINEEC audit for teachers
Materials from the faculties’ self-evaluation seminars (only in finnish)
Summary of the benchmarking seminar (only in finnish)
UEF’s self-evaluation report
UEF’s basic material
Information event 22.11.2016 Aarrevaara
Information event 22.11.2016 Saarilammi