Quality assurance: Reviews and evaluations
The quality of research and education is made accessible for analysis and measures through systematic evaluation and review. Most review of research occurs by built-in peer review in the local research environment, and in the international community of the discipline in question. Additionally, university-wide research evaluations are conducted to create an overview. Course evaluations and systematic programme reviews with external reviewers are used to capture the quality of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programmes. Such reviews are initiated both internally and by the Swedish Higher Education Authority (UKÄ). The actual quality system is also evaluated and updated, as is support for research and education.
Reviews help to make clear what works in the organisation, and is therefore worth protecting and maintaining, what can be improved and done differently, and what can be phased out. In this way, reviews drive quality enhancement. The Staff Portal has information about the University’s internal reviews of research and the University's internal reviews of education.
Quality assurance and enhancement of research is an integral part of all research activities, see Peer Reviews and Examinations. Peer review is the nexus in quality assurance and enhancement. Peer review is used to ensure the quality of ongoing research, but also in assessing plans for future research, the products of research, and individual researchers’ qualifications. These processes take place continually, both internally and externally and by colleagues within and outside of the University.
Overall evaluation of research activities is also conducted through self-initiated, university-wide research evaluations called Quality and Renewal (Q&R) about every six years. Evaluation of research activities also occurs within disciplinary domains/faculties (e.g. “Översyn av forskningsprogrammens basfinansiering” by the Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology).
The Association of Swedish Higher Education Institutions (SUHF) has produced a Joint framework for HEIs’ research quality assurance and enhancement systems. The framework provides the lowest common denominator that all higher education institutions can agree on about what is central to quality assurance and quality enhancement of research. This includes continual follow-up of research quality as a basis for quality enhancement, priorities and strategic decisions.
University-wide research evaluations – Quality and Renewal (Q&R)
Uppsala University was the first university in Sweden to conduct a university-wide research evaluation in 2007, Q&R07. Four years later, this initial evaluation was followed by Q&R11. The two evaluations focused on the quality of the research, which was graded on a five-point scale. A follow-up of Q&R07 and Q&R11 was conducted in 2014, resulting in recommendations for a new research evaluation with a somewhat different focus. In Q&R17, the purpose was to critically analyse the conditions and processes for good research quality with a focus on the University’s research environments. All three research evaluations have included bibliometrics, self-evaluations and external, primarily international, reviewers. Q&R17 also included a research environment survey.
- Quality and Renewal 2007: An Overall Evaluation of Research at Uppsala University 2006/2007 in DiVA
- Quality and Renewal 2011: Kvalitet och Förnyelse 2011 (KoF11). An overall evaluation of research at Uppsala University 2010/2011 in DiVA
- Follow up on Quality and Renewal 2007 and 2011 in DiVA
- Quality and Renewal 2017 (Kvalitet och förnyelse 2017): Research Environment Evaluation at Uppsala University in DiVA
Supporting data for developing research
The research environment survey targeted active researchers at Uppsala University. The results provided supporting data for the research environments in their self-evaluation. The reviewers were also given access to the results as background information for their site visits. The results of the survey are presented in the final report from Quality and Renewal 2017 and in an in-depth study, Conditions for conducting high-quality research, identifying factors that are important for a good research environment.
Glis is Uppsala University’s management information and decision support system. Glis can be used to follow up on the University’s operations by pulling together data from the University’s source systems for education, publications, staff, finances and provision of premises. Bibliometrics are used to analyse publishing patterns.
Externally initiated evaluation of research
The Swedish Higher Education Authority (UKÄ) is developing the national system for quality assurance to include both education and research. The national system for quality assurance of research supplements the existing national system for quality assurance of education, and focuses on the institutions’ quality systems for research.
The Swedish Research Council is conducting evaluations of selected disciplines. The aim is to provide a national overview of the quality of and impact of research. The model has been designed to complement the higher education institutions’ own research evaluations and the institutional reviews carried out by UKÄ.
Education is evaluated internally through course evaluations and programme reviews and by external actors, primarily UKÄ. Even the internal programme reviews include externality, by using external reviewers.
Course evaluations have two primary functions: to give students the opportunity to reflect on their education in a structured way, and to provide supporting data for quality enhancement.
According to the Higher Education Ordinance (1993:100, chap. 1, section 14), students taking part in or having completed a course are to be given the opportunity to express their opinions about the course through a course evaluation. The higher education institution is to summarise the course evaluations and inform students about the results and any measures taken in consequence. The results are to be readily accessible to students.
Uppsala University has adopted university-wide guidelines for course evaluations (UFV 2010/3017), which provide guidance on working with course evaluations at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels. The faculty boards determine the division of responsibilities and procedures for conducting course evaluations. The University also has recommendations for course evaluations: Course evaluations and other educational evaluations – part of quality work. They include practical advice and suggestions for making the most of course evaluations. The University provides support for course evaluations, including course evaluation seminars.
Uppsala University’s Model for Review of Study Programmes was approved by the Vice-Chancellor in 2016. The model encompasses all education at the University, including contract education, and consists of two parts: annual systematic follow-up of programmes and programme reviews every sixth year. The model is decentralised, which means that the disciplinary domain/faculty boards have the responsibility for designing, conducting and following up programme reviews within a joint framework. University-wide Guidelines for Review of Study Programmes provide the overall framework, while the disciplinary domain/faculty boards determine how the programme reviews are to be conducted in their respective organisations. Each year, conclusions from the current year’s programme reviews are summarised in a quality report. The reviewer reports are published on the Staff Portal.
Swedish Higher Education Authority (UKÄ) also conducts reviews. Every six years, UKÄ conducts a review of a university’s quality assurance system for higher education, i.e. an institutional review. UKÄ conducts programme reviews for selected study programmes, including professional education/training such as teacher programmes and medical programmes. UKÄ also reviews a selection of the University’s doctoral programmes, and conducts thematic evaluations. The first thematic evaluation was conducted in 2017 and focused on sustainable development. It was followed by an evaluation of widening recruitment in 2020–2021 and a third on 2022, thematic evaluation nursing education.
Supporting data for developing education
Beyond course evaluations, various types of university-wide studies are conducted to supply data that support quality assurance and enhancement efforts, and development work. The target groups for the data are primarily faculties and academic leaders (department chairs, deans, directors of studies, research group leaders, etc.). Faculty-, department- and programme-specific results are often supplemented with university-wide analysis, which allows for inferential data analysis. Examples of university-wide studies include doctoral student surveys, surveys of supervisors of doctoral students, surveys of international students, student barometers targeting all students at bachelor’s and master’s levels, and alumni studies. Other levels in the organisation, such as faculties and departments, sometimes conduct their own surveys and studies.
To access information about alumni the follow-up tool “Bak- och framgrund” is sometimes used. “Bak- och framgrund” was developed in collaboration between Statistics Sweden and Swedish higher education institutions. Key metrics in Glis (Glis is Uppsala University’s management information and decision support system), which provides different types of information related to education, also serve as supporting data for development.
Quality assurance in administration and support services
Uppsala University’s administration and support services are also subject to systematic quality assurance and enhancement processes.
In 2019, the University Director initiated a cycle of internal audits of the University Administration’s divisions. Strengths and development areas are identified by review panels consisting of colleagues from other divisions, department chairs and external peers with relevant expertise. The divisions’ actions in response to the results are followed up on by the board of the University Administration.
The University also has major ongoing university-wide development projects within the administration. The Planning Division coordinates and supports ongoing and planned administrative changes and development work and has a role as a project office.
Benchmarking involves exchange and comparisons with equivalent organisations at other institutions, or within other sectors of society. It can be organised by a department, or by those responsible for a specific degree programme, and can involve meeting counterparts at another higher education institution to learn about their work. The university management teams from different universities also meet and share experiences, as do university administration representatives.
Qualitative or quantitative comparisons between different university organisations can provide insights, spark ideas, and increase the self-awareness of the University. Benchmarking is not done systematically at Uppsala University, but it has been done, for example, within the framework of the University’s programme reviews and within the administration.