Quality Assurance

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Introduction:
The success of universities in the developed world is attributed to total quality assurance, continuous evaluation and application of accreditation criteria. University education in the fields of humanities and social sciences in the Arab world has witnessed a rapid expansion during the last three decades.
The College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS) at Sultan Qaboos University has engaged seriously and effectively in application of total quality assurance criteria and in the institutional evaluation of its academic programs in accordance with the vision of the University.  This was done through building and establishing an integrated system of academic accreditation. This system aims to improve the academic performance and the quality of college graduates to meet the needs of the Omani society, maintain the Omani identity, and respond to the changing needs of the job market. The College also seeks to strengthen and consolidate its image in the society and the job market. 

Total Quality Management:
CASS differs from other colleges at SQU due to its educational mission, which is to offer academic programs in languages, literature, theater, mass communication, and humanities.  The diversity of these programs presents a special situation as far as the application of TQM criteria and academic accreditation are concerned. This diversity requires a special evaluation of the performance of the College as an institutional unit within SQU in light of its management of such academic diversity.  As it is known, there are two types of academic accreditation:

- Institutional Accreditation: also known as "comprehensive accreditation". This requires a comprehensive evaluation of the performance, management, and academic achievement of students, student services and other services within the College.
- Specialized Accreditation: This type of accreditation is for specialized academic programs and it is done by specialized or professional accreditation agencies.

CASS succeeded in achieving both of these accreditations. The institutional accreditation aimed to measure the quality of managing different specializations and the quality of the learning environment to encourage creativity and innovation. The College aimed also to carry out the program accreditation, which is directed to assess the quality of these programs.

Quality Assurance and Academic Accreditation Unit:
In October 2011, CASS formed a Quality Assurance Committee (QAAC). The committee members represented all academic programs offered by the college, and under the direct supervision of the College Dean and the Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Studies. The committee included a rapporteur for the committee and an employee to implement and follow up the administrative tasks in an established office designated for the new committee. 
This committee was entrusted with developing quality indicators and practices, and its first task was to develop a roadmap for the institutional and program accreditation of the college, to which the university administration had allocated important financial resources to implement this ambitious plan for the college. Since 2016, a decision has been issued to transform this committee into a Quality Assurance and Academic Accreditation Unit (QAAU). The unit's tasks are as follows:
1. Implementation of the academic accreditation roadmap for the college and academic departments.
2. Follow up on the implementation of the requirements of local and international academic accreditation institutions.
3. Follow up on the recommendations of the institutional and program accreditation institutions in the college and departments.
4. Suggesting training and qualification programs related to quality assurance and academic accreditation.
5. Implementation of training programs and workshops for quality and academic accreditation.

The Unit has sought to create a positive and supportive attitude towards quality efforts, which represented an important pillar in the total quality management process. Several workshops and training programs on quality assurance and academic accreditation have been organized in CASS for students and faculty members. Quality Assurance and Academic Accreditation Unit attended training programs on quality assurance in higher education in European countries. 

Academic Accreditation and Continuous Development:
To develop a quality assurance culture, the following practices have been successfully implemented:

- Self-Assessment and Prioritization for Quality Improvement: In the fall of 2013, a self-evaluation process was conducted for academic programs offered by CASS to identify strengths, weaknesses, achievements and areas for improvement. A standard report form for the self-assessment process was also designed, and all undergraduate programs carried out the self-assessment process, which is due every 4 years.

- Establishment of Advisory Committees:  CASS and all academic programs have advisory committees made up of the academics who teach in the programs and external stakeholders from the labor market. The main role of these committees is to advise on improving the employability of graduates and to enhance public confidence on the quality system of CASS. The process of carefully selecting external stakeholders from the private and government sectors is carried out based on official labor market statistics for graduate students and feedback from students during the summer internship.
- External Assessment and Accreditation: It is well known that quality and external auditors must verify procedures, and CASS has a clear practice of obtaining the opinions of external assessors on its academic programs. In Fall 2014, the Quality Assurance Unit developed a common form for the external assessor to focus precisely on their assessment. As for accreditation procedures, the Quality Assurance and Academic Accreditation Unit has selected accrediting agencies with an international reputation to accredit the college and its various programs.

These agencies include:
1-Agency for Quality Assurance by Accreditation of Study Programs - AQAS (Institutional and Programmatic Accreditation for Geography, Tourism, Music, Mass Media and History).
2-AHPGS - Accreditation Agency in Health and Social Sciences - AHPGS (Sociology and Social Work Accreditation Programme).
3-Charted Institute of Libraries and Informatics CILIP (Information Studies Accreditation Program), while other departments such as the Department of English Language &Literature and the Department Arabic language undergone  a program review process.

• Introduction
The preparation of the academic accreditation roadmap was based on the strategic vision of both the College and the University.  It also took into consideration consultations with accreditation experts such as the Office of Quality Assurance at SQU and colleges of Engineering and Education.  It also consulted regional institutions such as College of Arts at King Saud University (KSU), College of Arts at University of Qatar, and College of Arts at University of Sharjah. Moreover, the College has already made some initial contacts with international accreditation institutions. A participatory approach with the specialized departments has been adopted to get this roadmap into a commonly shared vision to ensure its success.  

• First cycle of Academic Accreditation
The college has achieved institutional and program accreditation with a number of specialized international institutions that are widely recognized and have long and accumulated experiences. These institutions depend on a set of criteria and procedures in the evaluation process. Some of these criteria includes writing the self-study or the self-report, and the details of the programs and study plan. These documents are sent to the institution for an initial feedback, and then the institution selects a committee consisting of three experts from European and Arabic universities to review these reports. These institutions will later pay a 3-day field visit to the department and include, in addition to experts from abroad, an internal evaluator who is chosen by the department. Experts meet with the Dean of the College, the faculty, administrative staff, department students and graduates, as well as the labor market or the advisory body, and visit important university and college facilities such as the main library, in addition to meetings with the university administration.
Table No. 1 and Table No. 2 show the details of institutional and program accreditation for undergraduate and postgraduate programs:

No. Department/ Program Program Accreditation Period Accreditation Date Institution  Country
1 College Institutional 6 2016 -2022  AQAS Germany
2 History BA 5 2019-2025  AQAS Germany
3 Geography BA 5 2017-2022  AQAS Germany
4 Sociology BA 5 2017-2022  AHPGS Germany
5 Social work BA 5 2017-2022  AHPGS Germany
6 Information studies BA 5 2016-2021  CILIP United Kingdom
7 Tourism  BA 5 2016-2021  AQAS Germany
3 2018-2022  UNWTO WTO
8 Mass Communication BA 5 2019-2025  AQAS Germany
9 Music BA 5 2017-2022  AQAS Germany

Table 1

 

No. Department/ Program Program Accreditation Period Accreditation Date Institution  Country
1 History MA 5 2019-2025  AQAS* Germany
2 Geography MA 5 2017-2022  AQAS Germany
3 Sociology MA 5 2017-2022  AHPGS** Germany
4 Social work MA 5 2017-2022  AHPGS Germany
5 Information studies MA 5 2016-2021  CILIP*** United Kingdom
6 Mass Communication MA 5 2019-2025  AQAS Germany
*Agency for Quality Assurance through Accreditation of Study Programs (AQAS). 
**United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). 
***Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professional (CILIP). 

Table 2


• Second cycle of Academic Accreditation
During the period from 2022-2030, the College looks forward to renew the institutional and program accreditation with the same international institutions that it worked with in the first cycle. This will allow further development of performance in the context of standards and guidelines for quality assurance of higher education in the European Union, as well as obtaining a fair and comprehensive evaluation of the recommendations and initiatives that have been implemented based on the accreditation reports of the international accrediting institutions in its first cycle. The estimated financial cost for the second cycle of institutional and program accreditation is two hundred thousand and four hundred Omani Riyals (200,400 OMR).

Table No. 3. the timeframe for the second cycle of institutional accreditation for the college and academic programs, whose accreditation ends in 2022.

No. Time period*   Events
1 December 2020-February 2021 University approval of the roadmap
2 March 2021-April 2021 Communication with international accreditation institutions and signing contracts
3 May 2021-September2021 Preparation of the accreditation report in accordance with the standards of international accreditation institutions
4 October 2021-December 2021 Preparation of responses to the initial reports of international accreditation institutions
5 January 2022-February 2022 Departments are prepared to visit international accreditation teams
6 March 2022-April 2022 Organizing the visit of the international accreditation teams.
7 May 2022-June 2022 Reply to inquiries from accreditation teams experts.
8 July 2022 - September 2022 Obtain the final reports for accreditation.
*The time plan is for the college’s institutional accreditation, which ends in September 2022, and the academic programs whose international accreditation ends in 2021 and 2022. As for the academic programs in history and media departments, whose international accreditation ends in 2025, a timeframe will be drawn up in 2024.

 

College of Arts & Social Science
Quality Assurance & Academic Accreditation Unit

First Floor, Office No. F 1220
Tel: +968 24142272
E-mail: qaau@squ.edu.om