Quality Assurance refers to one or more processes which safeguard the quality of Further and Higher education within the economic, social, and cultural context, on a national European and international level;
- Ensure the use of appropriate measures as a means of improving the quality of teaching, learning training, and research;
- and communicate the outcome of such findings within an internal and external framework of accountability.
The MFHEA has strengthened quality assurance in Malta through the establishment of the National Quality Assurance Framework for Further and Higher Education, which was launched in July 2015. Through this framework, the MFHEA supports accredited and prospective further and higher education institutions in Malta by providing guidance on areas that are considered important to ensure a quality assured learning environment in further and higher education. Through the National Quality Assurance Framework, the MFHEA has established the parameters for national external quality audits (EQA) system that complements the internal quality assurance (IQA) mechanisms of individual further and higher education entities. In view of this, the framework itself sets a number of internal quality assurance Standards in order to help further and higher education institution to develop their Quality Assurance policies.
The National Quality Assurance Framework provides the conceptual context for EQA Procedures. In view of this, the MFHEA has developed the External Quality Audit Manual of procedures, In line with the National Quality Assurance Framework, the EQA process applies to all accredited further higher education providers that are corporate entities. The practice of EQA means that it is not enough that the entity has IQA systems on paper or simply a statutory setup. The EQA needs to check that these systems are fit for purpose, are in fact functioning and effective, and are sustainable.
The National Qualifications Framework has 10 Internal Quality Assurance (IQA) standards. These apply to further, higher and adult formal provision in Malta regardless of the mode of study or place of delivery, including transnational and cross-border provision. The IQA Standards:
- Set-up and publication of an effective policy for quality assurance;
- Institutional probity both financial and institutional;
- Appropriate design and approval of programmes;
- Student-centred learning, teaching and assessment that encourages students taking an active role;
- Published and consistently applied regulations for student admission, progression, recognition and certification;
- Competence and effectiveness of teaching staff;
- Appropriate learning resources and student support;
- Collection, analysis and use relevant information for the effective management of programmes and other activities;
- Appropriate public information;
- On-going monitoring and periodic review of programmes.
The Manual sets out step by step the procedures for the implementation of the External Quality Assurance Audits, from when an institution is informed of the upcoming audit to the final publication of the external audit report and its aftermath.
The National Quality Assurance Framework for Further and Higher Education is based on the European Standards and Guidelines and enriched by the EQAVET perspective. The Framework sets the parameters for the development of Internal Quality Assurance procedures and the implementation of periodic quality audits. This Framework is underpinned by six principles that determine the remit and function of the framework and the relationship between internal and external quality assurance to enhance learning outcomes. This Framework was a key deliverable of ESF Project 1.227 ‘Making Quality Visible’.
IQA – Internal Quality Assurance. It is a flywheel of the whole QA process. Providers shall have the primary responsibility for the quality of their provision and its quality assurance. Each IQA needs to be designed to be fit for purpose according to the provider’s courses and service users.
EQA – External Quality Assurance. It is a process for both development and accountability. The EQA shall ensure that the internal quality management system of the provider is:
- fit for purpose according to the provider’s courses and service users;
- compliant with standards and regulations and contributing to the development of a national quality culture;
- contributing to the fulfilment of the broad goals of Malta’s Education Strategy 2014-2024;
- implemented with effectiveness, comprehensiveness and sustainability.
EQAA – External Quality Assurance Audit. This review, which takes place every 5 years, examines how providers manage their own responsibilities for the quality and standards of the programmes they offer. In particular, the following issues are addressed:
- the fitness for purpose and effectiveness of internal quality assurance processes, including an examination of the systems and procedures that have been implemented and the documentation that supports them;
- the compliance with the obligations of licence holders with established regulations and any conditions or restrictions imposed by MFHEA.
- the governance and financial sustainability of providers including assurances about the legal status of the provider, the appropriateness of corporate structures and the competence of staff with senior management responsibilities.
Quality assurance in further and higher education is very important to guarantee transparency and efficiency. This helps to create a trustworthy local education system, for the benefit of both national and international students. In addition, quality assurance is the backbone of any National Qualifications Framework. This ensures the portability of qualifications across European Member States, encourages added mobility in terms of employment as well as internationalisation.