Institutional reviews of the HEIs' quality assurance processes

Institutional reviews aim to confirm that the quality assurance processes ensure high quality courses and programmes and help to enhance the HEIs’ quality.

HEIs and the Swedish Higher Education Authority (UKÄ) have a shared responsibility for quality assurance in higher education and research. Most quality assurance efforts are to be conducted by the HEIs. This requires HEIs to have systematic quality assurance processes that UKÄ is responsible for assessing.

The process for institutional reviews

Process for Institutional Reviews

Assessment areas

The six assessment areas are:

  • governance and organisation
  • preconditions
  • design, implementation and outcomes
  • gender equality
  • student and doctoral student perspective
  • working life and collaboration

Assessment material

The basis for the review consists of a self-evaluation by the HEI, a student report, interviews, site visits, audit trails and other information. All assessment material for the review is to be weighed together.

1. The HEI’s self-evaluation. The HEIs are asked to describe, analyse and evaluate how they systematically ensure and follow up that they fulfil the assessment criteria for the different aspects and perspectives. Examples should be given to support the presentation.

2. Student report. The local student union has the option of submitting a written statement, known as a student report, in which the union gives its opinion of the quality assurance work at the HEI.

3. Two site visits. The purpose of the first site visit is partly to give the assessors a chance to ask questions based on the HEI's self-evaluation and partly to identify the audit trails which the assessment panel will follow during its second visit to the HEI's. Representatives from the HEI, students and any working life representatives which the HEI cooperates with will participate in the interviews. In conjunction with the first site visit, HEI representatives and UKÄ's analyst and assessment panel chair will go through the types of documentation that the HEI is to provide for each audit trail.

The purpose of the second site visit is to, via the selected audit trails, review whether the HEI's quality work is systematic so that the quality work improves and ensures that the educational acitivies are of high quality. At this second site visit the audit trails are studied and the assessment panel may interview the HEI's leadership, teachers, students, and any other staff groups and working life representatives with with the HEI collaborates.

4. Audit trails. To examine how quality assurance processes work in practice, the assessors examine one or more areas of focus. In this context, areas of focus are quality assurance processes, related to the aspects, perspectives and assessment criteria in the selected and assessed environment during the site visit. To see how quality assurance processes work in practice, the process is followed from the overall organisation at the HEI to the local level, that is, an environment which could consist of one or more courses and programmes (main field, subject area, programme) or other types of environments, like a library. 

5. Other assessment material. Prior to reviews, UKÄ produces data for the HEI relevant to the aspects to be examined. This data could be previous inspections, appraisals of degree-awarding power applications, programme evaluations and national statistics showing student completion and establishment levels, and illustrating the HEI from a national perspective.

Assessments and reports

The assessment panel’s judgment on whether the HEI meets the assessment criteria for the reviewed assessment areas results in a report that serves as the basis for UKÄ’s decision. Before UKÄ’s final decision, the panel’s preliminary report will be sent to the HEI for comment on any factual errors.

Three-point scale

The overall judgement of the HEI's quality assurance processes is given on a three-point scale:

  1. Approved quality assurance processes. The HEI's quality assurance processes are well described, well argued for and well-functioning in practice. They are systematic and effective at all levels of the HEI, from leadership level to department level. All assessment areas are judged as satisfactory.  
  2. Approved quality assurance processes with reservations. The HEI's quality assurance processes are fairly well described, well argued for and well-functioning in practice. The decision clarifies which assessment areas are not satisfactory and which assessment criteria belonging to it that are not fulfilled, which the HEI is to follow up and take action to remedy within a certain period of time.
  3. Quality assurance processes under review. There are several significant deficiencies in the HEI's quality assurance processes with regard to how they are described, argued for and how well they function in practice. The deficiencies are substantial, and the assessment panel’s opinion is that the assessment areas that are not satisfactory are to be reviewed again in their entirety.

Follow-up

In the case of approved quality assurance processes

HEIs that have had their quality assurance processes approved are followed up through dialogue meetings, surveys, conferences and in other ways. UKÄ believes it is important that even HEIs that receive approval for their quality assurance processes have follow-ups, which is also consistent with ESG standard 2.3 where follow-ups are noted as part of the external quality assurance process.

In the case of approved quality assurance processes with reservations

HEIs with the assessment “quality assurance processes approved with reservations” are followed up in the assessment criteria judged as unfulfilled, for the assessment areas that are deemed as not satisfactory. The HEI is to present the measures it has taken no later than two years after the decision. UKÄ appoints an assessment panel that follows up the measures. Additional material and online interviews are included in the follow-up if needed. If the follow-up review leads to a positive assessment from the assessment panel, then the HEI’s quality assurance processes in their entirety will be approved by UKÄ. If the HEI’s quality assurance processes still do not meet the assessment criteria in the follow-up review, the overall assessment of “approved with reservations” remains. An additional follow-up is not conducted.

In the event of quality assurance processes under review

All assessment areas deemed as not satisfactory will be followed up at HEIs with quality assurance processes that are under review. UKÄ and the HEI will in dialogue decide on the time for the follow-up review, and when the HEI will present the measures it has taken. An assessment panel will be appointed to review the self-evaluation and other documentation. Additional material and online interviews are included in the new review. If the review leads to a positive assessment from the assessment panel, then the HEI’s quality assurance processes in their entirety will be approved by UKÄ. If the HEI’s quality assurance processes are still not approved after the new review, the overall assessment of “under review” remains. An additional follow-up is not conducted. This means however that additional programmes at the HEI will be evaluated by UKÄ.