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Concepción Naval Durán, president of committee organizer of Building Universities' Reputation

Decalogue for quality

Quality in Education implies promote improvement staff, beyond the achievement of some external indicators that are a necessary but not sufficient condition to achieve it in a radical sense.

Wed, 22 Apr 2015 13:38:00 +0000 Published in Sur Newspaper

The University has a social and cultural function and is a factor core topic in the development of society. One of the main challenges facing Education today is quality, understood in two senses: real quality and perceived quality, which we call reputation.

The University of Navarra is holding this week the congress Building Universities' Reputation, which will be attended by attendance more than 250 people and 48 speakers, representing 72 institutions from 18 countries. A meeting whose goal is to contribute to discussion on the quality of universities, the management of their reputation and the rankings.

If we want to talk about quality in Education we cannot only consider processes, products, Structures, but we must also focus on people. Quality implies promote improvement staff, beyond the achievement of external indicators that are a necessary but not sufficient condition to achieve it in a radical sense.

From here I would like to make a proposal on the main elements of this quality, presented in the form of 10 keys. A decalogue that includes three university goals, six means to achieve them and, finally, an operational lever.

The three purposes would be:

1. Excellence in the teaching: includes a variety of elements such as the innovation in education, the qualification of the academic staff, the international outreach. But excellence professor implies above all a broad, diverse and deep training ; it presupposes individualized attention to students; and it integrates processes of awareness, detection and transformation for equality, inclusion and democratic values.

2. Excellence in the research: this can be achieved, among other aspects, by the strength of consolidated groups, participation in projects funded by public institutions in research and development+i, in European and international projects, and quality publications in national and international journals.

3. Excellence in transfer: this has a well-known double aspect: economic-business and cultural-social. It includes issues such as access to university or tuition fees, but also the presence of Service-Learning projects, which offer students the possibility of linking subjects with community service projects. This transfer calls for a stronger link with the world of work but also the promotion of social responsibility and a healthy sense of citizenship.

Six means to achieve them:

4. Differentiation. It presupposes the aspiration to excellence in the three dimensions mentioned above. It is vital to be excellent in one's own field. As in the Anglo-Saxon world: distinctiveness. It is not possible to be excellent in everything. It is necessary to have a truly unique project , related to the identity and mission statement of the institution, on which a brand can be built.

5. Financing. Especially in the current economic circumstances, it is necessary to obtain the necessary public and private funds to provide adequate infrastructures for the teaching and the essential endowment of the research projects.

6. Participation. Collective projects, and a university is a collective project, require the involvement of all those who participate in it. Therefore, in order to achieve quality, it is necessary to generate a sense of belonging, both among students and professors, staff administration and services, and graduates. This means creating a stimulating environment for professors at work.

7. Communication. Another of the important struggles in the university institution -which is becoming more and more important- is the strategic management of communication, both internal and external. This implies internal and external transparency, public information, accountability, participation in social debates.

8. network of relationships. It is no less important to maintain excellent International Office and national ones. Excellent universities participate in networks and even form 'university systems', national or regional, that allow the value that the university institution as a whole contributes to society to be recognized. This implies an open and cooperative spirit.

9. Openness to the environment. This last element includes, among other things, university extension activities, which recall the need for the aspect so emphasized by international organizations, which is to make lifelong learning possible for citizens.

And we finish with the operating lever.

10. Governance. Achieving quality standards requires professional, effective and participative management. In the end, much is at stake in the environment where decisions are made, leadership is exercised and responsibility is assumed. As in all organizations, those who govern have the mission statement to guide the means to the desired end.

The fact that an institution is primarily dedicated to knowledge cannot but clash with a society that seeks immediate returns in everything. Even so, the university cannot renounce its mission statement, and must continue to strive to contribute to enriching civic culture, coexistence and social cohesion. It must aspire to quality and deserve a reputation.