The role of thematic analysis in the agency activities on quality assurance in education

ZHUMAGULOVA A.B.,
Ph.D. in Law, Director of
IAAR

 The theme of the day: “… Kazakhstan on the path of integration into the European Higher Education Area. This will create conditions for the recognition of local specialists’ qualifications, both abroad and by foreign companies operating in Kazakhstan“. 

In the modern world, education is seen as a strategically important field of human activity, which forms the nation’s intelligence, its competitiveness. That is why the creation of an effective system for the quality assurance in education is the main goal of the national model of accreditation in Kazakhstan.

The strategy “Kazakhstan-2050”, put forward by the President, H.E. N.A. Nazarbayev, states that our country should enter 30 developed countries of the world. In this regard, further progress on the path of internationalization, international integration, the growth of quality and competitiveness of the national education is a priority task for the development of the education system in the Republic of Kazakhstan.

In the world educational area, accreditation is not only a tool for improving the quality and recognition of existing achievements, but also a mechanism for identifying the presence of positive trends in the development of the university.

Независимое агентство аккредитации и рейтинга (НААР) вносит активную лепту в дальнейшее совершенствование национальной высшей школы, разрабатывает прозрачные стандарты и процедуры оценки качества, которые дают точные ориентиры для построения образовательной политики вуза. При этом оценка качества исходит из задач преодоления барьеров, сложившихся между казахстанским образованием и мировым образовательным пространством. Агентство не ставит перед собой задачу искусственно поднять место вуза в рейтинге за счет использования соответствующих показателей, а посредством аккредитации влияет на рост популярности вуза, повышает доверие общества и потребителей к нему в долгосрочной перспективе.

The Independent Agency for Accreditation and Rating (IAAR) makes an active contribution to the further improvement of the national higher school, develops transparent standards and quality assessment procedures that give precise guidelines for building the educational policy of the university. At the same time, the quality assessment emanates from the challenges of overcoming the barriers that have arisen between Kazakhstan education and the global educational area. The agency does not set itself the task of artificially raising the position of the higher education institution (hereinafter – HEI) in the rating through the use of relevant indicators, and through accreditation affects the growth of the HEI’s popularity, increases the trust of society and consumers in the long term.

Today, IAAR is a full member of the European Network for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA), which enables to further develop the national quality assurance system, enhance transparency, promote mutual trust, and recognize qualifications and programs.

So, in 2016, the IAAR passed the European audit procedure, under which the ENQA group of experts evaluated the agency’s activities based on the standards and quality assurance guidelines in the European Higher Education Area (ESG). Evaluation of the IAAR activities by ENQA experts is aimed at identifying the areas that need improvements. At the same time, the recommendations of experts are a source and an incentive for continuous improvement of the agency’s work.

Based on the audit outcomes, ENQA experts noted that the agency should pay special attention to the thematic analysis, as well as to periodic reviews to identify and widely disseminate meaningful information about general trends in the practice of accreditation and higher education in the Republic of Kazakhstan. In addition, it was recommended to provide evaluation feedback and comments on the accreditation procedure.

All recommendations were given within the ESG framework. It is known, that ESG is used by HEIs and quality assurance agencies as a reference guideline for external and internal quality assurance systems in higher education. Moreover, they are used by the European Quality Assurance Register (EQAR), responsible for the registration of quality assurance agencies that comply with ESG r equirements.

According to ESG, Part 3 “Standards and recommendations for quality assurance agencies”, item 3.4 “Thematic analysis”, agencies should regularly publish reports that describe and analyze the overall results of their external quality assurance activities.

In the course of their work, agencies receive information about academic programs and organizations of education that may be useful not only for employers and students, but also for various ministries and institutions when developing legislative acts, carrying out a structural analysis of the entire system of higher education. In addition, external quality assessment materials might be useful for analyzing and improving the quality assurance policy in institutional, national and international contexts. Careful analysis of this information determines the development trends and areas of good practice, as well as identifies existing pr oblems.

Thus, in order to implement the strategically important IAAR tasks and ENQA recommendations, the agency conducts information and analytical work in two focus areas: awareness raising (searching, collecting, processing, disseminating information) and analytics, which includes the system acquisition, analysis and accumulation of information with elements of forecasting issues related to quality assurance in education.

The reports of external expert panels on specialized accreditation for 2012, 2013 and reports of external expert panels on institutional accreditation for 2012-2015 were analyzed under these focus areas in 2016.

In order to ensure the sustainability of the quality of services provided, a quality assurance system has been developed, implemented and continuously improved by IAAR based on the requirements of the recognition authorities. According to the Internal Quality Assurance System (IQAS), the agency developed mechanisms for external and internal feedback, resulting in continuous improvement of its work. Annually we conduct an analysis of the service consumers’ opinions, study the expectations of HEIs from external quality assessment and the impact of accreditation on their further development. Interviews with experts also improve the quality assurance procedures, the content of the standards and their criteria.

Thus, in 2016, within the framework of feedback analysis, IAAR experts survey was conducted as well as of accredited educational organizations whose goal was to improve the quality of accreditation procedures by identifying positions that require improvement, assessing the level of organization and conducting accreditation procedures, and determining the impact of accreditation on further development and the internal system of quality assurance of the organization of education.

Thus, IAAR maintains high professional standards and ensures fair practice in its work. External evaluation and improvement of activities are carried out on an ongoing basis in order to ensure a high level of services provided to education organizations and society.

I would like to note that Kazakhstan is on the way to integration into the European area of higher education. This will create conditions for the recognition of qualifications of local specialists, both abroad and in foreign companies operating in Kazakhstan.

The Agency is fully committed to meet all the challenges of globalization and to direct all its efforts to improve the quality of the services provided and to create a platform for an innovative academic environment.