Quality assurance: making a difference

Chen Shuyee

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The Senate at its meeting in March endorsed a comprehensive quality assurance framework for the University. Developed and proposed by CityU's Quality Assurance Committee (QAC), this framework is known as 3Ps: principles, policies and practices. "It is the first time we have a system that is at once comprehensive, integrated and up-to-date," said QAC chairman Professor William Wang, Chair Professor in the Department of Electronic Engineering and the Department of Chinese, Translation and Linguistics.

"Even though, as a young university, some of our academic units grow very fast, others may be a little slower, so the committee wants to make sure there's quality throughout."

Principles, the first of the 3Ps, states the university's commitment to providing quality education and its responsibility in assuring that quality. The second "P" stands for policies, the interpretation of principles put into motion. Practices contains real examples and practical guidelines for reference by departments/schools/faculties and the College*. "Policies may vary somewhat because the interpretation of principles must be in the context of the subject matter being taught. Practices have the greatest leeway," Professor Wang explained, "because we don't want to dictate. We try to persuade in the direction of good practices by providing guidelines. I think everybody appreciates that this is a really grassroots type of document. It was written after extensive bottom-up consultation, with the goal in mind to provide as much diversity, flexibility and autonomy as possible."

The devolution of responsibilities is another feature of the new quality assurance process. Previously, for example, if a professor wanted to introduce a new course, the procedure was a very hierarchical one, with final approval by the Senate. But within the 3Ps framework, there's considerably more autonomy. "Essentially, it's enough that the faculty boards or their equivalents approve. Any further steps, including ratification by the Senate, become formalities," said Professor Wang.

Established in 1993, QAC has come a long way in enhancing quality assurance on campus and fostering a culture of quality assurance. With limited resources, it has set up such schemes as the Teaching Excellence Award, Quality Campus Life Fund, Internal Quality Audit, and various teaching evaluation and student assessment programmes. "From buying a new boat for our Rowing Club to the Student Ambassador Programme, we try to make life more complete for the students," said Professor Wang, who is also chairman of the Quality Campus Life Fund. "A little money strategically targeted can make a big difference for student learning."

Asked if the committee had encountered any obstacles to date, Professor Wang said: "Nothing that we cannot overcome. I think our major challenge so far has been that we haven't been as effective as we would like in communicating. I spent 30 years teaching in Berkeley. By comparison, I can see CityU is doing a very good job in teaching and research. I hope we can get that message out."


Teaching Excellence Awards

Congratulations to the five winners of this year's Teaching Excellence Awards:

· Dr Tony Shieh (Department of Accountancy)

· Mr Alex Tham (Department of Marketing)

· Dr Alice Chan (Department of English and Communication)

· Dr Alan Yeung (Department of Electronic Engineering); and

· Dr Rita Takahashi (Division of Language Studies)

The Awards will be formally presented to the winners at the 2002 Congregation, and their names will be added to the permanently displayed register in recognition of their teaching excellence.

* Further information can be found at QAC's official website: www.cityu.edu.hk/qac


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