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USP to implement Post Audit Action Plan

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Members of the AQA audit panel at USP Laucala campus from L-R: Professor Ajit Narayanan, Dr Jan Cameron (AQA Director), Emeritus Professor David Mackay (Chair of Panel) and Associate Professor Gordon Sudabby.

The University of the South Pacific is developing an Audit Implementation Plan based on recommendations and affirmations in its audit report to ensure that they are systematically addressed.

The report was submitted to the University by the Academic Quality Agency for NZ Universities (AQA), who conducted an academic audit of USP in 2013.

An institutional audit takes place every 5 years and the first external quality audit at USP took place in 2008, carried out jointly by the Australian Universities Quality Agency (AUQA) and the New Zealand Universities Academic Audit Agency (NZUAAU).

The institutional audit of a University by an external agency is an exercise that most Universities undertake as a process of continuous improvement and for USP, this is essential to assure the University and its stakeholders that it observes and strives to maintain academic quality in its management, roles and functions.

AQA commended a number of USP’s activities and made several recommendations and affirmations for improvement. 

The report included 12 commendations for a range of practices across USP’s areas of activity. Fifty per cent of these were under the section “Leadership and Management of Teaching and Learning,” specifically on the strategic and operational planning where the University was commended for the clear and systematic way in which its Strategic Plan 2013-2018 is supported by Key Performance Indicators, targets and the monitoring mechanism for the achievements.

It also commended the Vice-Chancellor’s leadership in the development and communication of the Strategic Plan and the alignment of the Strategic Total Academic Review (STAR) project to the plan.

While the report commended USP for the development of the Dashboard and Business Intelligent Systems (DIBS), it also encouraged the University to use the analysis of the data to inform decision making and enhance learning, teaching and the student experience.

Four out of the twelve commendations were listed under “Student Feedback and Support” and these were on the University’s approach to students with disability, Campus Life programmes and activities, initiatives to support students’ transition to University and student feedback through the Graduate Destination and Programme Experience Survey.

The report also included 30 recommendations and seven affirmations relating to areas where the panel believes change or improvement would help the University achieve its aspirations. As an overview, the Panel identified some broad, institution-wide issues which the university should focus on.

The audit recognised that the University has significant IT and communication challenges but the panel was impressed by the systematic and imaginative way in which these challenges are being addressed. It noted that the University will need to focus attention on providing information to staff and students of progress on ITS provisions and to manage expectations.

Furthermore, it was noted that the STAR initiatives and objectives to transform the curriculum, teaching and assessment gives strong direction to the University.

The audit panel noted that the initiatives and progress in areas such as developing and embedding graduate attributes are very positive but it is aware of the challenges to articulate these objectives and to provide opportunities for students to achieve the graduate attributes across all regional campuses.

And for the objectives in the Strategic Plan to be met, the University will need to give focused consideration to the appropriate mix of learning modes and to the professional development of teachers and non-teachers. 

The panel noted that the University appeared to be providing high-quality student services that meet the needs of students at Laucala and it has good mechanisms for interacting with students and gathering feedback. A particular challenge, recognised by the university, is to provide appropriate support services across all of its 14 campuses.

The audit panel supported the University’s commitment to increasing the number of postgraduate students but adequate facilities and supervisory capacity must be provided for their support.

The panel also acknowledged the significant constraints and challenges emanating from regional diversity, and at the same time observed that regional diversity is the characteristic which differentiates USP from other universities, and is the characteristic of which many staff and students are openly appreciative. The University’s goal must be to ensure that the challenges do not compromise quality.

The audit approach was evidence-based and was framed around academic activities and quality assurance processes related to Learning and Teaching and Student Support. The key Academic Activities which formed the audit framework for both the self-review and the academic audit were:

1. Leadership and Management of Teaching and Learning;
2. Student Profile: Access, Transition and Admission Processes;
3. Curriculum and Assessment;
4. Student Engagement and Achievement;
5. Student Feedback and Support;
6. Teaching Quality; and
7. Supervision of Research Students.

The key components of the Academic Audit included:

i. A self-review by the University which began in February 2013;
ii. The  report of the self-review submitted as the Self Review Portfolio including key supporting documents sent to AQA in July 2013;
iii. The Audit visit by a Panel of four auditors and the Director AQA from 24 -30 October 2013. The panel visited Tonga, Vanuatu and Laucala campuses.
iv. A draft audit report received in December 2013; and
v. The final audit report received on 12 March 2014.

A follow-up visit will be made by AQA in October 2014.

Click here to read the report


This news item was published on 16 Apr 2014 01:08:55 pm. For more information or any High-Res Images, please contact us on email communications@usp.ac.fj


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