What We Do
The Director of Quality, with the support of the QSU, is responsible for providing strategic institutional quality-related leadership and developing policies and procedures in relation to quality. In this context the Director of Quality is a member of several key institutional-level committees, namely Academic Council, Management Committee and Quality Committee. The development of quality-related policies will usually be driven by the ongoing identification of policy requirements as they arise. Institutional-level policies are approved by the Governing Authority. QSU Unit-level policies are approved by the Director of Quality. A log is maintained by QSU of all unit-level procedures.
Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) is a state agency appointed by the Minister for Education and Skills. In the area of quality assurance, QQI are responsible for maintaining oversight of institutional compliance with statutory QA requirements as enshrined in the 2012 education & training act, and with associated QA guidelines. QQI are also responsible for reviewing the effectiveness of quality assurance procedures in further and higher education providers in Ireland.
The QSU is the primary institutional contact point for QQI. Engagement with QQI includes, but is not limited to the following:
- Ensuring statutory and regulatory requirements are met by the University. Quality assurance policies and guidelines are received by QSU from QQI. Upon notification of a new or revised quality requirement, the university’s Quality Support Unit (QSU) will coordinate an exercise that assesses the extent to which the university complies with the requirement. Policies are continually reviewed to ensure the University complies with current legislation. Refer to ‘Assessment of Institutional Compliance with Statutory and Related Quality Requirements: Policy and Procedure’.
- Submitting the Annual Quality Report (AIQR) to QQI: The QSU submits an annual report to QQI which details all quality-related activity for the reporting period. An on-line reporting template is received by the Unit from QQI which outlines the format and structure of the report. A full discussion of the report is conducted during the Biennial Dialogue Meeting (BDM) which is attended by the appropriate senior managers and staff members from QSU. Additional agenda items may also be discussed. Refer to operational procedure ‘Submission of the Annual Institutional Quality Report’.
- Management of the return for the Irish Register of Qualifications
Staff members of the Quality Support Unit regularly attend information sessions and seminars scheduled by QQI in order to keep informed of best practice for quality assurance and enhancement.
In line with international good practice and national statutory requirements, the University of Limerick undertakes periodic quality reviews of its educational, research and related services every seven years. Coordinated by the Quality Support Unit, the review process represents one cornerstone institutional quality assurance and enhancement mechanism. Information relating to both the current and previous cycle of quality review activity is available on the QSU website (Current Review Cycle, Previous Review Cycle).
Prior to each cycle of reviews, the QSU engage in a campus-wide consultation process. Timelines are agreed for the review cycle which are approved by the Executive and published on the QSU website. Quality review guidelines for the various streams of reviews are prepared in consultation with relevant stakeholders. Quality review guidelines are approved by the Provost and Deputy President (PDP).
The QSU co-ordinates the quality review process, offering support and guidelines to all units. There are three key stages to the process:
- The unit under review initially undertakes a self-analysis exercise, identifying its strengths and weaknesses, as well as opportunities for improvement. The unit documents these findings in a self-assessment report (SAR), which is circulated to the Quality Review Group (QRG) prior to the site visit.
- A QRG, comprising internationally recognised experts, is appointed to review the unit. The QRG members study the SAR prior to the site visit and provide preliminary comments to the QSU for circulation to the review team. The site visit is a three-day event on campus at which the review team (QRG) meet with faculty and staff of the unit. They also meet with students and a range of internal and external stakeholders. This leads to the production of a concise report by the QRG (commendations and recommendations), which is read back to the unit at the conclusion of the site visit. During exceptional circumstances, the Quality Committee may approve a virtual review (online) instead of the physical site visit.
- Follow-on activities which include formal response from the unit on review recommendations, discussion of the report by the UL Quality Committee, publication of the report on the QSU website, the creation of a Quality Improvement Plan (QIP) by the unit, and presentation of the QRG report and QIP to the Quality Committee. The final stage of this process is a progress update meeting with the relevant Chief Officer 18-24 months after the review, where the Director of the Unit reports on all the actions taken by the Unit relating to the report recommendations.
Irish universities are required to establish and implement procedures for quality assurance and periodically undergo a review of the effectiveness of these. The statutory Institutional Quality Assurance Review– an institution-wide quality review process led by an external evaluation panel, typically takes place every 7 years. There are four stages to the review process.
- Institutional Self-Evaluation Report (ISER): A core team are established to conduct a self-reflective and critical evaluation of the University. This results in the writing of an Institutional Self-Evaluation Report.
- The review visit(s) – an initial planning visit and the main review visit: In consultation with QQI and the external evaluation panel, a 4-5 day site visit is scheduled after an initial planning meeting.
- The publication of the review team’s report: The report is submitted to the University by the external evaluation panel. The report is published on both the QQI and QSU websites.
- Institutional and sector level follow-up: Recommendations for improvement outlined in the report are presented to the Quality Committee, who is responsible for consideration and implementation as appropriate.
At least two years before the scheduled institutional review, the Director of Quality prepares a project management plan, which outlines institution-wide activities required in preparation for the review. This plan is presented to the Provost and Deputy President for consideration and final approval is given by the University Executive. Full details of all quality review activity are available here.
The University of Limerick, as the designated awarding body (DAB), is responsible for reviewing the quality assurance processes of all our linked providers. Linked providers are providers of educational programmes that are accredited by the University of Limerick. QQI guidelines relating to DAB responsibilities have recently been developed and are published on the QQI website. Details of UL linked providers and the UL Linked Provider Framework are available here.
The university’s cycle 3 quality review schedule includes a number of affiliate units. Affiliate units are units that are closely associated with the university, but are distinct legal entities, having their own independent governance structure. Examples include the UL Student Life and Plassey Campus Centre (PCC). As the affiliate unit’s ultimate governance body (i.e. the board of directors in the case of company-based affiliate unit such as PCC, or a combination of the UL Student Life management committee and student council in the case of the students’ union) bears legal and governance responsibilities in respect of the affiliate unit, it is appropriate that they play a role in the quality review process. The quality review process for affiliated units contains all of the core characteristics of UL’s internal quality review process with a process modification to include the affiliate unit’s ultimate governance body in the process.
The QSU offers support and guidance to all units in developing and enhancing their quality management systems. This includes advice and guidance on writing the self-assessment report; aligning the QMS with the UL framework; modifying the framework for smaller units (QMS-Essential), designing templates for use by units; QMS induction training; QMS auditor training; attendance at unit quality meetings. The procedure for requesting support from the QSU for development of Quality Management Systems is as follows:
- The request is initiated either by the unit head or the quality team leader.
- The request for service is evaluated by the Quality Officer.
- A meeting is scheduled to discuss the request and plan the service.
- The service is provided by the Quality Officer.
- A review of the service is conducted to ensure satisfaction.
The QSU manages the following feedback mechanisms:
- Annual UL student exit survey
- Module Satisfaction survey
- QSU customer satisfaction surveys
- Quality review feedback mechanisms
(a) Annual UL student exit survey
The QSU conducts the UL student exit survey annually using the Qualtrics Survey Management platform. The survey, which targets graduating students, is based on the UK's National Student Survey (NSS), the results of which are published online. This enables the University to conduct longitudinal internal benchmarking for UL, its academic units and programmes.
The procedure for conducting this survey is as follows:
- The survey is designed and configured using Qualtrics survey software;
- The survey list of prospective graduates is provided by Student Academic Administration, formatted by QSU and then uploaded to Qualtrics;
- The survey is launched and system-generated email invitations are sent to students;
- System-generated reminder emails are scheduled to be periodically sent from Qualtrics to students who haven’t yet completed the survey ;
- The survey is closed;
- There are a number of survey reports generated for programme, department, faculty, Executive Committee, Academic Council, support departments, escalation reports for VPAASE to highlight any immediate concerns and a public web report. Survey reports for programmes and departments are generated on Qualtrics, downloaded in PDF format and emailed to course directors/heads of unit. The remainder of the reports are generated using a combination of Qualtrics and MS Excel.
- Reports are generated for support Units based on data from quantitative and / or qualitative responses. These reports are circulated to heads of unit and the relevant line leader. The university level reports are available on the QSU website.
(b) Module Satisfaction Survey
UL put in place a Module Satisfaction Survey (MSS) for evaluating the student experience at a modular level. The MSS provides valuable student feedback and is one of an array of QA/QI mechanisms that UL employs.
The purpose of the MSS is to serve as an indicator of the student learning experience and to assist faculties, academic units, support units and staff with the identification of actions that may be applied to improve and enhance the student experience. The MSS is managed through the evaluation system on Sulis, the University’s LMS. Sulis is integrated with the student records system, SI, on a nightly basis and all students registered on all modules are integrated onto the Sulis module sites. The steps involved in the process include the following:
- Prior to launching the survey a verification check is conducted to ensure that the correct module coordinator is associated with the module - QSU get a list of all modules and associated module coordinators from SAA, format and split this list and forward to each head of department/school for verification
- The survey is administered through Sulis and every registered student is invited to complete the survey for each of their modules.
- The survey is typically run over weeks 5 and 6 of term in accordance with the Module Satisfaction Survey Procedure Document available here.
- Periodic reminders are sent to students who have yet to respond.
- Module coordinators have live access to their module results on Sulis and can download their own PDF reports for discussion with the course boards/module teams.
- The survey is closed off in Sulis after the two week period.
- A custom-designed MS Access database that integrates Sulis with SI is used to generate a series of management reports (department, faculty, institution, web) and these are forwarded by email sent to heads of department, Deans and other senior managers.
- An overall institution-wide report is generated for executive committee and a summary institutional report is published on the QSU website.
Full details of the Module Satisfaction Survey process, frequently asked questions, including sample reports, and Institution-level summary reports are available on the QSU website.
(c) QSU Customer Satisfaction Surveys
As part of our ongoing process of continual improvement, the QSU regularly survey our customer base to elicit feedback on the quality of services provided. This includes surveys of units that have undergone quality reviews, surveys of quality team leaders and also surveys of external peer reviewers. Feedback from these surveys is incorporated into the QSU quality improvement action plan. Reports are available on the QSU website.
In line with the digital transformation strategy, the QSU continues to look for ways in which technology can support and enhance quality assurance mechanisms.
The QSU continually monitors potential quality enhancements for the unit and UL, keeping abreast of e.g. local and institutional QIPs, national strategies and funding calls to evaluate potential systems development and research projects that would add value to the services delivered by the QSU and UL. All unit staff are responsible for identifying potential projects.