Quality assurance in the university system
Quality assurance is an industrial engineering discipline which focuses on providing confidence that the requirements for quality are met. Producers of goods and services must assure their customers of the quality of products and services provided. In light of this fact, university education is no exception. Interested parties, such as the government, industry and society in general, want confidence that the students will have the required knowledge when they graduate, that cutting-edge courses and programs are offered, and that new knowledge is created in research. To provide such confidence to the employers of graduates and the general public, professional institutions have introduced national accreditation of university programs. However, there is also a need to assure customers internationally of the quality of educational and research services being provided locally. Such quality assurance efforts at an international level have been addressed with the introduction of the ISO 9000 Standards. The standards were developed by quality professionals originating mainly from the industrial sector, and provide a framework for developing quality systems, as well as making quality efforts visible to customers. The impact of the standards world-wide has been so extensive that it is now virtually impossible to bid for international manufacturing contracts if a company is not ISO 9000 registered. The time when universities encounter a similar situation is rapidly approaching. An established ISO 9000 quality system in the university today will pioneer the quality assurance efforts the competition will undoubtedly face tomorrow. This thesis examines quality assurance issues in university education. Models of the quality system and the university system are developed and integrated to allow for the interpretation, documentation and implementation of the ISO 9001 standard in a university. These models facilitate the harmonization of quality assurance and management systems, as well as the integration with environmental, safety and other management systems. Quality control and improvement of the teaching process and learning outcomes are supported by various Statistical Process Control techniques. The goal to achieve a zero-defect output is set, and a process to achieve this goal is described, and is supported by a case study. Quality characteristics of university's products are developed in the modified Analytic Hierarchy Process framework. These characteristics can be used to monitor, control and continuously improve educational and research quality.