Province wants to reform post-secondary quality assurance

Devan C. Tasa, News Editor Ω

The location of B.C. 11 public universities. - IMAGE BY GOOGLE MAPS

The location of B.C.’s 11 public universities. – IMAGE BY GOOGLE MAPS

The provincial government wants to streamline the process in which the quality of education from post-secondary institutions is verified.

There are four separate bodies that evaluate and monitor the quality of education in B.C., depending on the type of institution. There are 11 public universities, 11 public colleges, 15 private degree-granting institutions, 330 private career training schools and 13 private theological institutes.

The province wants to have a single body that is easier to understand and has clear processes and reporting requirements while still accounting for diversity between different institutions.

“Under the proposed quality assurance framework,” said John Yap, who was the minister of advanced education, in a press release, “students can be assured of the post-secondary education institution they attend, the education promised will be the education delivered and the credentials earned will have value when they seek employment to choose to pursue further education.”

The proposal is still in the discussion stage. The province has issued a green paper with a proposed quality assurance framework as a basis for discussion.

At March 25’s senate meeting, Ulrich Scheck, TRU’s provost and vice president academic, said the university was working on a response and encouraged senators and staff to fill out the province’s online survey.

At previous senate meetings, Scheck indicated the university has concerns that the new framework would erode the university’s autonomy. The government says that won’t be the case.

“A grounding principle is that the rights and privileges of institutions will be respected,” wrote Dan Gilmore, communications manager, in an email. “Under the proposed quality assurance framework, institutions that have mature quality assessment processes and practices will have greater independence from external oversight by government.”

The framework proposes five levels of maturity for post-secondary institutions. At level one and two institutions, where quality assurance processes are ad-hoc and barely existent, the government will review the institution. At level three and above, where quality assurance processes are organized and sustainable, the government will review the process and the institution will receive more autonomy.

The government also wants to apply a standard level of tuition protection for students across the entire post-secondary system. It proposes that all institutions submit a percentage of tuition revenue to a fund that will repay students their tuition if their institution closes down.

The quality assurance framework also has the potential to make it easier for post-secondary institutions to deal with student transfers.

“Having all post-secondary education institutions under a single quality assurance framework, combined with the implementation of a qualifications framework,” Gilmore wrote, “will strengthen B.C.’s transfer system by providing greater understanding of the requirements all institutions undertake.”

But that doesn’t mean that students will suddenly be able to transfer their courses to another post-secondary institution easily.

“Individual institutions remain the primary arbiters of whether to accept transfer credit,” Gilmore wrote.

The green paper said it hopes a new quality assurance body will be cost neutral. It expects to charge post-secondary institutions a fee every time it uses the services provided by the body.