Independent educational auditor as an agent of public mechanism of quality assurance in higher education

Lviv Regional Institute for Public Administration of the National Academy for Public Administration under the President of Ukraine

Problem settings. The quality of education is the key to a successful state and its solid foundation. But the status of a quality assurance system in higher education in Ukraine does not hold water. Unprofessionalism, prejudice, mutual cover-up, pervasive secrecy, corruption are just a few examples of destructive phenomena that do not allow domestic higher education to compete even with the neighboring European countries. This situation could be changed by introducing the quality assurance public mechanism in higher education of Ukraine, where consumers and beneficiaries of educational services rather than the officials in the ministry have the last say.

Recent research and publications analysis. The issues of quality assurance in higher education in Ukraine have been studied by D. Dzvinchuk, Yu. Fedorchenko, V. Kremin, I. Lopushynskyi, V. Luhovyi, S. Maiboroda, N. Opar, O. Panych, O. Shevchenko, E. Studnyi, M. Zghurovskyi and others. Educational audit in the system of public administration was researched by V. Horbov, V. Lipska, I. Onopriienko, O. Shyika, I. Shpits-Chechota and others.

Highlighting previously unsettled parts of the general problem. Despite the considerable number of publications on establishing the quality assurance system in higher education of Ukraine, nowadays more thorough research on the problem of complex development of innovative approaches of involving the public and beneficiaries into the formation of the quality assurance state mechanisms in higher education is required. Therefore, the conceptual framework for the introduction of the institute of independent educational auditors as a component of the mechanism of state and public quality assurance of higher education in Ukraine is substantiated by the author.

Paper main body. The purpose of an independent educational audit is to confirm the compliance of the quality level of higher education in universities with the established regulatory requirements, that is identical to passing the licensing and accreditation procedure, and to give practical recommendations for quality improvement in the establishments of higher education. The difference between an independent educational audit and a traditional accreditation lies in the right of the educational institution’s management to decide independently what to do with the report:

  • in the case of a positive conclusion, to trust such a conclusion and the auditor;
  • in the case of a negative conclusion, to publish it or to improve the non-standard components of the university’s educational activity and then re-use the services of an independent educational auditor.

By introducing independent educational auditors, the institute imposes stringent requirements on the professional level of the auditors. They must have the necessary skills and competencies to complete their tasks, receive proper training and constantly improve their professional level.

The activities of independent educational auditors should be subject to mandatory certification. Certification of independent educational auditors should be carried out by a non-profit public organization of independent educational auditors of Ukraine in accordance with its own programs of primary certification and re-certification, which will be based on the best foreign experiences.

We must be aware of potential risks associated with the overstatement of the independent educational auditors’ services, the excessive formalism of the audit process, or the prospect of turning them into puppets of major universities. Potential threats should be addressed from the beginning of the educational auditors institute establishment, developing transparent and understandable rules for the market’s game, constantly increasing both the requirements for auditors and the prestige of their work, attracting as many interested people to this process as possible, including international educational institutions, media and nongovernmental organizations. Only in this case the educational audit will become a truly independent mechanism for public oversight of the quality in higher education of Ukraine.

The introduction of the institute of independent educational auditors implies a considerable amount of work. The first stage is the preparation and adoption of the Law of Ukraine “On Independent Educational Audit”. The advocacy campaign will be directed at developing the concept of the institute of independent educational auditors based on the Standards and Recommendations for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area; conducting an information campaign on the need to enhance the quality of education in the institutions of higher education and to create an image of an educational auditor as a partner of this process; developing procedures for the educational auditors’ training and methods for conducting independent educational audits.

Conclusions of the research and prospects for further studies. Independent educational audit is not a panacea for all the problems of higher education. But it is a sure step both towards the transparency of licensing and accreditation processes, which have been closed for the public before, and towards the freedom of choice of educational audit entities by educational institutions and, as a consequence, the loss of the state’s monopoly over these processes. In the medium term, the active involvement of the public, professionals and international experts in improving the effectiveness of educational services will guarantee the enhancement of the quality of education and science in Ukraine.

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