3.1 Using the quality system in strategic management

Auditointiryhmän arvio

The quality policy supports the multidisciplinary profile and collaboration of the University of Oulu

The current quality system of the university has been updated in the spring of 2023, and it is connected to the university’s strategy. It includes an annual planning cycle at both university and faculty levels. The quality system includes a quality policy, which is open to the public. According to the audit visit, specific targets and performances are then negotiated between management and staff. The system also includes a five-year long-range planning process which focuses on the resources, risks, and results of the core activities. The quality policy supports the multidisciplinary profile of the university and its cooperation with external partners. According to the audit visit, the profile of the University of Oulu is high and well-known.

According to the audit visit and self-assessment report, the university has a Quality work steering group, headed by the Development Director, and a quality network. A Quality Specialist coordinates the implementation of quality management principles and procedures. The quality system covers educational provision, research, and societal engagement including the quality system itself. Systematic feedback and processes are available for evaluating and developing study programmes. Utilisation of both internal and external feedback has increased the contribution impact of the university activities in this area, but there remain differences between faculties.

According to the audit visit, the staff can find information about the quality system including news and current topics on the university’s intranet Patio. They can also comment on posts on the site, use a discussion platform, share good practices, and send ideas and feedback to the management. Instructions, news, and events for students can be found on the student page.

The PDCA cycle is included in the quality system. The first part of the PDCA cycle, creating plans (P) is much more advanced than doing (D), checking up of doing (C) and acting (A) throughout the university. In the audit workshop, teachers also pointed out the importance of closing the loop, i.e., doing a quality check in every working group and meeting. The audit team recommends the university to make sure that the whole PDCA cycle is used to develop its activities.

The audit team found evidence during the audit visit that information generated by the quality system is used in the management of the university. One example is that Board members are well informed during Board meetings about how the indicators for strategic goals are met in the university’s core activities. Before each meeting of the University Board, they are provided with indicator data describing the developments in all core activities at the university, especially targeted at the strategic objectives. At the executive level, the strategy follow-up is linked closely to the management group activities.

Connection between quality system and strategic management could be strengthened

According to evidence gathered during the audit visit, the quality system could be more integrated into the strategic management at the university. This would increase internal connections and enhancement possibilities in the daily work of educational provision, research, and cooperation across the university. It would also facilitate the work with follow-ups and analyses of the strategy implementation both in short and long-term development.

According to the audit visit, staff are aware of and pleased with the overall strategic goals of the university. Most staff know what is expected from them. Strategic goals are discussed in the faculty council, regular meetings with staff, and in annual development discussions between staff and their line managers.

According to the audit interviews, the UO strategy contains too many strategic objectives. Some faculties prioritised the most important objectives in their own strategies. The university’s strategy update was approved during the audit visit. The audit team recommends that in the implementation of the updated strategy special consideration is given to the seamless and easy to communicate linkage between the strategy and its execution.