3.1 Using the quality system in strategic management

Auditointiryhmän arvio

The university’s quality policy forms a common basis for quality work

The quality system rules of the University of Ljubljana outline the university’s quality policy. The quality policy includes the main principles and objectives, processes, and responsibilities of the quality system. The quality policy is publicly available on the university’s website but could be more clearly highlighted on the web pages. In addition, the university could also further specify the roles and responsibilities related to quality system and enhancement covering the whole institution. The responsibilities of individual staff members in quality enhancement could also be highlighted in the quality system rules.

The university’s annual Business and Quality Assurance Report of 2022 indicated that there is still a need to promote the quality system principles and responsibilities among staff members. Based on the audit visit, the university had already taken steps forward to raise awareness of the quality system among its staff. The university could further build the staff awareness of the university’s quality policy and the idea of quality enhancement being everyone’s responsibility. This requires that the key principles are systematically communicated at various levels of the university especially by the management.

The purpose of the university’s quality system is to ensure that the university meets targets set in its strategy and statues as well as the European (ESG) and national quality assurance standards in place for higher education. The objectives of the quality system include the production of monitoring data and periodic reports on the quality of activities and the achievement of objectives, as well as the implementation of measures to improve these elements, and the development of a quality culture at the university. The system is based on a framework of continuous improvement, a so-called Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle. The system is structured in a way that supports the profile of the university and respects the diversity of faculties and academies. Different practices among the UL faculties and academies are allowed when appropriate and when they are in line with the functioning of the quality system. Dedicated instruments, such as the institutional strategic plan and action plans, annual planning, reporting and self-assessment, ensure a systematic institutional approach to quality assurance and enhancement.

The quality system supports the implementation of the university’s strategy

The university’s strategy for 2022-2027 is ambitious, comprehensive, and detailed. The strategy was prepared with a wide range of stakeholders. Measures have been set out to achieve the objectives of the strategy. Responsible persons, timelines and indicators have been identified for these strategy measures. The quality system is linked to the implementation of the strategy at the levels of the university, faculties, academies, and services.

According to the audit visit, the strategy is a living document integrated in educational provision, research, and societal engagement. Commitment to the implementation of the strategy in the different faculties and units of the university is essential for its realisation. The audit visit underlined that the university’s 26 faculties and academies are very autonomous, called “worlds on their own” during the audit visit. On the other hand, staff identified themselves also as part of the university as a whole and not only as part of their respective faculty or academy. There was clear awareness of the strategic objectives of the university among the staff, and the common objectives were considered to unite them all.

Data-based management could be further enhanced

The harmonisation of the information systems within the university is an ongoing process. The different information systems in place in the faculties and academies and the challenges related to them were brought up in interviews with staff and students. The different information systems appear to have created unnecessary boundaries and ineffectiveness in the university. An achievement has been the implementation of a common business information system SAP with links to other internal and external systems in faculties and academies. This has been a very positive development to improve the flow of information and communication at the university, as recognised in interviews and the Annual business and quality assurance report of 2022. In terms of reporting platforms, a UL reporting application for the Annual Work Programme, business reporting, and self-evaluation of study programmes, was introduced for the faculties in 2020. The platform will hopefully further enhance a shared structure, synergies and transparency within the university.

The implementation of the university’s strategy needs to be supported by effective knowledge and data-based management structures and systems. Although the university has identified this as an improvement area in its self-assessment report, the discussions during the audit visit showed relatively little evidence of university-level knowledge management practices except for some indicators. To ensure systematic implementation of the university’s strategy and evidence-based decision making, the audit team recommends that the university further develops data management and reporting related to students, staff, research, and societal impact. Common data management practices and integrated data sources would support more coherent approaches and quality management processes. Integrated data sources and reporting would increase transparency and reliability and allow for a systematic review and comparison of faculty activities in the implementation of the university’s strategy.