Pharmaceutical, Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences

Innovation and quality - Faculty of Pharmaceutical, Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences

CIKO

The CIKOs (Units for Innovation and Quality Assurance in Education) oversee quality assurance and innovation in education at faculty level and provide support to the educational commissions.

Among other things, the CIKO is in charge of organising and following up on educational assessments, encouraging educational commissions and lecturers to reflect critically on the education they provide, providing support during external reviews (external quality assurance) and implementing projects for innovation in education in collaboration with ECHO (Centre of Expertise for Higher Education). 

Programme and Programme Component Assessments

The assessment of programme components is an essential part of the University of Antwerp's quality assurance system and every programme component is assessed at least once every four years by means of a student survey. Assessing programme components serves two purposes:
  1. Improving education. The surveys provide specific, reliable information which the lecturers and educational commissions can use to assess the education they provide and make changes where necessary.
  2. Assessing the lecturers. In addition to other education and research data, relevant results from the assessments are included in the personnel files of Tenured Academic Personnel.
A validated questionnaire is used during this assessment. The CIKO is responsible for the practical organisation and follow-up of the assessments. The questionnaires should be filled in either on paper during contact hours or electronically, during the semester that follows the end of the programme component in question, and students can assess the classes, study materials, exams and marking system. The survey results are reported to the lecturer by the dean of the faculty. When students report a problem, a decision can be made to draw up a lecturer monitoring plan and to assess the programme component more than once every four years.

The questionnaire used for this assessment is the outcome of a study conducted by the CIKO of the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences, who developed a reliable and valid questionnaire which has been thoroughly tested. The questionnaire measures 12 aspects (or dimensions) of education, outlined below with their operational definitions. Three (and sometimes four) closed-ended questions are asked about each dimension. Besides this, the questionnaire also includes a question about the availability of study materials, a question about why student workloads might be too high, and two open-ended questions about the positive and negative aspects of the programme component. The closed-ended questions are formulated as premises and students indicate the extent to which they agree or disagree.
 
During a programme assessment, students assess the programme as a whole: whether the programme objectives (competences) can be achieved, the programme's structure and consistency, omissions, the sequence and coordination of the components, work and assessment methods, and so on. Surveys are drawn up for students who drop out as well as Bachelor and Master students and alumni. In this way, we hope to assess all aspects and stages of the programme: from students' initiation into university education until they finish their studies and enter the labour market. The results are then sent to the programme's educational commission and serve as an important basis for reflection on the programme and its curriculum and when drawing up a self-assessment report before an external review.

Focus group discussions

A focus group discussion is an informal discussion between a group of students and a member of the educational support staff. No lecturers or assistants are present. These discussions yield in-depth, valuable information about the strengths and weaknesses of a programme, and because they are held more often than the four-yearly surveys of programme components, they are very useful tools for detecting and solving problems quickly. Students themselves can also suggest topics for focus group discussions. 

External educational reviews

All university programmes are reviewed every eight years by experts external to the programme and the institution.

 A review involves the following steps:

  1. Self-evaluation: An internal assessment of the programme is launched two years before the start of the external review, the outcome of which is a self-evaluation report containing systematic, critical reflection on the programme. The report describes the programme's key aspects in a number of separate chapters, as stipulated by the VLIR (Flemish Interuniversity Council): the course objectives, study programme, personnel burden, facilities, internal quality assurance and results. In addition, those involved in the programme also reflect on its strengths and weaknesses and indicate how any problems will be tackled. The VLIR has drawn up a manual which contains all the instructions necessary for writing such a report. The self-assessment report forms the basis of the external review committee's visit to the programme.
  2. External review: A committee of five experts from the discipline, chosen by the VLIR, assesses the quality of the programme and the educational process. The committee then meets with all parties involved in the programme: the university's governing bodies, professors, assistants, students and graduates. The committee also visits the classrooms and other facilities (e.g. the library) and reviews the study materials.

Reporting: The external review committee records its findings in a review report, which is made public and published on the VLIR's website.

Study time measurements

According to the Decree of 30 April 2004 regarding the flexibilisation of higher education, one study credit corresponds to a study time of between 25 and 30 hours. The total study time for one academic year (based on 60 credits) is therefore between 1,500 and 1,800 hours, calculated as the number of contact hours plus the number of hours of self-study. Self-study time is the number of hours that an average student needs in addition to the contact hours to successfully complete the programme. 

Study time measurement involves checking whether the decree's provisions are actually being met, i.e. whether students' workloads are not too heavy. The committee also ensures that credits have been correctly distributed throughout the various programme components and that the workload is properly spread across the academic year instead of being concentrated in a given period of a semester, for example.
The study time measurement aims to keep students informed about how much time they should personally be spending on their studies and on each programme component from week to week.
Last year, the Faculty of Pharmaceutical, Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences and the Education Department put in place an online system which allows students to estimate the time they spend on the various programme components each week. 
The students receive a weekly email (sent to their UA email address) which contains an access code, and this code provides access to an online form where they can indicate their study time for each programme component. Study time is taken to include all study-related activities, such as attending lectures, studying, completing group assignments, taking examinations and so on. The figures are processed anonymously but students are asked to include their student number so that we can carry out statistical analyses (i.e. link the input to passes and fails).

At the end of the semester, students who take part in the weekly study time measurements receive a personal overview of the time they have spent on each programme component and an indication of the average time spent by all students. This allows them to work out how much time they spent on a given programme component compared to other students and helps them identify which programme components they will need more time for in the future, for example.

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