TheMinistry for Education has organised its quality assurance, in higher education, by making educational establishments responsible for their own internal quality assurance and delegating external quality assurance to the National Commission for Further and Higher Education (NCFHE). Furthermore, State higher education establishments, namely the University of Malta; the Malta College for Arts, Science and Technology; and the Institute for Tourism Studies, were granted self-accrediting status, within certain limits, which gives them sole responsibility for programme quality assurance.
The Ministry for Education is responsible for has organised its quality assurance responsibility, in higher education, as follows:
- Internal quality assurance performed by the educational institution;
- Self-accreditation performed by the University of Malta; the Malta College for Arts, Science and Technology; and the Institute for Tourism Studies; and
- Licensing of educational providers, programme accreditation and external quality assurance performed by the National Commission for Further and Higher Education (NCFHE).
Approaches and methods of quality assurance
Internal quality assurance performed by the educational institution
Internal Quality Assurance procedures are a pre-requisite for the recognition of Maltese qualifications abroad and for Malta to become a centre of excellence in education and research. Malta is also committed within the Bologna Process which necessitates the development of a quality assurance system. Malta has also agreed to the European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Areas (ESG) (ENQA, 2005) adopted by the ministers responsible for Higher Education within the Bologna Process in Bergen 2005 by which Malta is part of the process in the near future
The NCFHE established the National Quality Assurance Framework for Further and Higher Education, which was launched in July 2015. Through this framework, and other publications such as the Step-by-Step guide to Internal Quality Assurance, the NCFHE supports accredited and prospective further and higher education institutions in Malta by providing guidance on areas which are considered important to ensure a quality assured learning environment in further and higher education.
Through the National Quality Assurance Framework, the NCFHE has established the parameters for national external quality audits (EQA) system that complements the internal quality assurance (IQA) mechanisms of individual further and higher education entities. In view of this, the framework itself sets a number of internal quality assurance Standards in order to help further and higher education institution to develop their Quality Assurance policies.
National Commission for Further and Higher Education (NCFHE)
Following on from its precursor, the National Commission for Higher Education (NHCE), which was established in 2008, the National Commission for Further and Higher Education (NCFHE) was officially launched on the 14th September, 2012 and is legislated by the revised Education Act which came into force on the 1st August 2012. The NCFHE’s mission statement is "to foster the development and achievement of excellence in further and higher education in Malta through research, effective licensing, accreditation, quality assurance and recognition of qualifications established under the Malta Qualifications Framework." Thus, NCFHE focuses on:
- Maintaining a register of authorised and accredited institutions and programmes available in Malta;
- Recognition of programmes of study, whether home grown or foreign, by the Malta Qualifications Recognition Information Centre (MQRIC);
- Providing external quality assurance of both educational institutions and programmes or courses;
- Providing validation of informal and non-formal learning;
- Carrying out research and policy recommendation on issues related to further and higher education;
- Promoting structured dialogue between all Further and Higher education institutions;
- Developing a National Strategy for Further and Higher education;
- Preparing key performance indicators and benchmarking the sector against international developments.
Numerous reports and frameworks have been set up since the inception of the National Commission for Higher Education.
In April 2009, the Further and Higher Education Strategy 2020 was launched, following extensive consultation with education providers based in Malta, the European Commission, the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA), the European Students’ Union (ESU) and the European University Association. Quality Assurance was once again identified as a key priority for the sectors following extensive consultations with all stakeholders of the sector.
The NCFHE has since strengthened quality assurance in Malta through the establishment of the National Quality Assurance Framework for Further and Higher Education, which was launched in July 2015. Through this framework, the NCFHE supports accredited and prospective further and higher education institutions in Malta by providing guidance on areas which are considered important to ensure a quality assured learning environment in further and higher education. Through the National Quality Assurance Framework, the NCFHE has established the parameters for national external quality audits (EQA) system that complements the internal quality assurance (IQA) mechanisms of individual further and higher education entities. In view of this, the framework itself sets a number of internal quality assurance Standards in order to help further and higher education institution to develop their Quality Assurance policies. The National Quality Assurance Framework provides the conceptual context for EQA Procedures. In view of this, the NCFHE has developed the External Quality Audit Manual of Procedures, in line with the National Quality Assurance Framework, the EQA process applies to all accredited further an higher education providers that are corporate entities. The practice of EQA means that it not enough that the entity has IQA systems on paper or simply statutory set up. The EQA needs to check that these systems are fit for purpose, are in fact functioning and effective, and are sustainable. External quality assurance is designed to be conducted in a way which reflects the relevant European and International standards, guidelines and criteria for external quality assurance and respect for international treaties and agreements relevant to further and higher education provision as ratified or endorsed by Malta. NCFHE offers its full support to educational institutions in following this process.
NCFHE is an affiliate member of ENQA, the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education. The Qualifications Recognition Information Centre (QRIC) within NCFHE also forms part of the European Network of Information Centres in the European Region (ENIC) and the National Recognition Information Centres in the European Union (NARIC). The Commission acts also as the National Contact Point for the European Qualifications Framework.
Throughout the years, NCFHE has been a regular contributor to the European forum regulating the European Qualifications Framework and European Meetings of the DG Higher Education, as well as representing Malta on the European Training Foundation Governing Board. More recently, the NCFHE is also participating on the European Working Group on Modernisation of Higher Education which supports EU member states reforms to maximise the potential of higher education systems.
Malta Qualifications Recognition Information Centre (MQRIC)
Another resulting setup is that of the Malta Qualification Recognition Information Centre (MQRIC) which was established through Legal Notice 196/2004. MQRIC is the competent national body, now incorporated within the NCFHE, that recognises programmes of study against the Malta Qualifications Framework (MQF).
It provides recognition and comparability of both academic and vocational programmes, using both the Malta Qualifications Framework (MQF) and the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) to provide recognition advice on both local and international programmes. It also assists in the recognition of Maltese programmes abroad. MQRIC is also the local official ENIC-NARIC centre in Malta and forms part of the ENIC-NARIC Network.
In November 2006 the first draft of the NQF was launched for consultation with the completed report being launched in June 2007. In September 2009 MQRIC finalised a document on the Referencing of the MQF to the EQF and the Qualifications Framework of the European Higher Education Area. The document was presented to the Advisory Group of the European Qualifications Framework in September 2009 and launched for further consultation in Malta in November 2009. The document received favourable reviews from all Member States and social partners. During 2010 a system of awards linked to the Malta Qualifications Framework was established. The document entitled: Classifying Qualifications – a National Awards System referenced to the Malta Qualifications Framework was launched in December 2010.
The National Qualification Framework (NQF) was developed within a framework for lifelong learning and focuses on learning outcomes defined in terms of knowledge, skills and competencies. The Framework provides learners with a map of all levels of qualifications, of entry and exit points at every level of qualification as well as the level of qualifications required by sector and occupation. Concurrently the Maltese NQF is meant to be a common reference point between industry, training providers and learners. Over the past years the NCFHE has published various policy documents for consultation on the framework of qualifications, quality assurance for vocational training, the validation of informal and non-formal education and a programme of studies of key competences for lifelong learning. It is intended that legislation still to be enacted will incorporate various aspects of these policies such as the validation of informal and non-formal learning.
External Quality Assurance
The National Quality Assurance Framework provides the conceptual context for NCFHE’s external quality assurance Procedures. In view of this, the NCFHE has developed the External Quality Audit Manual of procedures, In line with the National Quality Assurance Framework, the external quality assurance process applies to all accredited further an higher education providers that are corporate entities. The practice of external quality assurance means that it not enough that the entity has internal quality assurance systems on paper or simply statutory set up. The external quality assurance needs to check that these systems are fit for purpose, are in fact functioning and effective, and are sustainable.
External quality assurance is designed to be conducted in a way which reflects the relevant European and International standards, guidelines and criteria for external quality assurance and respect for international treaties and agreements relevant to further and higher education provision as ratified or endorsed by Malta. NCFHE offers its full support to educational institutions in following this process.
Self-accreditation performed by certain public institutions
The University of Malta
The University of Malta (UM) has adopted a self-critical attitude towards its policies and procedures, whereby an external evaluation system complements the internal self-evaluation. UM has both internal as well as external quality assurance measures in place. These measures apply not only for existing programmes, but also for the validation of new programmes or study-units, as well as modifications or amendments to programmes of studies. An updated policy document outlining the quality assurance functions at UM was published in 2020.
Quality Assurance Committee (QAC)
In May 2015, Senate appointed a Quality Assurance Committee (QAC) to review the current QA structures of the University so as to ensure that the quality culture of the University is further enhanced. The terms of reference of the QAC are:
- To make recommendations for the development and updating of the Quality Policy of the University so as to promote and foster its quality culture and support the implementation and the vision and strategy of the University;
- To identify quality indicators so as to monitor the implementation of the strategy and the fulfilment of the vision of the University;
- To access the necessary information so as to support the Committee's oversight and monitoring functions;
- To undertake the necessary research on ways of improving the implementation and fulfilment of the said strategy and policy respectively;
- To provide feedback for improvement to staff and entities, including training, and to recommend proposals for improvement to Senate;
- To undertake and monitor the Internal Quality Assurance (IQA) processes and procedures within the University, including the external component of the IQA;
- To prepare for and co-ordinate External Quality Assurance (EQA) procedures of the University, as an integral part of its quality culture.
A Quality Support Unit (QSU) was also set up to support the QAC in the expansion and enhancement of the quality culture of and at the University of Malta. It does so by assisting in the development of suitable practices in the university's teaching, administration, research and advocacy endeavours. These practices may be campus-wide or otherwise specific to the University of Malta's particular Faculties, Institutes, Centres and Schools.
Since its setting up, the QAC, with the administrative support of the QSU, has undertaken several initiatives, including:
- Organising a number of QA events, including meetings, workshops, seminars and training sessions;
- Coordinating a ‘mock internal quality audit’ exercise, launched during the 2019/20 academic year, to help UM entities understand QA requirements and to encourage the process of peer-facilitated, analytic self-reflection. A Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) detailing the process was also published;
- Administering UM’s participation in a number of international ranking exercises, and observing year-by-year developments;
- Launching a ‘Quality Mailshot Initiative’, in order to highlight good quality practices taking place across campus by means of occasional mailshots.
- Assisting APQRU in the Periodic Programme Review of UM entities;
- Overseeing the creation of a Procedures Portal, to collate and administer all of UM’s academic, administrative and technical SOPs, and make them available in one place.
Detailed annual reports of the workings of the QAC are available online.
Programme Validation Committee (PVC)
The Programme Validation Committee is the standing committee of the University Senate, which has to ensure that the programmes of study are valid and of an appropriate nature, as well as encourage optimal use of available resources. It is also entrusted with providing quality assurance mechanisms which are appropriate for its internal and external audit purposes.
Whenever new programmes of study are proposed, a validation process assesses whether they are in line with the University of Malta’s overall vision, if they are in line with market demands, and whether the quality is comparable to that of other European or international partners. The procedure is a rigorous one which encourages appropriate innovation yet effective quality assurance.
New programmes have to be processed by the Programme Validation Committee (PVC) so as to guarantee that:
- The academic rationale for new programmes is fully exposed and understood;
- The requirements for students to achieve the intended learning outcomes are clear;
- Resources can be provided to deliver the programme to standards acceptable to the University.
In recent years, in order to ensure that our processes take into consideration the advances in teaching methods brought about by the huge technological strides, new programmes which include elements of online or blended learning are first referred to a joint sub-Committee of the Programme Validation Committee and the Distance and e-Learning Committee before a recommendation with regard to such offerings is submitted to Senate. This sub-committee is tasked with ensuring that the teaching and learning methods being proposed are fit for purpose, and that those involved in the delivery of such programmes have received the necessary training in online teaching.
In addition to the requirement of stakeholder involvement in the design of new programmes of study (where applicable), proposals for new programmes are sent for external evaluation by academics who are experts in the proposed area of study and are not affiliated with the University of Malta in any way. This part of the validation process aims at ensuring that the programmes of study at UM are comparable in standard to similar programmes offered by other institutions of repute whilst at the same time ensuring their currency in the labour market.
Other measures which have been taken by the PVC over the last few years include:
- the holding of an annual workshop for members of the Programme Validation Committee and administrative staff involved in the programme validation processes, which workshops are intended to review and propose developments to the Committee’s processes, to identify and disseminate good practice, and to discuss topical issues pertinent to the workings of the Committee;
- revision of the timelines and deadlines for submission of new programme proposals to ensure that the internal and external validation processes can be concluded in good time to allow for the sufficient marketing of new offerings.
Academic Programmes Quality and Resource Unit (APQRU)
The Academic Programmes Quality and Resources Unit (APQRU) is the administrative implementer of the PVC. APQRU is dedicated to the facilitation of quality assurance and improvement activities intent on promoting a culture of commitment to excellence in the provision of academic services. Through this mission statement, APQRU’s ultimate aim is that of supporting teaching and learning so as to ensure that educational services provided to students are of the highest quality. APQRU also assists faculties, institutes and centres in designing their undergraduate and postgraduate programmes of study in line with the general University regulations.
The functions and responsibilities of APQRU are:
- To assist the PVC in the validation of new programmes and study-units;
- To provide on-site and off-site assistance to faculties, departments, institutes, and centres with regard to validation procedures;
- To assist the PVC in its role of providing quality assurance and improvement mechanisms, and of ensuring that academic programmes on offer at the University of Malta are of the appropriate academic standard;
- To track the implementation of recommendations arising from feedback processes;
- To disseminate good practice arising from student feedback;
- To ensure that the student experience and enhancement of that experience is a paramount priority at the University of Malta;
- To develop and implement policy which enables the University to assure itself of the quality and standards of programmes on offer;
- To assist the PVC in its role of ensuring optimal use of available resources;
- To provide training to academic and administrative staff, which training is intended to sensitize staff to the need of formulating programmes of study in line with institutional, national and European requirements, whilst bearing in mind the sustainability of new offerings.
Student feedback is considered to be an integral and necessary component of the quality assurance system, as it helps the University evaluate service provision as viewed by the most important group of stakeholders, namely its students. As emphasised in the Bologna Process, this system requiring student contribution and feedback gives students the power to act as collaborators in the teaching and learning taking place, rather than being merely passive receivers of information.
During their years at University, students are asked to provide feedback both with regard to the individual study-units they are following, and also with regard to their experience at the University once they have completed the entire programme of study. This feedback is provided through the study-unit feedback survey and the end of programme survey.
The study-unit feedback survey is conducted twice a year through a questionnaire which consists of a number of close-ended questions and a free text section which allows student to comment on any aspect they wish. Students can submit their feedback either before or after taking the assessments, and they can do so either via the UM App or via the e-SIMS portal.
Student feedback is then evaluated, with results being integrated into the quality assurance process. Feedback is given to the lecturers of the study-units concerned, Heads of Departments, Faculty Deans, and the Rector. Areas for appropriate follow-up action are identified and communicated to the Departments. The results of the student feedback process, as well as the recommendations and the action taken on the basis of such recommendations, are important considerations for the Programme Review which each Department is required to undertake.
The end-of-programme survey is a quality assurance tool that provides information about the students learning experience throughout the course. The data gathered, which also feeds into Periodic Programme Review, enables the University to assess the quality of the learning experience of students and how well students feel prepared for the world of work. The results of the survey, which is conducted after publication of the students’ final classification up until the graduation period, are compiled into reports which are then sent to Faculty Deans and Heads of Departments for consideration during meetings of Boards of Studies and in preparation of Annual and Periodic Programme Reviews.
Feedback is constantly received by the University through its external examiners. These are appointed by the University to ascertain that expectations are being met. The rationale underlying the participation of these reviewers, especially at the end of degree courses, is to enhance the quality of the assessment and examination procedures through:
- The independent assessment of knowledge acquired by students during the course of their studies;
- The setting of questions in the paper/s of the written examination by a member of the Board of Examiners who does not participate in the teaching of the course;
- The views expressed and the advice obtained on the general conduct of the examination and the course in general;
- The presence of an examiner not in the employment of the University, during the viva voce and practical sessions of the examination.
Heads of Faculty Departments approach foreign outstanding academics and seek their consent to be nominated as external examiners for specific courses. In general, only academics at professorial level are proposed as external examiners. All proposed candidates are considered by a Senate sub-committee that makes its recommendations to the governing bodies. Following approval, a formal notification of appointment is issued by the Registrar.
Visiting examiners are usually required to be present throughout the final week of the marking of scripts, when various examiners’ meetings are being held. They participate fully in oral examinations, review scripts, dissertations and projects, and especially in the final degree classification meeting. In the case of non-visiting examiners, a sample of scripts is sent to them for their review.
At the end of the exercise, the external examiner formally submits a confidential report to the Rector. Apart from providing feedback on the examination session, examiners are also expected to add comments and observations on issues related to the programme of studies. After having been reviewed by the Rector, such reports are then sent to the respective Dean or Director of the Faculty or Institute.
External examiners are also appointed on Boards of Examiners for Ph.D. or M.Phil. degrees. The external examiner evaluates the thesis submitted and reports to the Chairman of the Board of Examiners. External examiners also participate in the viva voce examination of Ph.D. students.
Malta College of Arts Science and Technology (MCAST)
MCAST has devised a quality framework which is built on leadership and strategy, teamwork, customer focus, systems, processes and procedures. The QA framework follows guidelines established by institutions such as ENQA-VET, CEDEFOP and Malta’s National Commission for Further and Higher Education (NCFHE).
The MCAST QA Framework is underpinned by an Integrated Quality Management System that brings together the academic and administrative processes of the College. The QA Framework is sustained through the Quality Assurance office led by a Director for Quality Assurance who reports to the Principal & CEO. The office is further supported by a Deputy Director, who also internally audits the educational processes and procedures in line with NCFHE’s Internal Quality Assurance Standards and Guidelines and carries out the role of Lead Internal Verifier within and across all institutes of the College, including its Gozo Centre on Malta’s sister island, a Quality Assurance Manager , as well as a Consultant who carries out lecturer appraisals on a regular basis with plans to recruit a Quality Assurance Coordinator.
External quality assurance
MCAST undergoes external quality reviews by, generally, the National Commission for Further and Higher Education and foreign external 3rd party auditors since the College offers courses regulated by entities such as Transport Malta, where its maritime and aviation programmes are concerned, and delivers joint and double badged undergraduate and post-graduate degree programmes. MCAST also invokes the services of foreign, external peer reviewers at dissertation/thesis level across these programmes.
With respect to strategy to further enhance quality assurance measures, the Director responsible for student affairs with the support of the Quality Assurance office are responsible for rolling out a feedback system, as a means of obtaining feedback from direct sources, i.e., both students and academic staff. This will help the College to feel the pulse of its main “clients” so that it will be in a position to improve the service and the learning experience it offers during and post the COVID-19 pandemic.
Moreover, the College is in constant contact with representatives from the industries in which it operates. This is particularly fundamental to the College as all programmes now involve student work placements or apprenticeship schemes. This also serves as a measure for the College to render its programmes timely and relevant to industry and the economy but more so to meet the needs of its students through the quality of its programmes. Considering that the College is a public entity, it also needs to constantly report to the respective ministry on various aspects of its operations.
The Quality Assurance office is in a constant state of preparedness through the measures outlined above and amplified on below in anticipation of an external review by the NCFHE to verify that the whole organisation adheres to Internal Quality Assurance Standards.
Internal quality assurance
The main inputs contributing to the creation, maintenance and responsiveness of the College quality assurance system are the NCFHE National Quality Assurance Framework Internal Quality Assurance Standards as influenced by the European Standards and Guidelines and EQAVET. Several measures have been developed and implemented at the Malta College of Arts, Science, and Technology (MCAST) over the past few years as part of an overarching College Quality Framework in order to gauge and assure quality. Such measures, which include, amongst others, the documentation of processes in the form of standard operating procedures and process maps (inputs, process and outputs), internal verification and lead internal verification of assessment tools and decisions, internal audits of the educational and operational processes within and across MCAST providers and the way in which these processes impact the quality of the service delivered to MCAST clients, the students, and lecturer appraisal, are in line with National Quality Assurance Framework requirements stipulated by Malta’s National Commission for Further and Higher Education (NCFHE).
As a self-accrediting institution, the College is required to comply with the various academic and administrative National and European legislative and regulatory requirements. Over the years, MCAST has developed, a comprehensive set of Academic Procedures that are now an integral part of the Quality Management System of the College and may be accessed through its website at https://www.mcast.edu.mt/.
Complementing the above, a resolution by the Board of Governors in 2019 identified the need for the development and dissemination of the Manual of Administrative Procedures. The Manual includes updates of the set of policies and procedures that were originally drafted in 2004, as well as a number of, new additional chapters. The Manual includes fourteen (14) chapters dealing with individual administrative aspects, each chapter comprising policies, procedures and forms. The College has, therefore, an approved Integrated Quality Management System in place.
The Quality Assurance Office is responsible for ensuring that, together with the Deputy Principals, Institute Directors and Heads of Departments, the academic and administrative processes are disseminated, regularly reviewed and updated. The Deputy Principals, together with the Institute Directors and Heads of Department who are the owners of these dynamic processes and procedures, also have the responsibility of ensuring that their staff are au courant and compliant with the content of these manuals.
Internal verification and Lead internal verification
The findings from various internal audits carried out by the Quality Assurance Department have indicated that a number of quality practices were predominant, in that several observations showcased the strengths of the internal verification process underpinning its credibility and validity in assuring the quality of programmes delivered through its assessment tools and the assessment decisions taken. Several factors deemed necessary to the vocational essence of the various programmes offered by MCAST and the robustness of the assessment/internal verification process feeding into internal and external audits were also identified.
Overview of internal verifiers’ work, crucial to assessment validity and innovation, is a theme which recurs across a wide range of literature. The discourse also inclines to such roles resolving the problems with consistency and enabling innovation. All findings consolidate the analysis of the roles of assessors/internal verifiers and lead internal verifiers, in which their maximization is strongly conveyed, as manifested in a number of good practices identified by the trends observed in the data gathered. Nonetheless, this analytical exercise has also highlighted some factors which would benefit from attention and improvement in assessment skills and competences, particularly as these areas are considered crucial to the vocational education and training being delivered by MCAST.
Incorporation of the recommendations advocated by the findings would reflect the discourse which stems from the premise that internal verification yields greatest benefits when integrated within an explicit quality management framework.
The main objective of such audits is to identify good practices within the providing institutions and then create a vehicle by which these are shared with sister institutions within MCAST. A corresponding and equally important goal of this exercise is to delve into areas, which present risks to the smooth running of the processes and, hence, would need improvement, in turn, necessitating the delineation of possible strategies for corrective action.
The scope of the engagement is to reinforce the strengths of the legacy accumulated over the past 20 years, since MCAST’s inception, identify the opportunities, anticipate the threats and address the weaknesses through an open and transparent encounter with personnel, an overview of related documentation and the observation of the interactions of those involved.
The first challenge was how to go about these investigations, establishing good practices and assessing the risks. It was decided that the way forward was to have tools in place, which would assist in the identification, analysis and evaluation of the data thereby building a solid foundation on which to formulate strategies for action in the short, medium and long term.
Secondary research applied to this exercise consisted of a comparative study of the quality frameworks applied in a number of other countries within Europe, Central Asia and Australia. This led to the creation of a quality assurance protocol, mapped to MCAST documentation, as well as NCFHE and EQA quality indicators, which addresses the educational and operational processes within a providing institution. This instrument targets six process areas:
- Teaching and Learning, Assessment and Support Services where the Educational Processes are concerned; and,
- Admissions and Advancement, Management Strategy and Measurement and Monitoring for the Operational Processes.
Each Process Area is further sub-divided into sections. Taking Teaching and Learning as an example, this process area was approached through Staff, Programme Development, Delivery and Review, Logistics, Resources and Sub-Contracting/External Programme Delivery/Examination. This protocol, which can be used as a tool for internal audit and self-evaluation apart from external audit, stipulates the standards expected within each of the educational and operational processes, offers prompts as a gauge of the information required and lists the possible sources of evidence.
The methodology employed during the audit engagement is qualitative in nature, consisting of the gathering of information through initial individual meetings with the Directors and Deputy Directors of the providing institution, followed by individual sessions with academic and administrative staff directly involved with the educational and operational processes related to programme planning, design, implementation, delivery and review, as well as students’ progression, and focus groups with students, focusing on the particular programme they were following, their history, if any, at MCAST, and their future aspirations. The exigencies of triangulation, whereby various groups within an organisation corroborate, complement, oppose or supplement the findings, are, thus, observed to the full.
The findings are sifted with the purpose of succinctly extrapolating general observations classified as those directly relevant to the provider, examples of good practice which may be disseminated depending on their applicability and commonalities of concern within and across the providing institutions. This latter exercise is fundamental in honing in on the pertinent strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to the providing institutions and the MCAST as a whole.
The findings are then allotted a unique identifying code and entered into a Risk Assessment Form according to category, in which they are quantified using three metrics, Severity, Frequency and the Rate of Detectability. Taking these metrics into account, a numeric scale of 1-5 was developed by which to measure the findings and their impact, depicted verbally in Risk Assessment Scales. On the outcome of the latter, each identified finding listed in the Risk Assessment Form is colour-coded reflecting the incidence of high, moderate or low risk.
Some risks are not adversely affected by detectability while in other cases the risk is augmented, thereby aggravating the situation, depending on the risk factor for detectability. Risks are adjusted taking the worst-case scenario from either Frequency or Detectability to depict the influence of the latter variable on the risk. The Risk Assessment Form is also adjusted accordingly to depict these results.
In this way, the riskier zones within and across providing institutions in MCAST are identified, assessed and evaluated based on both a qualitative and on a quantitative analysis of the findings.
Applying the bottom-up approach to policy-making, the whole of the findings are then the subject of discussion at top management level, from whence flow the recommendations for implementation to disseminate good practice and address the concerns, primarily identifying the areas in urgent need of improvement and outlining the appropriate strategy for the necessary action to be taken to assure quality.
A lecturer teaching appraisal exercise is also integral to the system. Such an appraisal involves:
- An observation visit whereby a member of the QA team will observe a lesson and give feedback to be provided on the teaching methods applied;
• Reviewing teaching material being used
• Evaluation of interpersonal skills and attitudes.
MCAST’s quality management framework serves to propel quality in relation to all matters affecting the educational and operational aspects of student-centred learning and programme delivery, ensuring the validity and transferability of MCAST qualifications by adhering to the key indicators of a robust system, namely, manageability, sustainability, satisfaction, and consistency, to inspire and aspire to an innate quality culture.
Institute For Tourism Studies (ITS)
The Institute for Tourism Studies’ mission statement highlights its commitment towards high quality academic programmes. ITS’ mission statement and values demand quality from ITS’ programmes in order to equip the tourism industry with quality workers who will, in turn, ensure service-delivery which innovates to meet qualitative stakeholder demands in a competitive industry.
By virtue of theInstitute of Tourism Studies Act, Chapter 566 of the Laws of Malta, ITS self-accredits its programmes up to MQF5. Courses are developed by the Board of Studies and quality-assured by the Programme Quality Validation Board (PQVB) as per L.N. 29 of 2017, 2017. Quality assurance of course provision is carried out by ITS’ Internal Quality Assurance Committee, as per Legal Notice 28 of 2017.
Additional existing internal quality control procedures within the Institute of Tourism Studies are:
- Specialised training in Quality (Food Safety) for Food Production and Food Service training providers (lecturers);
- FMEA (Failure Mode and Effect Analysis) in the form of HACCP and General Quality Improvement;
- Regular verification and laboratory testing supported by laboratory analysis;
- The ITS Food Safety Team are currently implementing the PDCAS cycle on Plan-Do-Check–Act with the scope of continually improving stakeholder satisfaction;
- Employment of external evaluators, who evaluate both the practical and theoretical components of its modules and provide ITS with written feedback, which ITS discusses and acts upon if necessary;
- External quality assurance of the educational establishment by NCFHE; and
- Accreditation and external quality assurance for courses pegged at MQF 6 and 7 is the responsibility of NCFHE.