The Finnish Education Evaluation Centre (FINEEC) has conducted a quality audit of the University of Graz with an international team of peer reviewers. This was the second time the Austrian university commissioned an audit from FINEEC. The University of Graz passed the audit and was awarded a quality label which is valid for seven years. By passing the audit, the university showed that its activities and quality system meet both the FINEEC criteria and the European quality assurance criteria for higher education institutions.
Societal engagement and impact are highlighted in the university’s strategy
Based on the audit, the University of Graz is clearly an important strategic actor in its region Styria making an important contribution to social, cultural and economic life. The university has a strong mission statement ”We work for tomorrow” to increase emphasis on issues for society: climate change, societal health and sustainability. ‘’
The university is to be commended for identifying societal impact and renewal as a key priority and differentiator for the university. The university’s mission statement signifies its high-level objective to embed societal engagement and impact across everything that it does, to foster consciousness about societal engagement and impact amongst its students, and to address global challenges impacting and affecting society, says professor Ellen Hazelkorn, the chair of the audit team.
The university supports a wide range of different and interesting initiatives which have the potential to be transformational. The next challenge is to embed these examples as a core and distinguishing principle of the university. The university would also benefit from strengthening and embedding a common understanding of societal engagement and its relevance across both teaching and research.
The university’s quality system is mature and strongly linked with strategic management
The university has an open and engaging culture and a comprehensive and well organised quality system with a lot of good and systematic procedures and activities.
There is a strong link between the quality system and strategic management of the university which is a clear strength of the university. In order to take the quality system to the next level, stronger ownership of the system should be built at the grassroot level by engaging staff and students even more in quality development at the university, says Stéphane Berthet, vice-rector at the University of Geneva, vice-chair of the audit team.
In teaching and learning, the audit team especially noted the university’s well-structured and systematic procedure for curriculum development providing transparency and ensuring broad representation of views in the process. The audit team also found, among others, that clear efforts are made at the university towards implementing digital transformation and towards implementing pedagogically sound approaches to teaching. More work is however needed in fostering a shared and widespread understanding of notions central to education, such as student-centred learning and continuous education.
Ambitious gender equality work is carried out among the staff
The University of Graz chose “Equal opportunities and diversity” as an evaluation area of the audit. The university works in an ambitious and structured way to increase gender equality among its staff. Several measures at the university aimed at creating better conditions for women’s career development and achieving gender equality goals, such as increasing the proportion of female professors.
The University of Graz is clearly committed and has the ambition to increase diversity and equal opportunities among students and that work has begun. However, further work is needed to embed the issues throughout the organisation.
A common understanding of what is meant by diversity should be developed, target groups for diversity work identified and a work plan designed to meet those objectives, says Aleksandra Sjöstrand, analyst at the Swedish Council for Higher Education, member of the audit team.
Quality audits of the Finnish Education Evaluation Centre (FINEEC) are guided by enhancement-led principles. The focus of FINEEC audits is on the procedures used by the higher education institution to maintain and enhance the quality of its educational provision, research and societal engagement and impact. The evaluation criteria applied in the audit are published in the FINEEC audit manual.
The audit report:
Hazelkorn, E., Berthet, S., Damsa, C., Püttmann, V., Sjöstrand, A. & Nordblad, M. (2021). Audit of the University of Graz. Finnish Education Evaluation Centre. Publications: 21. Available at https://karvi.fi/en/publication/audit-of-the-university-of-graz-2
For further information, please contact
Ellen Hazelkorn, chair of the audit team, ellen.hazelkorn(at)TUDublin.ie
Mirella Nordblad, project manager of the audit, +358 29 533 5541, mirella.nordblad(at)karvi.fi