THE IMPLICATIONS FOR QUALITY
WHAT IS A "QUALITY" PROJECT?
It is a project aiming to improve a process or part of a process which contributes to the effectiveness of a product or service, with the ultimate aim of increasing client satisfaction.
WHO ARE THE CLIENTS OF ADULT EDUCATION?
There are various client groups for university adult and continuing education:
the buyers (who pay): statutory bodies who contract for the provision of services, companies, or the mature students themselves. These are not all paying for the same thing.
the users: those who actually attend the course, i.e. mature students who may or may not have paid for themselves.
These groups have different requirements and different ideas of what constitutes quality.
WHAT DOES A QUALITY PROJECT IN UNIVERSITY ADULT AND CONTINUING EDUCATION INCLUDE?
Quality is a term commonly used in the education field in general and particularly in higher education where so much store is set by academic knowledge. Even more than in other sectors, any teacher worth his salt will claim to seek quality in his performance. But the outcome of a training programme is not solely dependent on the teacher's performance.
Where users are concerned:
A contribution to the quality of a course is also made by:
- the induction and advice offered to mature students,
- the physical conditions under which study is carried out,
- the convenience of arrangements in relation to the student's other commitments, and
- the extent to which what is offered corresponds to his or her own personal and professional aims.
The planning phase of the programme (teaching methods, timetabling and organisational aspects) is thus crucial. It also needs to be remembered that the "product" of a project is the joint work of the provider and the user.
Where buyers (public or private) are concerned:
A contribution to quality is made by the response to specific requests, but also by the way in which paperwork is handled, prompt replies to requests and the degree of flexibility offered.
Thus a quality project needs to be targeted on one or several well-defined client groups on the one hand, and on the other on a limited part of the workings of the institution where the project has a real possibility of bringing about improvement.
WHERE IS THE DIVIDING LINE BETWEEN INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY AND A QUALITY PROJECT?
Is it appropriate to rely on the professional conscience of teachers and organisers to provide quality teaching? Every teacher or tutor in the educational process has acquired professional skills that they will use in their work in the exercise of their profession. These individual professional aspects are necessary but not sufficient for the provision of quality services. The arrangements that ensure quality are also the result of collective institutional responsibilities and involve specific methods that do not usually form part of the basic skills of teachers and others involved in the delivery of services and programmes of study for adults in the university.