President’s address on behalf of the Board
The major disruption caused by COVID 19 has utterly changed the learning experiences of millions of students worldwide. In this unprecedented situation, INQAAHE is keen to find solutions to support our members and the Higher Education community at large. During these highly disruptive and unsettling times impacting global public health, it is crucial to remain close to our members and the wider HE community to support them in dealing with the emergency situation that we all find ourselves in.
On behalf of the INQAAHE Board, I am happy to share our INQAAHE Principles for Crisis Management:
- Integrity: it is more critical now than any time before to adhere to integrity and make the best use of technology to support it. Remaining vigilant to the challenges that can undermine integrity whilst remaining compassionate to each other is key in assuring quality in HE provision;
- Student protection: of utmost importance is protection of students and student experiences during these times to minimize negative consequences of the pandemic on their performance and engagement;
- Equity and access: where there is great potential for panic and rash behavior and the negative consequences that flow from this, an adherence to the principle of zero tolerance to discrimination should guide the work of QA providers, ensuring that equity and access remain at the top of the list of their priorities;
- Faster and better coordination: responsive QA and accreditation approaches as part of a wider national reaction is a must and it is crucial to clearly set a policy, strategy or set of guidelines to support the HEIs in framing their work to manage the crisis. In the case of managing safe QA and accreditation site-visits, and all QA activities more widely, there should be clear guidelines for all parties for the hosting of virtual site visits and other online activities;
- Be there for your stakeholders: QA bodies should make extra efforts to remain close to HE providers, guiding them through their actions, including, where possible the development and implementation of a specific pandemic response plan;
- Clear communication plans: in the times of social isolation the publication and transparency of newly adopted policies, procedures, guidelines and any special arrangements prior to enactment is especially important. Essentials tools for building confidence and maintaining reputation, press releases, public statements, media pieces, or official communiqués from the leaders of the QA bodies highlighting the newly adopted policies related to managing the pandemic should be delivered to all stakeholders using a variety of accessible channels.
- Enhanced partnership: the role of enhanced partnership and sharing good practice can never be overestimated in formulating the best responses to unprecedented crises. Limitations in the ability to meet during a protracted pandemic should provide scope for the development of more widely accessible partnership structures and these in turn will generate solutions that are more widely applicable for all stakeholders.
- Resilience and agility: moving from safety to business continuity by ensuring security-critical operations and rebounding back by adapting to unforeseen circumstances will provide a needed path forward.
In addition to the key principles, the INQAAHE Board has considered some immediate (short-term) support solutions and will continue to add useful and timely resources and services to help our members address pressing concerns and to serve the public good as we move through the crisis. These proposals include the following:
- COVID 19 Hub: Establishing a COVID 19 hub to enable sharing good practice and highlighting the specific challenges that our members face as well as providing expert guidance through our existing MPL center;
- A Study on the COVID Challenges and Solutions: Preparing a brief study on the impact of COVID 19 in order to develop useful recommendations on QA practices in the times of global pandemic and social isolation.
Upon request of our members:
- Free Webinars: a series of webinars to guide our members on online QA;
- Virtual Reviews Training: training on virtual reviews and evaluation for QA bodies and external reviewers will be offered to our members and external reviewers.
Last, but not least, the INQAAHE Board members in different regions and the CEO can be contacted to discuss issues of concern and importance to you as well as share information on your experiences.
We are also working on some longer term solutions for supporting QA systems and bodies to develop plans for continuity of QA through alternate modalities during social isolation, as well as some business continuity good practice guidelines. We will keep you posted on these developments.
INQAAHE works hard to be responsive to issues that impact on our members and, more widely, on higher education and we will remain in touch with you to guide and support you as well as to continue to advocate for QA in higher education. To be able to achieve the best outcomes for our members your support and engagement is crucial more than ever, since it is only through joining our efforts that we will be able to overcome and succeed.