Recommendations by Swissuni
Swissuni, the association of the continuing education units of at all Swiss universities and federal institutes of technology, has been working for two decades on quality standards in the continuing education sector. The first common quality principles were published in 1996. In 2009, these principles were completely revised, in partnership with the OAQ (Swiss Center of Accreditation and Quality Assurance in Higher Education). The Recommendations for quality development in university continuing education programmes are based on the principles of impact, multi-dimensionalism, flexibility, stakeholder participation, quality culture and quality development.
The quality model
Swissuni’s quality model consists of seven quality dimensions, defined to mirror the lifecycle of a continuing education programme. The diagram shows the dimensions and their relationships. Each dimension consists of a quality objective and several quality criteria.
The curved arrows symbolise the system boundaries. Programme managers can directly influence concepts, resources, processes and learning outcomes, whereas the impact is context-dependent and only becomes apparent outside the area of influence of the providers, namely in the workplace or in the career development of former participants. Analysing the context is therefore all the more important, especially the stakeholder groups, potential competitors and cooperation partners, and the core competences and reputational goals of the provider universities. These are shown as block arrows on the left and right of the diagram.
In practice, it is well worth ensuring that programme planning and evaluation are closely interlinked right from the start. The planning process goes anticlockwise from context analysis and goal-setting through the provision of resources and definition of processes to the formulation of the expected learning outcomes and impact. The quality evaluation begins with the impact and goes in the opposite direction.
The quality criteria
The Swissuni quality model takes account of seven quality dimensions, using a total of 31 quality criteria. Seven of the criteria are regarded as being particularly specific to continuing education and have been included by the Swiss University Conference SUK in its Accreditation Guidelines for University Continuing Education Programmes (German only).