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Developing a Participatory Consultation Process for Quality Reviews: The initial stage of the European University Associations Quality Review of the Dublin Institute of Technology

Author - Aidan Kenny


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Limitations

This research was carried out under the following constraints. The time frame was restrictive, from the initial establishment of the SC to the development, implementation and analysis of the research. There were only 18 weeks in total. The seasonal holiday (see Appendix 4, for project time frame) stopped the research momentum and caused difficulties with the timing of the staff survey and some focus groups, particularly the period after Christmas where many academic staff members were busy with examinations.

The diverse location of DIT sites and the size of the DIT community proved a logistical difficulty. To overcome this a decision was taken to use electronic communications to promote and create awareness about the EUA review and to deliver the surveys. Despite the fact that the majority of staff and students have email accounts, we were aware that a proportion did not have email accounts or computer facilities. Under the circumstances it was decided that the consultation process could move forward with this restraint acknowledged.

Some industrial relations issues arose concerning (1) the EUA Guidelines, particularly the section that suggests the main stakeholders as ‘academic, students and administration’. This caused some difficulty for members of the technicians trade union AMICUS. However this matter was dealt with in an expedient and collegial manner. (2) The issue of stakeholder buy-in to the process needed considerable informal contact; the adoption of both the ethical guidelines and EU Consultation Directive assisted this process. (3) Other technical problems arose with some members of staff and students experiencing difficulties opening electronic links to online surveys which were distributed by using the Outlook Express application. Participants using the Web mail browser experienced encryption problems, and this was solved by resending the online surveys on the web mail clients.

Quality assurance

Quality assurance was interwoven into the consultation process by the adaptation of the EU Consultation Directive Guidelines (Table 4) and a robust code of ethical guidelines (Table 5)

By adopting the working guidelines presented in Table 4 and Table 5, the SC made a strategic decision to carry out all of its social research activities in accordance with best contemporary practice. The rigor of the guidelines provided safeguards for both the participants and the SC (as participant/researchers) during the development and implementation stages of the consultation process. The academic support staff enhanced this dynamic through their professional conduct in their engagement with the DIT community. Email and phone queries were responded to within a day in most cases. All comments whether they were positive or negative were valued, and all inquirers were treated with courtesy and respect.

 


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