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