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Quality assurance policy and organisation of quality assurance work

Introduction to Quality assurance policy

Aarhus University is a government-funded, self-governing institution under public sector administration and under the supervision of the Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation. According to the University Act, universities have freedom of research and must protect this right as well as safeguard their research ethics. Aarhus University provides consultancy which is research-based and clearly independent of any later decisions and actions by politicians and authorities. An important aspect of this is that consultancy is transparent by being generally made publicly available.

Technical Sciences (Tech) provides consultancy services to the Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark, the Danish Ministry of Energy, Utilities and Climate, the Greenlandic Environmental Agency for Mineral Resources Activities (EAMRA) and other public sector authorities, as well as private organisations and businesses. In the quality management system, the consultancy services are referred to collectively as public sector consultancy, whether provided to public sector authorities or others. The consultancy services are provided by academically competent employees at the faculty's departments and centres, and they include services such as studies, tests, investigations and answers to enquiries as well as services such as participation in commissions and committees.

Tech aims to be the leading provider of public sector consultancy in Denmark through research and consultancy of the highest quality, and with focus on international activities.

The purpose of quality management of public sector consultancy at Tech is to help ensure high-quality consultancy services. The basis for this is the Aarhus University guidelines on quality assurance of research-based public sector services published in 2010 or the version otherwise in force at the time in question. These guidelines are divided into three levels: Level 1: General principles for quality assurance of research-based public sector services; Level 2: General cross-disciplinary procedures for quality assurance of research-based public sector services; and Level 3: Specific local procedures. The quality management of public sector consultancy at Tech, which corresponds to Level 3, is described in the document titled "Quality management system for public sector consultancy at Tech, Aarhus University", and the present document, "Quality assurance policy and organisation of quality assurance work", is an integral part.

Quality assurance policy

The quality management system is intended to support employees at Tech in carrying out their tasks on the basis of Tech's strategy and Tech's quality assurance policy, and to help ensure high-quality products. Therefore, the quality management system will be subject to ongoing improvement, with at least one evaluation per year.

Tech's overall aim for high-quality research-based academic consultancy breaks down into objectives that:

  • all consultancy products delivered are of high academic quality
  • the products are delivered to the requisitioner within the agreed deadline
  • collaboration between the requisitioner and the research staff involved in the performance of the task is mutually satisfactory
  • research-based public sector consultancy is based on the research activities in our academic environments
  • the performance of tasks, including academic quality assurance of drafts, is based on the inclusion of all relevant research competencies, regardless of their department affiliation
  • tasks are carried out with high efficiency and transparency in all steps and with focus on continuity and openness in the process
  • deliverables as far as possible take place according to a format that appropriately merits the individual researchers and ensures the departments' knowledge base, e.g. through peer-reviewed, English-language articles/reports
  • deliverables are made public in connection with their delivery in accordance with the framework agreement and the provisions of contracts, and in accordance with the rules of the Danish Public Administration Act

Quality management in practice

[Translate to English:]

Tech's quality management follows an annual planning cycle (figure 1) designed to continuously ensure that quality management is working as intended and is identifying opportunities for improvement.

As part of quality management, each year Tech prepares annual quality targets further to its strategy and overall quality targets, as well as its ambitions and framework conditions for the upcoming year. The targets for the following year are determined as measurable targets, and assessment of the fulfilment of targets for the current year is through a management evaluation. The annual quality targets are therefore a tool with which the management team can ensure focus on quality and identify opportunities for improvement. If relevant, quality targets may be set with a shorter or longer deadline. Determination and assessment of the annual quality targets are included in the annual planning cycle for the quality management system, see figure 1.

The current quality targets are communicated to the relevant employees by the departments' quality coordinators via the departments' public sector consultancy committees. The respective managers who are fully or partly responsible for the targets launch and follow up on the measures required to ensure the targets can be met. The division of responsibilities is clearly outlined in the description of the annual quality targets.

Organisation

The Organisation for Aarhus University is described in the Aarhus University By-laws.

On behalf of the dean of Tech, the vice-dean for public sector consultancy and business collaboration performs the day-to-day role of quality manager of the quality management system and therefore has overall responsibility for the operation of the quality management system.

The heads of the department at Tech and the directors of DCA and DCE refer to the dean of Tech.

 

The organisational set-up for the quality management system is shown in figure 2 The management is supported by administrative functions at central level and at faculty level. These include the finance, HR and IT services functions. To ensure strong focus on the core tasks of research, teaching, talent development, public sector consultancy and business collaboration, committees have been set up at department level and at faculty level, and these committees engage employees in the development of the tasks and contribute to the exchange of experience across levels and departments and in interaction with activities at university level. The committees for public sector consultancy play a key role in the quality management system, however the research committees are also important in that they help to ensure external research funding, they help strengthen external and internal collaboration and they participate in strategic discussions about the recruitment of academic staff. Through their work on recruitment of academic staff and their identification of sources for external research funding, the research committees therefore contribute to ensuring the required research base for public sector consultancy is in place and that public sector consultancy is research-based.

The organisation of quality management is to ensure that:

  • a high level of academic excellence and quality of academic consultancy are continuously in focus among managers and employees
  • there is consistent focus on the opportunities for improving academic consultancy
  • a quality assurance policy is proposed by the quality manager and that it is approved by the faculty management team
  • quality targets are proposed by the quality manager and approved by the faculty's public sector consultancy committee

The vice-dean for public sector consultancy and business collaboration chairs the faculty's public sector consultancy committee and is the quality manager in relation to the quality management system. With regard to quality management, the chairs of the department public sector consultancy committees serve as the departments' quality coordinators. Furthermore, together with the quality coordinators at the centres, they support the quality manager with deployment, use and improvement of the quality management system.

The management evaluation (cf. figure 2) is performed by the public sector consultancy committee at Tech under the guidance of the quality manager. At department level, the management evaluation is prepared by the head of department and the department public sector consultancy committee, while at Tech level, it is prepared by the Tech quality coordinator in collaboration with the quality coordinators at the centres and the departments involved.