1.3 Quality Assurance Framework
Over a period of two years, during which there was extensive consultation, OCAV developed this Framework for quality assurance of all graduate and undergraduate programs offered by Ontario’s publicly assisted universities. Under this Framework, these institutions have undertaken to design and implement their own Institutional Quality Assurance Process (IQAP) that is consistent not just with their own mission statements and their university Degree Level Expectations, but also with the protocols of this Framework. The IQAPs are at the core of the quality assurance process. Furthermore, the universities have vested in the Quality Council the authority to make the final decision on whether, following the Council-mandated appraisal of any proposed new undergraduate or graduate program, such programs may commence.
This Quality Assurance Framework comprises four distinct components:
The Protocol for New Program Approvals applies to both new undergraduate and graduate programs. Universities use the protocol when developing new for-credit programs, which are then reviewed by the Appraisal Committee of the Quality Council. This Council has the authority to approve or decline new program proposals.
In accordance with the Protocol for Expedited Approvals, each institution will be responsible in its IQAP to assure program quality where major substantive changes are made to existing and previously approved programs, and where learning outcomes are not changed in ways that denote a truly new program. Institutions will set out their own procedures for the identification and approval of Major Modifications in their IQAP that will, itself, be subject to initial Quality Council ratification. Institutions will report annually to the Quality Council on the Major Modifications approved that year. Institutions have the option of requesting the Quality Council review a proposal for Major Modifications, in which case an Expedited Approval process would apply.
The Protocol for the Cyclical Review of Existing Programs is used to secure the academic standards of existing undergraduate programs of specialization and graduate degree programs and for-credit graduate diploma programs, and to assure their ongoing improvement. Undergraduate and graduate program reviews may be conducted concurrently and in conjunction with departmental reviews, when institutions so choose.
The Audit Process is conducted through a panel of auditors that reports to the Audit Committee of the Quality Council. The panel examines each institution’s compliance with its own Institutional Quality Assurance Process for the Cyclical Review of Existing Programs, as ratified by the Quality Council. The Quality Council has the authority to approve or not approve the auditors’ report.
The subsequent four sections of the Framework (1.4, 1.5, 1.6 and 1.7) outline these four components. The Definitions Section (Framework Section 1.6) contains definitions of some of the specialized vocabulary used throughout. Readers are encouraged to review this document in conjunction with the Guide to the Quality Assurance Framework (the Guide), which includes information, guidance and templates designed to assist institutions in implementing the protocols and audit process.