6. Audit Protocol
Quality assurance is a function of and balance between internal and external processes and procedures. Internal quality assurance is undertaken by the Quality Council’s member universities themselves and thereby reflects their autonomy as they continue to improve the quality of their programs. External quality assurance involves the processes and procedures defined by the Quality Assurance Framework, which serves as the comparative basis for the audit. The Cyclical Audit thus provides necessary accountability to post-secondary education’s principal stakeholders—universities (individually and collectively, as a system), students, government, employers, and the public—by assessing the degree to which a university’s internally-defined quality assurance processes, procedures, and practices align with and satisfy the internationally agreed upon standards, as set out in the Framework.
The cyclical audit provides an opportunity for the university to evaluate its quality assurance policies and practices. It is supported by an assessment of performance by the Quality Council. The cyclical audit begins with a self-study, which enables the university to reflect on current policies and practices and the extent to which it demonstrates a focus on continuous improvement in the development of new programs and the cyclical review of existing ones. This self-study is a cornerstone for the independent review conducted by the Quality Council through its Audit Committee. For each cyclical audit, an Audit Team is established, comprised of members of the Audit Committee plus the Quality Assurance Secretariat. The Audit Team reviews the university’s self-study, conducts a desk audit of documentation associated with the development and review of a selection of the university’s programs, and conducts a site visit. These activities enable intensive engagement with the university community that results in dialogue and, ultimately, an Audit Report that focuses both on current policies and practices and on the university’s approach to continuous improvement. The report identifies best practices as well as areas for improvement. Its findings related to continuous improvement include commentary on the university’s monitoring of new programs and follow through on its Final Assessment Reports and Implementation Plans associated with Cyclical Program Reviews.
At the time of a cyclical audit, the Quality Council or the university itself may refer matters for more in-depth consideration to the Audit Committee. This would normally occur where best practices have been observed or where areas needing improvement have been identified in the course of the approval of new programs or the review of Final Assessment Reports and Implementation Plans from the institution.
All publicly assisted universities in Ontario associated with the Quality Council have committed to participating in the audit process over an eight-year cycle. The Quality Council has established the schedule of institutional participation in the audit process within the eight-year cycle and publishes the agreed schedule on its website. Additional audits (for example, Focused Audits) for specific universities may take place, as described below.
The Quality Council is committed to supporting institutions’ quality assurance activities, including through the following Audit Protocol and its associated outcomes.
(See Principles 1 – 5 and 7 – 15)