Adjusted Oversight

A guiding Principle of the Quality Assurance Framework (Principle 12) is that the “Quality Council recognizes past performance of institutions and adjusts oversight accordingly.” Adjusted oversight refers to the practice of decreasing or increasing the degree of oversight by the Quality Council depending upon the university’s compliance across the spectrum of its quality assurance practices. Oversight may also be increased in one area and decreased in another. Examples of adjusted oversight include, but are not limited to: an increase in the number of programs to be selected for a Cyclical Audit, the requirement for a Focused Audit, adjusted requirements for documentation, and adjusted reporting requirements. In recognition of the maturity of the quality assurances practices undertaken by Ontario universities, the 2021 Quality Assurance Framework has reduced Quality Council oversight in a number of areas; examples are listed below, along with guidance identifying some other possible situations where reduced (or increased) oversight might be appropriate.

In all cases, the appropriateness of continued adjusted oversight in an area will be reconsidered at the time of the next Cyclical Audit.

Protocol for New Program Approvals

Adjusted oversight built into the Quality Assurance Framework:

Faculty CVs are no longer required to be submitted, as long as the Appraisal Committee is satisfied that the external reviewer(s) saw these and have provided satisfactory commentary on faculty expertise, supervision, etc.

If the Appraisal Committee receives several new program proposals in which this has not been satisfied, then the university will lose this privilege.

Additional examples for possible adjusted oversight:

If a Cyclical Audit finds evidence of a strong monitoring process for new programs (see QAF 9.2) that has been consistently applied, a recommendation that the university be exempt from future reporting requirements for new programs (i.e., the “Approved to Commence, with Report” option described in QAF 2.6.3) could be made.

Protocol for Major Modifications (Program Renewal and Significant Change)

Adjusted oversight built into the Quality Assurance Framework:

Major modifications are normally no longer subject to audit by the Audit Committee.

Should the Quality Council find issues during its annual review of major modifications (for example, if a major modification is actually a new program), then the Quality Council could suspend admission into this program until the university has developed and received approval for the program in question, as per the Protocol for New Program Approvals. The Quality Council will continue to conduct annual reviews of major modifications and may ask the Audit Committee to examine major modifications in a Focused Audit, or that examples of major modifications are to be included in the next Cyclical Audit.

Protocol for Cyclical Program Reviews

Adjusted oversight built into the Quality Assurance Framework:

Section 5.4.2 External reporting requirements: A new provision gives universities the option to submit an annual report to Quality Council for completed Cyclical Program Reviews, with a link to the Cyclical Program Review documents that the Quality Assurance Framework requires be posted on the university’s website. This replaces the requirement that a Final Assessment Report and Implementation Plan be submitted to the Quality Council for each program that has undergone Cyclical Review, although the universities retain that option if they prefer it.

The annual report and related Cyclical Program Review processes will be subject to occasional review by the Quality Council. If issues are found with these or with any individual FARs/IPs, the Quality Council may ask the university to provide additional documentation for review or to repeat the Cyclical Program Review. The Quality Council may also ask the Audit Committee to do a Focused Audit.

Audit Protocol

Adjusted oversight built into the Quality Assurance Framework:

Universities are no longer automatically required to submit a one-year Follow-Up Response Report following the receipt of a report on a Cyclical Audit.

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, the review of Major Modifications or the review of Final Assessment Reports and Implementation Plans from the institution.

When the Audit Report describes high to very high degrees of compliance with the Institutional Quality Assurance Process (IQAP) and good to best practice, the Audit Committee may recommend to the Quality Council reduced oversight in one or more areas of the university’s quality assurance practices. This would happen when there are no or only minor misalignments with the Framework and where the Quality Council has not referred any matters needing improvement to the Audit Committee for more in-depth analysis. The recommendation for reduced oversight may include, but is not limited to:

  1. A reduced set of documentation required for a subsequent audit
  2. A reduced set of documentation to be submitted to the Appraisal Committee and Quality Council. Approval of new programs and reviews of Cyclical Program Reviews and Major Modifications could be placed in the consent agenda.

When an audit report finds deficiencies in several areas and/or systemic challenges (for example, a large number of recommendations, more than one recommendation that is serious but do not rise to the level of a Cause for Concern, and/or a Cause for Concern), the Audit Committee may recommend increased oversight. This may include, but not be limited to:

  1. A requirement that the university submit one or more Follow-up Response Report(s) by a certain date detailing how it has responded to Recommendations and / or Cause(s) for Concern;
  2. A larger selection of programs be required for the next Cyclical Audit;
  3. An increased set of documentation required for a subsequent Cyclical Audit;
  4. A Focused Audit;
  5. An increased level of reporting through additional documentation submitted to Appraisal Committee and Quality Council; and / or
  6. Any other action deemed necessary.