Since its creation in 2009, the University of Mons (UMONS) has implemented a quality approach in its institutional governance policy as a way to continually improve its missions and to consider the needs and expectations of its members, both as actors and beneficiaries.
Specifically, through its Quality Charter, UMONS has committed itself to pursuing its three core missions: “to promote quality education in Hainaut, to ensure high-level research activities on an international scale, and to contribute to the social, economic and cultural development of the region”, all the while respecting equity, humanistic values and excellence.
The institution’s quality approach is based on a strategic note, which summarises the key indicators essential for managing the institution. These enable the status reports of the concrete measures implemented by UMONS to be monitored in order to achieve the objectives it has set. These are as follows:
- To contribute to the democratisation of education in an economically disadvantaged province
- To offer high-quality courses
- To generate research excellence
- To contribute to regional development
- To emphasise the internationalisation of its activities.
The strategic note summarises the key indicators necessary to manage the institution. These enable the status reports of the concrete measures implemented by UMONS to be monitored, in order to achieve the objectives it has set.
With a view to improving the quality of education and its accessibility for under-privileged students, UMONS has created several new structures, such as the Educational Support Department (SAP). Their actions are supported, and strengthened, by new initiatives, such as educational assessments of teaching, remedial measures put in place for first-year students (promoting achievement), coaching and guiding students in difficulty, and staff activity reports, which take into account teaching loads and scientific criteria.
UMONS has implemented a set of measures to ensure research excellence. It has established a department for developing effective research (the Department for Research Support and Technology Transfer – AVRE) to assist researchers. In order to promote collaborations and exposure, UMONS has created several institutes, thus bringing together its cross-disciplinary research teams. New initiatives have also been launched, such as the development of an institutional repository, supported by incentives, such as including the repository’s publications in the assessment of candidates’ files, and rewards for defended theses.
In pursuing its goal of internationalisation, UMONS now offers more courses in English, has created the Centre for Modern Languages (CLV), and has strengthened the role of the International Relations Office (SRI). Several initiatives are also in place to promote the mobility of students and researchers. These include conversation classes and English courses offered to staff and students by the CLV and French as a foreign language courses offered to foreign students. Furthermore, in certain faculties, language courses lead to internationally recognised certificates (e.g. TOEIC). Mobility grants are also available to encourage students, including the most under-privileged, to take advantage of international exchange opportunities during their studies (e.g. ERASMUS and TIME).
Alongside the institutional approach, the University’s individual faculties and schools are given a great amount of autonomy to ensure a standard of quality, tailored to their specific characteristics and ethos, all the while respecting the institutional Charter. In this way, since January 2003, the Warocqué School of Business and Economics (FWEG) has boasted an ISO 9001 certification for its teaching. In October 2013, the Faculty of Engineering (FPMs) was awarded the EUR-ACE label from the Commission des Titres d’Ingénieur (CTI, France), certifying the compliance of its courses to European quality standards. The Faculty of Translation and Interpretation (FTI) was awarded a quality label by the Directorate-General for Translation of the European Commission for its European Master’s in Translation (EMT). All UMONS faculties have an Educational Support Unit, attached to the Dean’s Office, set up in order to support projects on improving education. With this prospect in mind, faculty teaching assistant posts have been created.
The permanent self-evaluation carried out by the University is regularly examined and reinforced by external audits, such as those carried out by the Agency for the Assessment of the Quality of Higher Education (AEQES), or by the bodies awarding the quality labels (CTI, ISO, EMT, etc.).
Using appropriate methods, UMONS strives for the continuous improvement of teaching and research, by making the students an absolute priority. Throughout their university education, students have the support of centralised services, including the Registration Office, Social Services, university halls of residence, cafeterias, libraries, and the sports centre, to name but a few. As a beneficiary, students are involved in centralised procedures and systematic assessments associated with their education. Each year, students are invited to express their opinion on each of the courses taken in the previous year. This information, both quantitative and qualitative, allows for educational adjustment according to the institution’s missions and values, so as to promote student success while respecting individual specificities.
The activities of the University’s members are supported by the work of the University’s administrative departments. The culture of quality has led to these services implementing an approach based on structuring initiatives that have the dual purpose of :
- Improving communication between various UMONS members in making their needs and constraints more transparent
- Ensuring constant evolution
In an effort to continually improve, this approach comes with simplifying administrative procedures for the different users the University’s administrative departments (researchers, students, staff), such as harmonising promotion and assessment procedures, standardising activity reports, and centralising and sharing data. The administrative departments are also subject to an institutional satisfaction survey. Some of them have also taken the initiative of continuous assessment through systematic feedback after implementation.
As a result, all of these actions have contributed to the creation of a dynamic culture of quality that involves all UMONS members at all structural levels of the University. This culture of quality is reinforced by assembling these participants, students, researchers, teachers and staff. In this way, certain teams have committed themselves to award-winning projects, such as the Walloon Quality Award, and have become accredited in their respective specialist fields (CTI, ISO, EMT, Eur-Ace, for example.).
To support this momentum, UMONS has created a “quality and management of information” unit (also known as the “EQuIP” team), which is responsible for strategic issues related to quality and the identification of indicators necessary to manage the University. Its missions range from collecting and centralising reliable data to communicating the culture of quality and supporting approaches initiated at UMONS. The University has set the following objectives :
- Contribute to the development of an information system, data quality, and the construction of control panels and strategic and informed decision-making Tools
- Ensure the quality of procedures and actions implemented, including setting up tools for measuring results based on targets
- Support and coordinate the recurrent assessment actions for sharing experiences and optimisation (surveys, AEQES assessments, rankings)
While there is still much to accomplish, the search for quality has become an important part of the running of the University. The experience of those who have been involved in this search feeds into the projects of those who are committed to implementing quality.