The importance of Quality

Real awareness about the importance of quality was not settled in the West until the 80's. The new legal frameworks provided by governments to the universities allowed them to have greater autonomy to achieve quality's objectives and progress in higher education necessary for effective reform of the universities. In return, the governments demanded that those accountable demonstrate that their policies were aimed at improving institutional quality.

We can understand quality like needs' satisfaction and expectations of customers, fulfilling with requirements of different groups that interact with the university.

But why is it necessary to evaluate university quality? We can indicate the following reasons:

- To respond to internal requirements to improve the quality

- To provide evidence for decision making in university policy

- To report to society of academic and scientific achievement of the resources it offers

- To facilitate mobility and cooperation between different universities, both national and European

Both a qualification and a department or a service can be evaluated through assessment guides. Thus, the institutional assessment covers the entire University and can evaluate the teaching, research and services through a model based on internal and external evaluation.

Convergence towards a European Area of Higher Education

In the Sorbonne Declaration, in May 1998, they highlighted the creation of the European Higher Education Area like a key way to promote citizens' mobility and ability to obtain employment and the overall Continent development. Process must become a reality in this first decade.

In order to carry out this process, structural changes are required in the university system, such as the degrees' cyclic structure, the academic credit definition and the teaching accreditation system. Among other aspects, the promotion of European cooperation is being encouraged so as to ensure quality level by developing comparable criteria and methodologies.

Historical Evolution of Quality in the university setting

The concern for quality in the university began in a formal way with two evaluation activities: Experimental Program Quality Assessment of the University System (1992-1994), in order to test an evaluation methodology inspired institutional international experiences, and the European Pilot Project (1994-1995) which motivated the assessment in the European higher education around a common assessment methodology, which involved 17 countries. This European Pilot Project made possible the creation of the first National Plan Quality Assessment of Universities (PNECU) in 1995. In this regard, in December 1995, then-Universities Council approved the I PNECU which was in force between 1995 and 2000. This first Plan promoted the development of quality assessment in Spanish universities and was continued in 2001 with the Second Plan Quality Universities (PCU), recently repealed.

These plans have enabled to development the quality assessment in Spanish universities and they have developed a common methodology for these processes with the ultimate aim of continuous improvement and accountability to society through the publication evaluation reports.

In 2003, the Government launched the Institutional Evaluation Program (PEI) of ANECA. This was with the ultimate goal of designing and carrying out external evaluation processes of programs and services which have previously passed the internal evaluation process, or self-assessment, for initiative of their own University. This program assesses university studies leading to get official degrees with validity throughout the country, using the same criteria and indicators which will be required for the accreditation of degrees.

The first call of the PEI included years 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 and they could present qualifications that had completed at least three promotions with the curriculum in force.

The following calls of the PEI included years 2005-2006 and 2006-2007. In 2008 they haven't already had a call to pass at new programs ANECA.

Historical Evolution at the Alicante University

Strategic Planning and Quality Unit (UPEC)

At the administrative reorganization of administrative services approved by the Alicante University in 1996 establishing the Planning and Studies Service which depends functionally of the Vice Rector Planning and Economic Affairs and organically of the Management, it assumed jurisdiction over quality university institutional, preparation and processing statistical information, among others.

At the proposal of the administrative update, in March 2002, it creates the Strategic Planning and Quality Unit with part of the staff of the Planning and Studies Service. The main function of the Unit is the administrative and technical support quality activities carried out by Alicante University.

Technical Unit for Quality Assessment (UTC)

In 2004, the UPEC became the Technical Quality Unit with part of the staff of the UPEC and Quality Secretariat.

The UTC is functionally dependent on the Vice President of Quality and Educational Innovation and its mission is to facilitate the development of quality policies Alicante University in teaching, research and management and to support staff involved in all processes aimed continuous improvement of the institution, to promote the creation and dissemination of a quality culture among all members of the university community and accountability to society.