Peer review contributes to total educational quality management

Instructors of eight Ethiopian universities and representatives from the agricultural sector took part in a workshop that used the peer review method to evaluate the bachelor program they developed. The workshop is one of the activities in the Nuffic project 'Supporting the development of Commercial Agriculture Programmes at now eight Ethiopian Universities'. This article starts with an short summary of the project and quality management and discusses the part the peer review method can play more closely.

Project and quality control

The Nuffic-project 'Supporting the development of Commercial Agriculture Programmes’ starts in 2011 with four Ethiopian universities who together develop the BSc program ‘Value Chain and Agribusiness’ which is presented to and discussed with representatives of the agricultural sector. The first four universities who contributed to the development start with the program in 2011, followed by another four in the next year. The first students graduate in July 2014: a real successful achievement.

The main activity and outcome of the project has been the development of curricula, modules, course programs and teaching materials for both Bachelor and Master programmes in value chains and agribusiness. In line with the national requirements, these programmes put the student at centre stage. A training in the Netherlands on chain management, marketing, logistics and educational quality management is part of the project. A framework with quality indicators is develop by Stoas Wageningen I Vilentum University based on the Dutch-Flemish accreditation standards (NVAO 2011).

The peer review, to be discussed, focuses on quality management within and concerning the new programs, the actual application of student centred education (including the support from educational support teams of the universities), the balance between theory and practice, the linkages between the programs and stakeholders, notably the private sector, and the linkages between the programs and applied research. As peer review includes members of the universities and representatives of the agricultural sector, the method also contributes to improving the co-operations between these two essential partners in the development of meaningful education.

Workshop Peer review

Peer review is the evaluation of work by one or more people of similar competence to the producers of the work (peers). It constitutes a form of self-regulation by qualified members of a profession within the relevant field. Peer review methods are employed to maintain standards of quality, improve performance, and provide credibility (source: Wikipedia). Before the workshop the participants received an invitation for an online questionnaire to find out whether the quality of the develop program and the quality of the staff are sufficient or have to be improved.

The peers in this case are participants from the eight universities and representatives of the agricultural sector.

After a keynote on total quality management, the indicators are being introduced and the results of the questionnaire presented. Then, in small review groups, the participants formulate questions related to the indicators. Each group puts their questions to one of the universities and askes for evidence to prove the goals have been achieved. Beside the goals of the programmes, the participants also look at the students products, their internship reports and research reports. The review groups then report their findings and present their recommendations.

Although for a lot of the standards the judgement is ‘satisfactory’, others have to be improved. Nevertheless the efforts to develop and improve the curriculum is impressive, including identification of intended learning outcomes, content and assessment system. Based on the recommendations of the review groups, participants were asked to formulate their priorities for the coming year. For the four ‘new’ universities in the project it is very crucial and important to benefit from the experiences of the starting four universities. The recommendations of the participants, the chosen priorities and the recommendations by the experts are in the report Institutional Quality Assessment. Supporting the Development of Commercial Agriculture Programmes at Ethiopian Universities – AGRIBIZZ (Niche/Eth/019).

The participants were enthusiastic about the approach and methodology used: “The best workshop I ever had.” The outcomes of workshop will contribute to the further improvement of the developed Bachelor program ‘Agribusiness and Value chain management’ and to the linkage between the universities is strengthened.