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Accreditation and Quality Assurance in Higher Education in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia


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Title: Accreditation and Quality Assurance in Higher Education in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

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Accreditation and Quality Assurance in Higher
Education in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Professor Abdullah Almusallam Secretary General,
NCAAA Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 13-15 November,
Saudi Arabian Context
  • High birth rate, high school retention, strong
    demand for HE.
  • Significant economic development, strategies to
    diversify economy.
  • Entry to WTO, increased economic competition.
  • Policies of Saudizationcreate employment and
    reduce dependence on expatriate labour force.
  • These lead to pressure for both expansion and
    high quality in the HE system.

Saudi Arabian Context Higher Education
  • Rapid expansion(8 to 24 universities in 5 years,
    28 private universities and colleges).
  • Structural changes(102 Girls colleges, 18
    teachers colleges and 50 health colleges and
    institutes merging into universities).
  • Limited and varied experience with QA processes.
  • Traditional emphasis on memorization.
  • Past emphasis on undergraduate studies. Expansion
    of research and PG programs but will take time to
    produce graduates. (Major scholarship program)
  • Shortages of experienced and qualified faculty.
  • Expatriate teaching staff from many places-(gives
    experience but differing background in QA).

Despite these Challenges
  • Strong government support for improvements
  • in quality.
  • Support for quality improvement by leaders
  • in institutions (Both presidents and key
  • Willingness to learn from others.
  • New system and structural changes create
  • the opportunity for a purpose designed
  • strategy for this environment.

Challenge and Opportunity
  • Newness of the system of QA and Accreditation and
    lack of experiences creates a major challenge.
    However it also creates a great opportunity to
    draw on the best ideas and adapt them to
    particular culture and environment of Saudi
  • Fundamental objective is to consistently achieve
    high international standards.

National Commission for Academic Accreditation
  • Independent body responsible to the
  • Council of HE
  • Accreditation of all post-secondary
  • Education except Military (public and
  • private, higher and vocational education)
  • Board of Directors drawn from government,
  • institutions, and industry

Functions of NCAAA
  • Establishing standards
  • Accrediting programs
  • Accrediting institutions
  • (Provisional) approval and accreditation of new
    institutions and programs
  • Planning, training and support for Q improvement
  • Linking and coordination with regional and
    international agencies (NCAAA is a member of

Principles Underlying the System for
Accreditation and QA in the KSA
  • Responsibility rests with institutions (Not
    departments, not government)
  • Quality relates to ALL functions.
  • Continuing improvement, not minimum standard
  • Supportive relationships (internal, external)
  • Evaluations based on evidence.
  • Diversity encouraged.
  • Learning outcome standards consistent for all.
  • Involvement of stakeholders.
  • Effective leadership essential.
  • Systems designed for KSA

Concepts of Quality
  • An INQAAHE survey of 75 QA Agencies published
    in 2003 reported on criteria for quality used by
    these agencies.
  • A large majority referred to generally accepted
    standards of good practice
  • A substantially smaller number referred to
    fitness for purpose

Concepts of Quality
  • There are variations, but
  • Specified standards are most often used in
    systems where QA is based on accreditation.
  • Fitness for purpose is most often used in systems
  • diversity is a major objective and
  • external reviews are conducted primarily to
  • verify the conclusions of internal processes
  • rather than to assess in relation to standards.

In Saudi Arabia
  • We have defined quality as involving three
  • Consistency with generally accepted standards of
    good practice
  • Fitness for purposethe extent to which mission,
    goals and objectives are achieved.
  • Fitness of purposethe appropriateness of the
    mission, goals and objectives for the communities
    it is established to serve.

General Strategies
  • Staged development over a five year period.
  • Approach to QA drawn from international
    experience, but system designed specifically for
    the KSA.
  • Greater detail in documents setting out
    procedures and requirements because of
    inexperience and involvement of people from many
  • Common requirements but diversity in detailed
  • Emphasis on self evaluation verified by
    independent review.

General Strategies
  • No compromise in demands for quality (programs
    and institutions and the QA system itself). but
  • Training provided.
  • Time allowed for development.
  • Standards relate to all activities, but special
    emphasis given to learning and teaching, and
    verified standards of learning outcomes.

Stages of Development
  • Three overlapping stages
  • Stage one Development of procedures,
  • standards and materials.
  • Raising awareness,
  • developing materials, procedures and basic

Stages of Development (Contd.)
  • Stage two Transition to the new
  • system
  • Training and preparation,
  • preparing supporting materials,
  • pilot studies and developmental reviews.

Stages of Development (Contd.)
  • Stage three Full Implementation
  • Eligibility assessment,
  • Self studies,
  • External review and re-accreditation on a five
    year cycle,
  • Periodic reviews of the system of QA and

Basic Materials 1. Handbook
  • Part 1. Standards and Processes for QA and
  • Accreditation
  • Describes Principles underlying the approach
    taken by the commission
  • Summarizes The Standards that will be applied in
    QA and Accreditation Judgments
  • Outlines the Stages involved in the Approval of
    Institutions and Accreditation of Programs
  • Explains a number of terms used in the process.

Basic Materials 1. Handbook
  • Part 2. Internal QA Arrangements
  • - Focuses on internal QA processes
  • - Provides advice on
  • establishment of Q centers
  • processes of planning, evaluation and internal
    reporting on
  • educational programs
  • self study and improvement of institutional
  • - Includes Templates for use in preparing
  • reports.

Basic Materials 1. Handbook
  • Part 3. External processes provides details of
  • what is required in preparation
    for and
  • conduct of external reviews. These
  • may relate to
  • applications for approval and accreditation
  • of a new institution
  • the accreditation and re-accreditation of
  • programs
  • the periodic external reviews of institution on
  • a five year cycle.

National Qualifications Framework describes
learning standards expected for each
qualification level.
  • Five broad areas or domains of learning have
  • been identified
  • knowledge, the ability to recall, understand,
  • and present
    information, including
  • knowledge of specific facts,
  • knowledge of concepts, principles and theories,
  • knowledge of procedures.

domains of learning (Contd.)
  • cognitive skills, the ability to
  • apply conceptual understanding of concepts,
    principles, theories and
  • apply procedures involved in critical thinking
    and creative problem solving, both when asked to
    do so, and when faced with unanticipated new

domains of learning (Contd.)
  • interpersonal skills and responsibility,
    including the ability to
  • - take responsibility for their own learning
  • continuing professional development,
  • - work effectively in groups and exercise
  • leadership when appropriate,
  • - act responsibly in personal and professional
  • relationships,
  • - act ethically and consistently with high moral
  • standards in personal and public forums

domains of learning (Contd.)
  • communication, information technology and
    numerical skills, including the ability to
  • communicate effectively in oral and written form,
  • use information and communications technology,
  • use basic mathematical and statistical
  • Psychomotor skills applies only in some fields
    of study (a surgeon, an artist, a dentist, or a

Basic Materials (Contd.)
  • Standards for Institutions (11 areas)
  • Companion document provides self
  • evaluation scales
  • Standards for Programs (11 Areas)
  • Companion document provides self
  • evaluation scales

Standards Institutions
  • Mission and Objectives
  • Governance and Administration
  • Management of QA and Improvement
  • Learning and Teaching
  • Student Administration and Support Services
  • Learning Resources
  • Facilities and Equipment
  • Financial Planning and Management
  • Employment Processes
  • Research
  • Relationships With the Community
  • Mission and Objectives
  • Program Administration
  • Management of Program QA
  • Learning and Teaching
  • Student Administration and Support Services
  • Learning Resources
  • Facilities and Equipment
  • Financial Planning and Management
  • Employment Processes
  • Research
  • Relationships With the Community

Standards for Institutions and Programs
  • The same eleven areas are used for institutional
    and program evaluation, but applied to either an
    institution as a whole or to a specific program.
  • Everything that affects a program is considered
    in a program evaluation, regardless of whether
    function is provided by a department of college,
    or by the central administration.

Issues Faced
  • Dealing with the diversity of the system.
  • Large number of institutions
  • Large and small institutions
  • Public and private
  • Responsibility in different ministries
  • Different sectors with different requirements
    academic, professional and technical.
  • Conventional and new delivery systems
  • Requires flexible approach, and standards and
    procedures relevant to different institutions and

Issues Faced (Contd.)
  • Introduction of quality systems at a time of
    rapid growth
  • Will place heavy demands on a relatively small
    number of
  • - Individuals
  • - Institutions
  • - Government agencies
  • To provide leadership and support.

Issues Faced (Contd.)
  • Recruitment of International Reviewers
  • In the early stages we will rely on international
    reviewers. We want to demonstrate international
    equivalence to the highest standards.
  • However these people have
  • limited availability.
  • They are also expensive which will be an
    increasing problem as the system expands,
  • In any case we want to rely increasingly on our
    own people. We need to balance the mix as local
    experience is gained but maintain sufficient
    external participation to make sure
    internationally recognized high standards are

Issues Faced (Contd.)
  • Development of commitment to a wider range of
    outcomes, and skills in using new teaching
  • The need to change from spoon feeding to creative
    thinking and problem solving, and
  • The development of personal attributes of
    personal and group responsibility, leadership,
    and other expectations.
  • It is expected that there will be resistance from
    many faculty who are not convinced of the need
    for these changes, or who lack the skills in
    different forms of teaching.
  • Training in teaching strategies will be necessary
    and a lot of attention will need to be given in
    institutions to management of change strategies.

Issues Faced (Contd.)
  • Responding to changing technology and educational
    delivery systems.
  • These developments are occurring throughout the
    world, and SA will be in a similar position to
  • These changes create both challenges and
  • We must be open to constructive change, but
  • make sure that good practice is preserved and
    that standards of learning outcomes are

Issues Faced (Contd.)
  • Increasing requirements for defining and
    verifying learning outcome standards.
  • The system must be consistent with world wide
    trends to emphasize standards of learning
    outcomes and to verify achievement
  • Saudi Arabias recent entry to the World Trade
    Organization will create important opportunities,
    but require high levels of skill in the
  • There must be confidence in these skills in the
    country, and internationally.

Issues Faced (Contd.)
  • Increasing demands on institutions.
  • There will be a lot of work involved.
  • the use of independent external evaluations may
    also cause negative reactions, particularly if
    judgments are critical.
  • This means that processes must be
  • no more expensive or demanding than necessary,
  • flexible to reflect each institutions own
  • and recognized by institutions as providing real
    value to hem.
  • The relationship between the Commission and the
    institutions must be one of cooperation and
    support, with the shared objective of improving

Issues Faced (Contd.)
  • Achieving acceptance and credibility for a local
    system for QA and accreditation.
  • It may take some time for a new local system for
    accreditation and QA to be recognized as giving
    widely recognized international credibility for
    quality judgments.
  • This will require considerable effort to ensure
    that processes are rigorous and transparent,
    widely publicized, and that there are no
    compromises in the judgments made.

Issues Faced (Contd.)
  • Professional accreditation of programs.
  • Requirements for programs in professional and
    technical fields are often separately developed
    by professional associations. In SA these
    separate professional registration requirements
    exist to a very limited extent.
  • This may be a short term problem. But it creates
    an opportunity to combine academic and
    professional judgments about quality in a way
    that has proved difficult to achieve in a number
    of other countries.

Issues Faced (Contd.)
  • QA for the Commission itself.
  • As a QA agency, the Commission should model the
    QA processes it believes are necessary in the
    educational institutions with which it deals.
  • The Commission
  • has prepared a good practice statement to guide
    its own activities.
  • has adopted QA processes comparable to those it
    is requiring of institutions.
  • will subject itself to independent quality review
    by international accrediting agencies.

Achieving High International Standards
  • The major objective of the QS is to support the
    institutions to achieve and to be seen to have
    achieved standards that are at least equivalent
    to high international standards. This applies to
    all their areas of activity, but the most
    important element is the quality of learning
    outcomes achieved by students.
  • We want global standards in all aspects of HE,
    but the main consideration is student learning
    outcomes. (Possibly the most difficult to

Achieving International Standards
  • Mechanisms used to support global standards and
    verify achievement
  • Detailed descriptions of generally accepted
    standards of good practice combined with
    comprehensive self evaluations and external
  • Requiring evaluations based on evidence,
    including local and international benchmarks.
  • Using of experienced international quality
    reviewers able to give advice and make reliable
    comparative judgments.
  • Developing a qualifications framework specifying
    generic standards and process for verifying
    consistency with the framework.
  • Requiring processes to verify standards of
    student achievement.
  • Professional field requirements are being
    developed that are consistent with international
    requirements but integrated with the academic QA
    requirements defined by the NCAAA..