FIG Working Week 2000, 21-26 May, Prague

Creating a Quality Culture in Surveying Education

by Stig Enemark

Key words: Quality Assurance, University Education, Surveying Curricula.


A FIG publication on Quality Assurance in Surveying Education was launched September 1999. The publication seeks to expose some of the quality issues related to surveying education and to propose a model of quality assurance which can help institutions in member countries to enhance their educational programmes for the future.

The purpose of this new FIG publication is to provide some guidelines on quality related matters to all those members who are active in either pursuing or influencing the development of surveying in higher education establishments across the world. Furthermore, the publication seeks to provide pointers of good practice used in the delivery and teaching of surveying courses, which can be applied to enhance the overall teaching and learning environment. Specifically, a quality model and a checklist of good practice are offered for adoption and use. In this regard, guidelines are also given through examples of good practice from educational institutions throughout the world.

Drawing from the quality concept presented in the publication, the paper presents the experiences and results of implementing a quality management approach in surveying education at Aalborg University. The focus will be on the efforts to enhance the total teaching and learning environment within the Faculty of Engineering and Science.

Having 25 years of experience in problem-oriented project-organised studies Aalborg University is confident that the educational system is promoting a high quality learning environment for the students. The concept of quality management is designed to support this basic educational concept. Quality should be understood as a multidimensional concept that relates to the contextual setting of the educational model, the institutional mission, as well as the standards within a given discipline.

Aalborg University is based on a problem-oriented and project-organised educational concept. The concept is focused on "learning by doing" or "action learning". Each semester has a basic structure of, in principle, equal distribution between lecture courses and project work. The project work is carried out in small groups of four to six students having a teacher connected as supervisor. Basically, the quality of the programmes is assessed through the system of external examiners, while the internal means of continual quality assurance in a sense lies within the educational model itself.

The focus is on "learning to learn". The point is, that professional and technical skills can be acquired and updated at a later stage in ones career while skills for problem-solving and skills for learning to learn can only be achieved through the process of academic training at the universities. The concept of project-organised education provides just that opportunity.

The problem-based project work of the students reflects the relevant current and actual problems in the real world. The content of the study programme is therefore continually adjusted to reflect the professional, technological and societal development. To manage this process of constant renewal a system of quality management is established. The system aims to manage the process of internal monitoring and evaluation, and it serves as a basis for continual improvement of the quality of lecture courses, the single term as well as the total curriculum. The system this way acts as a circle of continual quality improvement of the curriculum. It is argued that establishment and management of such a system is basically about creating a quality culture.

Quality assurance refers to the means by which an institution satisfies itself that the standards and the quality of its educational provision can be maintained and enhanced. The paper identifies four means of quality assurance:

  • The quality management system is aiming to assess and improve the content of the lecture courses, the project work as well as the total study environment. This concept relates to the project-organised educational model and it is seen as the basis engine for constant renewal and improvement.
  • The quality enhancement system is aiming to develop the professional and pedagogical level of the faculty staff. This system relates to the lecturer/student interface of the project-organised learning environment. The system also relates to the interaction between education and research representing the necessary dynamic element of innovative education.
  • The quality control system is aiming to control the examination procedures as well as to assess the overall professional level and academic standard of the curriculum. The system ensures that the profile and quality of the programmes and the standard of the graduates are in line with the academic demands of higher education as well as expectations and needs of the trade and industries.
  • The quality assessment system where the quality of the university programmes is assessed and developed through the process of external validation from the National Evaluation Centre. The validation report is seen as a means of quality enhancement.

The paper concludes by presenting the lessons learnt within all four means of quality assurance.

Prof. Stig Enemark
Head of School of Surveying and Planning
Aalborg University, Fibigerstrede 11
DK-9220 Aalborg

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