Thursday 29 March 2012 1:22pm
The support the University of Otago provides to its students, and its distinctive institution-wide collegial ethos, are among several key areas singled out for special mention by an independent audit group.
A team from the New Zealand Universities Academic Audit Unit (NZUAAU) visited Dunedin in October and talked to staff across the University, and external groups including Dunedin community organisations. Every five years, at each of New Zealand’s eight universities, the unit undertakes a review of mechanisms for monitoring and enhancing academic quality, commenting on the extent to which procedures are applied effectively and reflect good practice.
In the audit panel’s 65-page report released today, the University of Otago is commended in several areas of its academic responsibilities.
University of Otago Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic and International, Professor Vernon Squire, says that the report is very positive.
Under the leadership of former Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir David Skegg, and now Professor Harlene Hayne, the University continues to perform well in all significant areas, he says.
“It is hugely important to us that an independent group sees that we are achieving our goal to provide a high-quality learning environment for undergraduate and postgraduate students, and that we foster a collegial working environment for our staff,” he says.
“This feedback is something that all of us here at the University, both general and academic staff, can be proud of.”
The University also receives special mention for its support of students and, in particular, the learning support provided by the residential colleges, the peer-assisted study programme and a range of workshops and individual advice provided to postgraduate students.
“The University of Otago provides a broad range of support for students, and students speak highly of the teaching they receive and of the caring and open attitude of their teachers,” the report notes.
Professor Squire says the audit report indicates some areas where the University can improve too, some of which have already been dealt with, while other recommendations will be considered as the University revises its strategic plan.
One example involves revising the instruments used to evaluate undergraduate teaching and courses at the paper level. The University has already resolved that these evaluations will normally be used by all departments or programmes on a three-year cycle. However, the audit report urges “the University to move beyond normally to making these surveys a requirement”.
The report comments positively on the University’s pursuit of its strategic objectives, observing that this function is conducted in a “highly decentralised way,” with “significant consultation”.
In this way the University is praised again for the manner in which collegiality is supported and encouraged at all levels, noting that the University itself recognises that at times this devolved organisational structure means that monitoring effective policy implementation can be challenging.
The University is also commended on its approach to defining and achieving a distinctive Otago Graduate Profile, with specific attention paid to research-informed teaching to achieve this goal.
A graduate profile is a set of attributes that the University aims to inspire within its graduates. These attributes include ethical responsibility, a love of lifelong learning and an appreciation of what it is to be a global citizen.
The report adds that the University enjoys strong links with business, iwi, district health boards and other health, education, research and community organisations. It is an “active contributor to community and development,” as well, hosting some 300 open lectures, community short courses and public seminars each year.
This shows a very clear commitment by the University to the city and vice-versa, the audit report says.
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