Creating a Quality Culture in Surveying Education
by Stig Enemark
Key words: Quality Assurance, Education,
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
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.
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
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 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. It is argued that
establishment and management of such a system is basically about
creating a quality culture.
Prof. Stig Enemark
Head of School of Surveying and Planning
Aalborg University, Fibigerstrede 11
Tel: +45 9940 8344
Fax: +45 9815 6541
Creating a Quality Culture in Surveying
1. THE FIG PUBLICATION
The issue of quality relates to all aspects of our
professional life. And it is clearly an international trend within the
university world. Quality assurance allows for a refocus from
traditional control to a more managerial approach to university
education. Over the last decade it has become an important vehicle for
securing change in higher education institutions, with a view to
enhancing the total teaching and learning environment. Additionally,
more stakeholders, such as the professional institutions, are drawn
into the debate and seek to exert influence.
As apart of this process, the issue of quality
assurance was given high priority in Commission 2 during the period
1994-98. A working group has examined models of quality assurance
capable of meeting the demands of education within the international
surveying community. The results of these efforts is presented in new
report on Quality Assurance in Surveying Education, publication no 19
in the FIG series. FIG Commission 2 is grateful especially to Prof.
Peter Morgan and Robert Hodgkinson, Liverpool John Moores University,
UK, for all their efforts in this regard.
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 shared by members and applied to enhance the overall teaching
and learning environment. Specifically, a quality model and a
checklist of good practice is offered for adoption and use. In this
regard, guidelines are also given through examples of good practice
from educational institutions throughout the world.
There is much confusion about the meaning of
quality. However, what is not in dispute is that the provision of a
quality approach both affects and can enhance students' learning.
Quality assurance is taken to refer to all those planned and
systematic activities used to fulfill quality requirements in higher
education institutions and can be defined as:
"....the means by which an institution
satisfies itself that the standards and the quality of its educational
provision can be maintained and enhanced."
An example of implementing the quality concept in
surveying education at Aalborg University is given below.
2. THE QUALITY DISCUSSION
The nature of the universities has changed
dramatically over the last decades. They have changed from being
traditionally elitist educational institutions to mass education
organisations with a responsibility towards a steadily growing part of
the population. Furthermore, the universities are increasingly engaged
in the provision of courses for Continuing Professional Development (CPD).
The universities in Denmark are funded by the state
and are governed by the university bodies themselves. The funding is
proportional to the number of exams passed by the students throughout
the year. This principle of funding as well as the increasing number
of students put the educational process much more into focus. It has
become vital that the students are able to pass exams and to obtain
graduation. This does not mean that the standard of the programmes is
lowered – it means that the quality of the educational process and
of the management of the programmes must be in focus and increased.
This is the background on which one should see the increasing demand
for quality assurance and quality development in higher education.
Aalborg University was established in 1974 as an
innovative experiment in problem-oriented project-organised studies in
higher education. "Learning by doing" has been the code of
the process and a variety of programmes have been developed within the
areas of Humanities, Social Science, Natural Science and Engineering.
Focusing on the Faculty of Engineering and Science,
efforts have been made to enhance the overall quality of the total
teaching and learning environment. The aim of these efforts is to
attain some benefits, such as: a better study environment; more
satisfied students, staff and stakeholders; increased enrolment and
decreased drop-outs; graduation at prescribed time; better preparation
for professional employment; ability to acquire new knowledge;
up-to-date programmes; greater accountability; and increased
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. The basic principle of the
educational model is therefore presented below. Quality should be
understood as a multidimensional concept that depends upon and relates
to the contextual setting of the educational model, the institutional
mission, as well as the standards within a given discipline.
3. THE AALBORG EXPERIMENT
Aalborg University is a middle-sized European
university with about 11,000 students, a third of which is within the
Faculty of Engineering and Science. The Faculty offers a variety of
programmes within Engineering and Natural Science such as Master
programs in Civil and Structural Engineering; Architecture and Design;
Electronics and Information Technology; Chemical and Biotechnical
Engineering; Mechanical Engineering; Surveying and Planning; and a
number of programmes in the Natural Sciences such as Mathematics;
Physics; Chemistry; and Computer Science. The curriculum is project-organised
from the day the freshmen arrive until their graduation.
Project-organised means that traditional taught
courses assisted by actual practice is replaced by project work
assisted by courses. The concept moves the perspective from
description and analysing into synthesising and assessment. Each
semester has a basic structure of - in principle - equal distribution
of lecture courses and project work. The project work is carried out
in small groups of four to six students having a teacher appointed as
The curriculum is organised into general subjects
or "themes", normally covering a semester. This provides for
the use of project work as a basic educational element. The themes in
total will constitute the general aim and the professional profile of
the curriculum. The themes provide for studying the core elements of
the subjects included (through the lecture courses given) as well as
exploring (through the project work) the application of the subjects
in professional practice. About half of the lecture courses are
related to the theme and the other half to the curriculum in general.
The study time is dominated by lecture courses in the beginning of the
semester and by project at the end.
Problem-based means that traditional
textbook-knowledge is replaced by the necessary knowledge to solve
theoretical problems. The concept moves the perspective from
understanding of common knowledge into ability to develop new
knowledge. The aim of the project work is "learning by
doing" or "action learning". The project work may be
organised by using a "know-how" approach for training
professional functions, or it may be organised by using a
"know-why" approach for training methodological skills of
problem-analysis and application.
The difference between traditional subject-oriented
education and this project-oriented educational model may be expressed
in short by an old Chinese proverb:
"Tell me and I will forget
Show me and I will remember
Involve me and I will understand
Step back and I will act"
The essence of project-organised education as well
as the pedagogical point of the model seems obvious when using this
kind of poetry.
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 project work also has pedagogical importance.
Each student must be able to explain the results of his studies to
colleagues in the project group and to the supervisor as well. This
demand may be the clue to professional and theoretical cognition.
Knowledge is only really established when one is able to explain this
knowledge to others.
This way, quality assurance is to a large extent
built into the educational model and into the organisational structure
of the programmes.
4. 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. An important
aspect is the cultural context in the organisation with its capacity
to either facilitate or suppress local quality initiatives.
The Faculty therefore does not believe in a
strongly formalised and centralised quality assurance system. Complex
systems might be difficult to manage and to control; and a centralised
system may foster bureaucracy which will delay necessary local changes
and which may restrain the development and implementation of adequate
quality assurance measures at each department and school. The
educational system demands flexibility in planning and development.
However, it is of course important for the faculty
to establish an adequate organisational structure of the departments
and schools particularly with regard to the delegation of tasks and
responsibilities forming the overall quality framework. Means of
quality assurance should then be developed at these local levels
within the overall quality framework and the means should thereby
reflect the culture of the local educational environments.
5. THE QUALITY MANAGEMENT SYSTEM – CURRICULA
The educational programmes under the Faculty of
Engineering and Science are organised in five schools e.g. the School
of Surveying and Planning. The head of each school is responsible to
the dean for the overall quality management of the programmes. The
dean is responsible for the quality management of the whole faculty.
Each school is governed by a Board of Studies composed by five staff
members and five students and chaired by the head of the school. All
board members are elected by democratic procedures. The staff members
are elected for a period of three years and the students for one year.
The board is responsible for the content of the curriculum as well as
the use of resources. The board is also responsible for analysing and
adjusting the programme in a continual process.
Here it should be mentioned that Denmark does not
have an accreditation system for external approval of the programmes
prior to implementing like e.g. in the U.K. The content of the
programmes is seen as a matter of self government for the faculty
based on a general approval from the Ministry of Education.
Accreditation can be seen to take place through a compulsory and
comprehensive use of external examiners at important examinations.
This flexibility makes it easy to adapt and improve the content of the
curriculum according to the development within the relevant
The capability and the quality of the programmes
are continually evaluated within the educational system itself. This
is done by a system of internal monitoring. The system serves the
purpose of quality management with regard to the relevance and quality
of the lecture courses as well as the quality of the entire semester
concerning supervising, organisation and resources. The evaluation
report is produced by the students by the end of each semester and is
forwarded to the Board of Studies and to the teachers involved. The
board assesses the report including any possible comments from the
teachers and decides whether to take any necessary or relevant actions
in order to meet any complaints or to improve the quality of some
specific educational elements. The respond of the board is forwarded
to the students of the semester in order to stress to importance and
relevance of the evaluation as a tool for quality enhancement. The
report and the respond from the Board of Studies are then used for
preparing and improving the same semester the following year. The
system this way acts as a circle of continual quality improvement.
The system of quality management is in a sense
built into the educational model. Each semester is prepared for
dealing with the topical and relevant issues within the theme in
question. The profile of the lecture courses and of the theme as such
is therefore assessed and adjusted prior to the start of semester.
This is done by a small group of teachers and students representing
the previous as well as the incoming semester. The evaluation report
from last year semester is then used as a key document for
improvement. Minor adjustments are adopted by the Board of Studies
while major changes such as changes in the legal regulations of the
curriculum are assesses and adopted by the Faculty Board.
The processes of internal evaluation are described
in the "Handbook of Quality Control" which is composed and
adopted by the Board of Studies. The handbook is available on the
Internet (until now only for the School of Surveying and Planning) and
includes diagrams with a list of issues to be addressed when
conducting the process of internal evaluation of the lecture courses
as well as the total theme. The guidelines show that the process is
not only about assessing/marking what and who may be good or bad. It
is about evaluating the relevance, the content, the structure, the
profile, the resources, the performance, etc. The process, this way,
is carefully designed to underline the common responsibility for
improving the quality of programmes as well as the quality of the
total study environment.
The development and implementation of such a system
is basically about creating a quality culture. Even if the general
concept of internal monitoring has been used from the very beginning
there is a lot of details to agree upon when the system is to be
described in details and formally adopted by the Board of Studies as a
tool for quality management. The responsibilities of all parties –
the students, the teachers and the Board of Studies – must be
mutually recognised and the relevance and benefits of using the system
must be generally accepted. The students play a very key role in the
process. The students at each semester should understand that only by
fulfilling the duty of a serious evaluation of the past semester they
can expect to benefit from having an improved coming semester
themselves. This is what the circle of quality improvement is all
The issues to be addressed through this process of
internal evaluation as well as the split of responsibilities between
the parties involved may vary between each of the Board of Studies.
The general concept will be the same and reflect the overall quality
framework of the faculty. But the detailed structure and content of
the system should reflect the culture of each study environment.
Accountability and interdependence are key words in the process of
building and running the system.
6. QUALITY ENHANCEMENT – STAFF DEVELOPMENT
The faculty members are organised in departments
covering relevant interrelated scientific areas. The academic staff is
employed on the conditions of half time teaching and half time
research. This way, the departments are responsible for research
activities while the schools and their Board of Studies are
responsible for the educational programs. The departments then provide
the educational resources needed and required by the head of the
individual schools. The system includes a kind of competition between
the schools and the departments aiming to optimise the total
management of resources and it provides a balanced interplay between
research and education. The interaction is framed and co-ordinated by
the Faculty Board. Promoting a learning organisation requires long
term planning and investments in staff development.
A high quality learning environment depends on the
lecturer/student interface. This again, depends on the pedagogical
skills of the teacher. Assistant professors therefore have to
undertake a special training course designed to improve their
pedagogical skills and skills for conducting the whole learning
process. The assessment from completing this course can then be used
when applying for a permanent position as associate professor/senior
lecturer. Training courses are also designed to improve the
pedagogical skills of the permanent staff whenever needed.
Finally, to reinforce the importance of a high
quality learning environment, the faculty has introduced the concept
of appointing "the teacher of the year". The appointment is
based on recommendations from the student representatives from each of
the Boards of Studies within the faculty. The award includes a prize
and underpins that the academic merits relate not only to research but
to educational skills as well.
The supervisor in the project-organised education
model has to face other demands than the teacher in traditional
education. Pedagogical skills for guiding the project work as well as
skills for guiding the use of scientific theories and methods for
analysing the problems are essential. The supervisor has the
responsibility of guiding the students to complete the project work in
time, and in a defensible way according to methodological and
scientific requirements. This means that the traditional role of the
teacher is changing from "lord of the lectern" to
"coach on the side" - and the focus is moved towards
"learning to learn".
The teacher also has to face the demands of
constantly changing the contents of the courses, or developing new
courses in order to reflect the development of the profession, new
research results and the changing problems within society. These
demands may be seen as a challenge rather than a problem. They also
ensure the continuous professional development of the faculty.
The results and experience of the research carried
out at the university are easily incorporated in the teaching programs
because of the close relationship between applied science and the
problem-solving process in the project work. The project work also
promotes strong motivation for research by the teachers. The problems
and the choice of theories and methods are discussed with the
supervisor. Many essential problems can be defined through the project
work and continued in the research carried out by the supervisor. Many
of the student projects may also be based on the current research
activities of a teacher. The project group may e.g. analyse partial
problems, theoretically or empirically, and thus contribute to the
development of knowledge in fruitful co-operation with the teacher.
The professional development of the faculty staff is this way built
into the educational model. The interaction between education and
research represent the necessary dynamic element of innovative
7. QUALITY CONTROL – EXAMINATION AND ASSESSMENT
A system of external examination serves the purpose
of external professional and academic control. External examination is
used to cover at least one third of the curriculum including the most
important parts and of course the final thesis. The reminding part of
the curriculum is assessed through internal examination using faculty
staff as examiners and using the same procedure as for external
The emphasis at the examination is on the
evaluation of the project. At the examination, the members of the
project group will each present a part of the project. This is
followed by a defence of the project report. The examination is
conducted by the supervisor and will normally last for half a day. One
or two external examiners are present. Normally one of the examiners
is representing the professional world/industry, and another is
representing the academic world/universities. The purpose of the
defence and the following discussion is to assess the knowledge
possessed by the individual student with regard to the project issue
and the connected academic disciplines, as well as to assess their
broad insight and professional knowledge. The examination system thus
allows for external control of professional relevance and academic
standards as well as control of the entire educational system.
Each discipline in higher education has its own
corps of external examiners appointed by the Ministry of Education
based on recommendations from the institutions and the current
chairman of the corps. Following each examination the examiners must
file their comments to the chairman. These comments will compose the
basis for a yearly report published by the chairman. The report thus
allows for external quality control of the curriculum.
The examination of the general courses is normally
held at the end of the semester, in which they are lectured. This
examination does not differ from the examinations at other
universities. These courses are assessed on a pass/fail basis.
The theme-related courses are assessed as a part of
the examination of the project. The standards used at the examination
of the projects are based on the study program regulations as adopted
by the Faculty Board. The regulations present the knowledge expected
to be possessed by the student after completion of the semester. The
students are graded individually and all marks on the diploma can be
documented by the reports and assessed by trade and industry when the
graduates are applying for jobs.
8. CONCLUDING REMARKS – LESSONS LEARNT
A key feature of quality assurance is to
acknowledge that a university is a self-critical academic community
striving to enhance the quality of the total teaching on learning
environment as well as the quality and capability of the graduates.
In the case of Aalborg University this has led to
the establishment of an effective educational system. Comprehensive
evaluations of the programmes in engineering and science have proved
the project-organised concept to be an effective system which produces
readily adaptable graduates with strong qualities in the fields of
management, problem-solving, co-operation and project work.
The means of Quality Assurance are to a large
extend built into the educational model. The means are summarised
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 concept is well
developed and the implementation reflects the characteristics of the
different study environments within the faculty. The implementation of
such a system of quality management is basically about creating a
quality culture at local level.
The main lesson learned is that things take time.
The system has to be acceptable and agreeable to all parties. The
responsibilities of all parties involved must be clearly expressed and
understood. Accountability and interdependence are key words in the
process of implementing and running the system. Just adopting a system
a system is not enough. The system must be accepted and maintained as
an integrated part of an overall quality culture.
Furthermore, it is argued that the system of
internal monitoring should be expanded to include a yearly survey of
the four or five year graduates. Such a survey should be carefully
designed to support the reasoning behind the continual adjustment as
well as to provide the background for more basic changes of the
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 traditional focus on only the research merits
in the academic world now tends to be changing. This is due the
increased focus on the educational issues and on the quality of the
teaching and learning environment. The increased focus on a quality
culture seems to be beneficial.
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
The lesson learned is that it is important to
describe very carefully the knowledge expected to be possessed by the
student after completion of the semester as this is the basis for the
examination. This is particularly important in order to understand and
to assess the progression of knowledge and cognition expected to take
place during the studies from freshman to graduate. Furthermore, the
formal contact to the external examiners provides a basis for
continual dialogue about and improvement of the content of the
Finally the quality of the university programmes is
assessed and developed through the process of external validation from
the National Evaluation Centre. This national means of quality
assurance is not a validation system for external approval of the
programmes prior to implementation. The validation report is seen as a
means of quality enhancement. The process of validation is based on a
comprehensive self-assessment report prepared by the institution, e.g.
the School of Surveying and Planning, and on a comprehensive survey of
the graduates to see to what extent the programme has been sufficient
according to the demands of different employment areas. The validation
process this way is seen as an adequate tool to assess the quality as
well as the effectiveness and efficiency of the programmes.
The lesson learnt in this regard is that the key
documentation produced through the self-assessment report should be
maintained and updated as a basic tool for quality management.
Furthermore, a survey of the graduates (e.g. after four or five years
of employment) should be carried out every one or second year in order
to ensure that the profile of the programme is constantly adjusted to
meet the demands of professional practice.
Enemark, Stig (2000): Creating a Quality Culture.
In: Towards Best Practice – Quality Improvement Initiatives in
Nordic Higher Education Institutions, pp 53-63. Nordic Council of
Ministers, Copenhagen. ISBN 92-893-0411-1.
FIG (1999): Quality Assurance in Surveying
Education. FIG Publication No. 19, 38p. FIG Bureau, Copenhagen.
Kjersdam, Finn (1998): La Innovacíon en la
enseñanza universitaria (Innovation in university teaching). In: Pora,
J.; Lladonosa, M.; Morin, E.; Kjærsdam, Finn (eds.): La universidad
en el cambio de siglo. Madrid, 35 pp.
Kjersdam, Finn and Enemark, Stig (1994): The
Aalborg Experiment, Project Innovation in University Education,
Aalborg University Press, 52 pp.
UNESCO International Centre for Engineering
Education (1999):Global Journal of Engineering Education, Vol. 3 no 1,
Special Edition on Quality Issues in Engineering Education.
Prof. Enemark is Reader in Land Management and Head
of School of Surveying and Planning at Aalborg University, Denmark.
Prior to his academic career, he worked as a licensed surveyor in
private practice for some ten years. He holds a Master Degree in
Surveying, Planning and Land Management. He is both an invited Fellow
of RICS and an Honorary Member of FIG. He was chair (1994-98) of
Commission 2 (Professional Education) of the International Federation
of Surveyors. He is currently Vice-President of the Danish Association
of Chartered Surveyors. His interests are in the areas of cadastre and
land administration systems, land management, and spatial planning
systems. Another area is professional education and the interaction
between education, research and professional practice. His has
published widely in these areas.
Prof. Stig Enemark
Head of School of Surveying and Planning
27 March 2000