Supporting Quality Teaching in Higher Education - Phase 1


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The 1st phase of the project aimed at providing an overview of how and why higher education institutions or organisations identify, implement, sustain, reward, disseminate the quality of teaching, and to highlight some drivers and difficulties to be overcome. It was made possible thanks to the collaboration of 29 higher education institutions from 20 countries which provided illustrations on their practice in the field of quality of teaching.




Participating institutions

Main findings




The project is based on an international review of the quality of teaching in volunteer institutions that allows dialogue on shared topics and the collection of information and benchmarks partly determined by institutions for their own purposes.The participating institutions were offered the possibility to set out and analyse their own practices on the support to the quality of teaching. The role of the faculty members, of the department, of the central university and of State was the central issue under analysis, as well as the goals and scope of the quality teaching initiatives put into practice. The project aims to study the two main approaches to quality teaching: the top-down approach, those quality teaching initiatives taken by the institution collectively and determined by its leadership, and the bottom-up approach, the quality teaching initiatives taken by the teachers and which may nevertheless have an influence on the institutional policy on quality teaching. To ensure the quality of the methodology on behalf of the IMHE Governing Board and provide advice at critical stage of the project, and ad hoc steering working group has been set up.


Five main tools have been used: 

  • The review of the literature
  • The online questionnaire
  • Complementary video or telephone interviews
  • Site visits
  • A dedicated conference


For a more detailed explanation of the methodology click here






- The overview of institutional policies and initiatives aimed at enhancing the quality of teaching (phase 1) has been completed: Learning Our Lesson: Review of Quality Teaching in Higher Education. You can download the interim version full report by clicking here. You can access the digest of the report by clicking here.


“What Works” Conference on Quality Teaching  was held the 12-13 October 2009 at the Istanbul Technical University. 


Participating institutions

Since the beginning the project has been opened to all the IMHE members, who have been contacted by email on the possibility to participate. At the same time the steering group has sought to involve other organisations who appeared to be heavily implicated in quality teaching, such as the Quality Assurance Agencies which suggested lists of potentially interested institutions. Some other networks have also been used for useful contacts and to find potentially interested institutions. A total number of 29 institutions from 20 countries have accepted the invitation. The opportunistic sample represents a good variety of higher education institutions.



UNNE – Universidad Nacional del Nordeste (Argentina)
Macquarie University (Australia)
UCL- Université Catholique de Louvain (Belgium)
McGill University (Canada)
Université de Montréal (Canada)
Université de Sherebrook (Canada)
CBS - Copenhagen Business School (Denmark)
Arcada - University of Applied Sciences (Finland)
Laurea - University of Applied Sciences (Finland)
Université de Lille 2 Droit et Santé (France)
Université de Pau et des pays de l’Adour (France)
Freie Universität Berlin (Germany)
Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz (Germany)
Dublin Institute of Technology (Ireland)
Tohoku Fukushi University (Japan)
Mykolas Romeris University (Lithuania)
UADY – Universidad Autònoma De Yucatàn (Mexico)
VU University - Amsterdam (The Netherlands)
State University, Higher School of Economics (Russia)
UOC-Open University of Catalunia (Spain)
ULL - Universidad de La Laguna (spain)
University of Geneva (Switzerland)
Istanbul Technical University (Turkey)
The Institute of Education – University of London (UK)
University of Teesside (UK)
Alverno College (USA)
City University of Seattle (USA)
University of Arizona (USA)
U21 Global (Online University)



See the map of the participating institutions.



Main findings

1.   The concept of ‘quality teaching’ is complex and open to a range of definitions and interpretations. This review has therefore adopted a pragmatic approach, based on how institutions define quality in their own circumstances.


2.   Changes in student profiles and learning requirements over recent decades have had a decisive impact on curriculum contents and teaching methods. The quality of teaching must therefore be thought of dynamically, as a function of contextual shifts in the higher-education environment, such as the internationalisation of studies and the additional missions that education is being asked to fulfil – innovation, civic and regional development, producing an appropriately skilled workforce to meet the challenges of the 21st century.


3.   To introduce an effective institutional policy for the quality of teaching involves harnessing synergy between two groups of factors:

  • Factors external to institutions, at the national and in many cases international levels (e.g. the Bologna process in Europe), which work as facilitators or catalysts, fostering a general climate conducive to the recognition of teaching quality as a priority;
  • Internal institutional factors: the institutional context (e.g. the appointment of a new chief executive) are likely to affect the pace of the development of quality teaching initiatives.


4.   The vast majority of the initiatives taken by institutions to enhance teaching quality are empirical  and address their particular needs at a given time. Initiatives inspired by academic literature and research on the subject are rare.


5.   For a university to consolidate these initiatives coherently under an institutional policy remains a long-term, non-linear effort subject to multiple constraints.


6.   Institutions should be aware that it is a university’s local environment that primarily shapes the extent of its commitment to the quality of teaching and that a sustainable commitment of the university top leadership is a necessity for success in quality teaching.


7.   Encouraging bottom-up initiatives from the faculty members, setting them in a propitious learning and teaching environment, providing effective support and stimulating reflection on the role of teaching in the learning process all contribute to the quality of teaching.


8.   Neither the size nor the specificity of an institution poses a major obstacle to the development of institutional policies as long as the involvement of the institution’s management is manifest and ongoing, and sufficient funding and adequate facilities are earmarked for the quality of teaching on a long-term basis.


9.   The participation of faculty deans is also vital insofar as deans, being at the interface between an institution’s decision-making bodies and teachers on the job, encourage the cross-fertilisation of strategic approaches, build and support communities of practice and nurture innovation in everyday practice in the classroom.


10.   The deployment of policies for the quality of teaching also hinges on an institution’s capacity to strike a balance between technical aspects of quality support (e.g. development of course evaluation questionnaires) and the fundamental issues raised (e.g. assessing the added value of the teaching initiatives in achieving curriculum objectives).


11.   Quality teaching initiatives have emphasised the role of teaching in the educational transformative process, have refined the interaction between research and teaching and have nurtured the culture of quality within the academic community.


12.   Institutions need to develop innovative evaluative approaches to measure the impact of their support on quality teaching. The higher education sector is still struggling to understand the causal link between engagement in teaching and the quality of learning outcomes. Exploring the correlation between inputs, processes and outcomes of higher education calls for pioneering and in-depth evaluation methods and instruments.


13.   The support for quality of teaching usually generates awareness of the responsibility of teachers in the learning process and justifies the institutional need for helping them to fulfil their mission.






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