An Integrated Approach to Research and Academic Quality Management in Engineering Education

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1 An Integrated Approach to Research and Academic Quality Management in Engineering Education M.A. El-Kady, A.M. Al-Ahmari, R.M. Alhamali, A.A. Al-Karni, B.A. Al-Omar, S.S. AlQahtani, and M.A. Alshehri Members of the Quality Advisory Committee, King Saud University Abstract-Consistent with its commitment to quality performance and strive for research and academic excellence, King Saud University (KSU) has embarked on a recent vigorous initiative to promote research quality in all planning and operation functions within its campus. The aim of this paper is to introduce an overall integrated approach to quality management in engineering education and to share the experience by KSU in establishing the quality development system and to describe its features, design principles and implementation steps. Keywords - Quality in engineering education; Quality model; quality management; Total quality management, Quality assurance, Strategic planning and implementation; Benchmarking; Key performance indicators; Performance management. I. INTRODUCTION In keeping pace with today s dynamic education and research environment, coupled with increased completion and demanding job market for improved quality services and outstanding performance graduates, the higher education institutions worldwide are focusing their attention on issues relating to quality assurance, performance management and strategic implementation within the general framework of total quality management. As a leading academic institution, King Saud University (KSU) is committed to continual improvements of its performance on all fronts - in order to better serve its customers and maintain its responsiveness to society needs as a whole. In this respect, KSU has embarked on a recent vigorous initiative to promote quality in all planning and operation functions within its campus with direct impact on the engineering education and research. A new Quality Deanship was recently established in order to plan for, and oversee implementation of, various quality programs and activities in coordination with other quality units across the University. An Advisory Committee was formed to establish the overall quality framework at the University, including the development of the quality model, coordination of quality awareness and training activities, establishment of performance measures and benchmarking system, initiation as well as initiation and follow up on assessment and accreditation programs. The material presented in this paper serves the purpose of sharing the experience by KSU in establishing the quality development system, with an emphasis on engineering education and research, as well as describing its features, design principles and implementation steps. II. GENERAL BACKGROUND A general scan of the available literature would clearly indicate that many approaches and schools of thoughts have evolved over the years addressing various issues of quality management, quality assessment and quality frameworks and systems, in addition to defining the quality itself [1-7]. In general, quality may be thought of in terms of management leadership, customer satisfaction, meeting the requirements, good business practice, continuous improvement, etc. The generic components of the Total Quality Management (TQM) were elegantly depicted in [6] using an integrated framework towards quality management, which interacts with various business aspects and boundaries. Numerous quality models have been developed by researchers and organizations. In particular, the set of key models of excellence and improvement, as identified in [8], included the EFQM Excellence Model, the Malcolm Baldridge Model and the Deming Application Prize Model, which can all be used for excellence recognition and organization improvement, as well as the ISO 9001: 2000 Standard, which can be used for conformity assessment and the ISO 9004: 2000 Standard for conformity and performance assessment. In essence, three main strategic planning phases could be distinguished in the strategic planning and management models reported in the literature, including those in [10-14], namely: Strategic analysis, Strategic formulation and choice, and Strategic implementation. The introduction of the balanced scorecard and the strategy maps [15-17] constituted a well-received notion of using key performance indicators as means for achieving a balanced approach to ensure successful implementation of strategies. The ideology of Management through Measurement was followed in [5,18] to develop a comprehensive and balanced quality management and planning system, known as Quality Management, Information and Planning System (QMIPS), which comprises two distinct sub-models, namely: Quality management system model and the Strategic implementation model. Reference Number: WO

2 III. KSU QUALITY MODEL The Quality Model for King Saud University was developed as an integrated structure of various components of quality and excellence models reported on in the literature. In the development of KSU Quality Model, a set of concepts, common understandings, and guiding principles were identified from the start in order to serve as reference and basis for the associated developments. These principles are summarized as follows: 1 The KSU Quality Model should constitute clear and well-defined components that can easily be followed and transformed into strategic quality initiatives and programs by the University. 2 The Quality Model should reflect the specific nature of KSU operating environment and its social mandate and values. 3 The KSU Quality Model should be developed with full utilization of the previously gained experiences worldwide, and should be built using already existing quality concepts, notions and principles. Figure 1 depicts the KSU Quality Model. The Quality Model is basically an integrated structure of several quality notions and schemes as reported on in the literature. It incorporates aspects of both the EFQM Excellence Model [19] and the Balanced Scorecard Model [15], with some elements from the Malcolm Bald ridge quality assurance criteria [21, 22]. In addition, the model follows the well-known notions of Results-Orientation and Quality management via measurements & assessment via adoption of Enablers & Results Criteria with the 9 components of EFQM model [9,19]. The model also adopts a form of integration between two sub-models, namely Quality Management System & Strategic Implementation [18]. The backbone of the KSU Quality Model (as represented by the middle horizontal boxes in pink color) is essentially the main stream of the EFQM Excellence Model [19], in which Leadership drives Policy and Strategy, that are delivered through People, Partnerships and Resources and Processes in order to achieve excellent Results with respect to Performance as well as Customers, People and Society. The following is a brief description of various components of the KSU Quality Model of Figure 1, including step-by-step explanation of the key aspects of each portion of the model. In driving the Policy and Strategy, the Leadership sets, observes and is influenced by the Vision and Values of the institution, which are strategic in nature and are relatively fixed over a foreseeable tactical timeframe of the institution operating horizon. This is in contrast with the Mission and Goals, which are closely linked to the institution s Policy and Strategy, and require periodic re-examination and reevaluation as the need arises. Three stages of strategic planning and implementation are evident in the KSU Quality Model, namely i) the Strategic Analysis (performance e valuation and environment analysis of the internal and external factors), ii) Strategic Formulation & Choice (generation and adoption of alternatives), and iii) Strategic Implementation (balanced strategies). Reference Number: WO

3 The Strategic Analysis comprises detailed evaluation of the institution performance and environment analysis of the associated internal ( Strengths and Weaknesses) and external (Opportunities and Threats) factors. Naturally, the Strategic Analysis would serve as a guiding reference for setting the Policy and Strategy of the institution by the Leadership. The institution s Policy and Strategy are delivered through a set of Enablers, namely: i) People, which comprise Faculty, Students, Administration, and Support Staff, ii) Partnerships and Resources, and iii) Processes. The Strategic Formulation & Choice is essentially a procedure, which is driven by one of the Enablers [19], namely the Processes, and is mandated to generate suitable and pertinent Strategic Alternatives and to subsequently select the Recommended Alternative. The Strategic Formulation & Choice would normally require and depend on the use of an effective methodology to generate Balanced Strategies. In the KSU Quality Model, such methodology is consistent and in harmony with the key aspects of the well-known Balanced Scorecard model with five main components, namely: a) Strategic view & philosophy, b) Financial perspective, c) Customer perspective, d) Internal process perspective, and e) Learning & growth perspective. The Strategic Implementation adopts the generated Balanced Strategies and transform them into a workable integrated implementation scheme, which involves clear executable domains of activities, including a) Organizational Structure & Procedures, b) Quality Improvement Plans & Schedule, and c) Quality Programs, Awareness & Training. The Results achieved and realized from the Strategic Implementation comprise three principal components [19], namely i) People results, ii) Customer results, and iii) Society results. At this point, the Results associated with the current situation are realized and measured. The overall loop in the KSU Quality Model would then be closed by assessing the achieved Results in order to ensure alignment and consistency with the institution s objectives. The first step in such Results assessment is to cast and examine the achieved Results in light of Key Performance Results in order to ensure a viable, realistic and practical assessment in terms of a) Resource Audit, b) Value Audit, c) Affordability, and d) Constraints. Needless to say, the assessment of Results represents a cornerstone in the KSU Quality Model, which builds on the notions of Results-Orientation and Quality management via measurements & assessment. At the heart of the task to Assess Current Quality Status is the process of identifying, updating and evaluating a comprehensives set of pertinent Key Performance Indicators ( KPI s) and comparing these KPI s with internationally recognized Benchmarks. The outcome from the assessment of Results is manifested, as part of the Innovation and Learning experience, and is fed back to the Leadership in the form of a Required Action. Such action would normally constitute one of two states, either a) Correct (if the q uality results are deficient), or b) Improve. It is worth noting that the issues of performance assessment, KPI development and benchmarking are placed top on KSU priorities and are currently being pursued by dedicated teams with wide representation across the university. The KPI structure (Map) associated with the KSU Quality Model is programmed as an advanced interactive database simulation and analysis tool that can easily be updated and manipulated for data entry as well as processing and reporting of performance assessment results. The KSU KPI map is structured in a hierarchy (tree) form and comprises four distinct levels of performance assessment Entities, as follows: i) Level-1: Performance-Domain, which represents the top level of performance assessment and constitutes two domains, namely a) Internal Performance Domain, and b) External Performance Domain. The Performance- Domain is identified by one (capital) letter in the KPI simulation database (i.e. I and E ). ii) Level-2: Performance-Category, which represents the second level of performance assessment. Each Performance Domain (parent-level) consists of several Performance Categories (child-level). For example, the Internal Performance Domain, comprises four Categories, namely a) Institution Academic Performance Category, b) Institution Financial Performance Category, c) Institution Human Resources performance Category, and d) Institution Management Performance Category. On the other hand, the External Performance Domain, comprises four Categories, namely a) Institution Public accountability Category, b) Customer accommodation/perception Category, c) View (by outsiders, including relations/media communications) Category, and d) Ranking of University and International Accreditation Category. The Performance-Category is identified by two letters in the KPI simulation database, the first representing the parent Domain. iii) Level-3: Performance-Attribute, which represents the third level of performance assessment. Each Performance Category (parent) c onsists of several Performance Attributes (children). For example, the Academic Performance Category, comprises several Attributes such as Teaching Performance, Learning Performance, Research Performance, etc. The Performance-Attribute is identified by three letters in the KPI simulation database, with the leading two letters representing the grandparent Domain and the parent Category, respectively. iv) Level-4: Performance-Indicator, which represents the forth (and last) level of performance assessment. Each Performance Attribute (parent) consists of several Performance Indicators (children). At this level, the Performance-Indicator must represent a clearly measurable quantity that is calculated according to a specific formula (expression). Fore example, a Performance Indicators may measure the ratio of students to faculty which, in this case, is calculated from a simple equation that divides the number of Reference Number: WO

4 students over the number of faculty members at the institution. The Performance-Indicator is identified by four letters in the KPI simulation database, with the leading three letters representing the grand-grandparent Domain, the grandparent Category and the parent Attribute, respectively. Referring back to the KSU Quality Model of Figure 1, the performance assessment portion of the model (represented by the purple-colored portion in the lower left side) comprises an important signal fed by the Leadership, that is the set of weights assigned to various performance entities. These weights are assigned to all performance entities at a given level in order to reflect the relative priority (importance) placed by the Leadership on various performance issues in accordance with the current strategic priorities and the prevailing conditions of business environment. For example, the Leadership may assign a higher weight to the External Domain than the Internal Domain, indicating that the External performance aspects in the current era of the institution work are strategically more important the Internal performance aspects. Similarly, different weights may be assigned to the different Categories within one Domain, different Attributes within one Category, or different Indicators within one Attribute. For example, the Leadership may assign a higher weight to the Research Performance Attribute within the Academic Category than the Teaching Performance Attribute, indicating more emphasis on Research Performance in accordance with the current strategic priorities of the institution. As noted in Figure 1, the KPI weight assignment takes place at both Strategic and Tactical levels. That is, the weights for the Domain and Category levels are assigned to reflect the Strategic direction of the institution, while the weights for the Attribute and Indicator levels are assigned to reflect varying priorities at the Tactical level. In the simulation database queries, the weights are compound hierarchically from the lower to higher level-entities in the KPI map. For example, the weights assigned to Indicators are also inherited back to and influences the equivalent weight of the associated attribute, which (together with its own assigned weight) is inherited back to the associated Category, and so on. IV. CONCLUSIONS King Saud University is committed to continual improvements of its performance in order to better serve its customers and maintain its responsiveness to society needs as a whole. This is particularly important in light of today s dynamic education and research environment, as well as the increased completion and demanding job market for improved quality services and outstanding performance graduates. This paper has focused on a recent vigorous initiative by KSU to promote quality in all planning and operation functions within its campus, including engineering education and research functions. As part of the initiative, a new Quality Deanship and an Advisory Committee were formed to establish the overall quality framework at the University, including the development of the quality model, coordination of quality awareness and training activities, establishment of performance measures and benchmarking system, initiation as well as initiation and follow up on assessment and accreditation programs. The material presented in this paper was intended to share the unique experience by KSU in establishing the quality development system and to describe its features, design principles and implementation steps, which can be applied in general to engineering research and education. The Quality Model for King Saud University, which suits engineering research and education activities, was developed as an integrated structure of various components of quality and excellence models reported on in the literature. As was demonstrated in the paper, the backbone of the KSU Quality Model (as represented by the middle horizontal boxes in pink color) is essentially the main stream of the EFQM Excellence Mode, in which Leadership drives Policy and Strategy, that are delivered through People, Partnerships and Resources and Processes in order to achieve excellent Results with respect to Performance as well as Customers, People and Society. The issues of performance assessment, in particular, including KPI development and benchmarking are placed top on KSU priorities and are currently being pursued by dedicated teams with wide representation across the university. In this regard, the paper presented a novel KPI structure (Map) associated with the KSU Quality Model. The KSU KPI map is programmed as an advanced interactive database simulation and analysis tool that can easily be updated and manipulated for data entry as well as processing and reporting of performance assessment results. The KSU KPI map is structured in a hierarchy (tree) form and comprises four distinct levels of performance assessment, namely Performance-Domain, Performance-Category, Performance-Category, and Performance-Indicator. As was explained in the paper, the KPI weight assignment takes place at both Strategic and Tactical levels. That is, the weights for the Domain and Category levels are assigned to reflect the Strategic direction of the institution, while the weights for the Attribute and Indicator levels are assigned to reflect varying priorities at the Tactical level. In the simulation database queries, the weights are compound hierarchically from the lower to higher level-entities in the KPI map. REFERENCES [1] P.B. Crosby, Quality is Free, New York: McGraw Hill, [2] J.M. Juran and F.M. Gryna, Quality Planning and Analysis, New York, McGraw Hill, [3] W.E. Deming, Out of the Crisis Quality Productivity and Competitive Position, Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, [4] K. Ishikawa, What was Total Quality Control? The Japanese Way. Englewood Cliffs, NJ; Prentice Hall, [5] T. Shawyun, Education Excellence: An Integrated Performance Measurement and Management Model, ASAIHL-THAILAND Journal, Vol. 6 No. 2, Reference Number: WO

5 November [6] R.S.M. Lau and C.A. Anderson, A Three-Dimensional perspective of TQM, 1998, International Journal of quality and Reliability Management, Vol. 15 No. 1, [7] A.V. Feigenbaum, Total Quality Control, 40th Anniversary Edition, McGraw Hill, NY, [8] T. Conti, Opportunities and Risks of Using Excellence Models, Institute of Quality Assurance, [9] EFQM Self-Assessment Guidelines, European Foundation for Quality Management, Brussels, [10] G. Johnson and K. Scholes, Exploring Corporate Strategy, 6th Edition, Prentice Hall, [11] H. Mintzberg, J. Lampel, J. Quinn, and S. Ghoshal, The Strategy Process: Concepts, Contents and Cases, Fourth Edition, Prentice Hall, [12] A.A. Jr. Thompson and A.J. III Strickland, Crafting and Executing Strategies The Quest for Competitive Advantage: Concepts and Cases, 14th Edition, McGraw- Hill Irwin, [13] M.A. Hitt, R.D. Ireland, R.E. Hoskisson, Strategic Management: Competitiveness and Globalization, 6th Edition, Thomson Southwestern, [14] T.L. Wheelen and J.D. Hunger, Strategic Management and Business Policy, 9 th Edition, Pearson Prentice Hall, [15] R.S. Kaplan and D.P. Norton, Translating Strategy into Action: The Balanced Scorecard, HBS Press, [16] R.S. Kaplan and D.P. Norton, The Strategy Focused Organization, HBS Press [17] R.S. Kaplan and D.P. Norton, Strategy Maps: Converting Intangible Assets into Tangible outcomes, HBS Press, [18] Assumption University of Thailand, AuQS 2000 QMIPS (Quality Management, Information and Planning Systems), 1st Edition, January [19] EFQM Excellence Model, European Foundation for Quality Management, Brussels, Reference Number: WO

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