The Directorate of Higher Education Reviews (DHR) is part of the National Authority for Qualifications and Quality Assurance of Education and Training (QQA) that was established in 2008 as an independent body governed and supervised by the Council of Ministers.
Quality of higher education is essential in both the public and private sectors. In recent years there has been a rapid growth in knowledge, which has created multiple new specialisations, new skill sets, and shifted global trends in human capital requirements. To be successful in the new knowledge economy Bahrainis must have access to higher education. But access is not enough, government, employers, parents and students need to be assured of the quality of higher education and to be confident that graduates have gained the right level of skills and knowledge to participate successfully in the national and international marketplace. It is only then that they can contribute to the fulfilment of Economic Vision 2030 which requires that ‘the nation has a first-rate education system that enables all Bahrainis to fulfil their ambitions’.
The DHR is responsible for conducting quality reviews of both institutions and the programmes they offer and reporting on the findings of these reviews with the broad aim of contributing to the improving of the quality of higher education provision within Bahrain. The two types of quality review are carried out in a transparent manner and in line with international good practice. Panels of peer reviewers who are experts in higher education assess the effectiveness of an institution’s quality assurance arrangements against a pre-defined set of quality indicators through which areas of strength and weakness can be identified.
By the end of the 2012-2013 academic year, the DHR completed institutional reviews of all higher education institutions operating in the kingdom. All institutional follow-up visits have been undertaken, the purpose of which is to assess the extent to which the institution has addressed the recommendations for improvement given in the original institutional review report. All the reports have been approved by the Board, endorsed by the Cabinet of Ministers and published on the QQA’s website. This closes Cycle 1 of Institutional Reviews.
Programme reviews were carried out in the fields of Business and Law at bachelor level, Information Technology at master level, and eight Master of Business Administration reviews; 30 reviews in total. DHR also conducted four re-reviews and two follow-up reviews where Bachelor of Business programmes did not meet minimum standards. Two follow-up Law reviews were also conducted. The reports of these reviews have been published and can be viewed on the QQA website. In Cycle 2, the DHR is conducting Programmes-within-College Reviews. These evaluate the quality assurance arrangements within all existing learning programmes at bachelor and master level offered within a college.
The reviews are carried out using four indicators each of which have a number of sub-indicators and which are in line with international good practice. The Reports developed as a result of the Programmes-within-College Reviews make judgements about whether or not each of the programmes meet international standards as well as make recommendations for the enhancement of the programmes. All programmes offered within a college will be reviewed simultaneously.
In line with the QQA’s vision and mission, the DHR’s vision and mission are as follows:
The Directorate of Higher Education Reviews aspires to be recognised nationally, regionally and internationally for the quality of its contribution to the enhancement of the higher education sector in Bahrain, through the integrity and transparency of its processes in assuring and enhancing quality of higher education.
The mission of the Directorate of Higher Education Reviews is to contribute to the development of a good quality higher education sector in Bahrain by conducting:
(i) quality reviews of institutions and programmes (both for accountability and developmental purposes)
(ii) quality promotion and enhancement activities for the higher education sector
(iii) advancing Bahrain’s reputation as a leader in quality assurance in higher education regionally and internationally.
The DHR embraces and adheres to the QQA’s values.
The DHR’s main responsibilities are to:
• Enhance the quality of higher education in Bahrain by conducting reviews using expert panels that includes international and regional members - institutional and programme - into the quality assurance arrangements of the higher education institutions and to identify areas in need of improvement and to identify areas of strength.
• Ensure that there is public accountability of higher education providers through the provision of an objective assessment of the quality of each provider, i.e. Review Reports, for use by parents, students, and the Ministry of Education’s Higher Education Council.
• Ensure that higher education providers enhance their quality assurance arrangements as a result of the external reviews and the reports generated through analyzing the institution’s improvement plans and conducting follow-up reviews.
• Promote quality assurance in higher education through (i) capacity development workshops and other activities; (ii) through liaison with the HEC, and other stakeholders (iii) identify good practice where it exists and disseminate throughout the Bahraini higher education sector.
The review cycle starts with the institution being notified of the intended review dates. The institution prepares a self-evaluation report and submits to the DHR a review portfolio which includes the self-evaluation report and supporting evidence at least, two months before the scheduled site visit.
Following the review, a report is produced, which makes judgements regarding the findings of the review panel as to whether the programme satisfies each Indicator as shown in the table below.
Criteria for Judgements
The institution has an opportunity to comment on the report before it is finalised. Once the report is approved by the Board of the QQA and endorsed by the Cabinet of Ministers, it is published.
Three months after publication of the Review report the institution needs to submit to the DHR an Improvement Plan which shows how the recommendations contained within the review report will be addressed. The DHR analyses the plan and has a meeting with the institution to discuss the plan in terms of viability. Follow-up visit(s) for programmes receiving ‘Limited Confidence’ or ‘No Confidence’ judgements are conducted with the reports being published.
The Directorate of Higher Education Reviews (DHR) is part of the National Authority of Qualification and Quality Assurance for Education and Training (QQA), that was officially established in 2008 as an independent national body governed and supervised by the Council of Ministers. It received an expanded mandate in 2012.
The QQA is mandated to ‘review the quality of the performance of education and training institutions in light of the guiding indicators developed by the Authority’. The first cycle of reviews started in May 2008.
What is the purpose of the Directorate of Higher Education Reviews?
The main objectives of the DHR are to:
• enhance the quality of higher education in the Kingdom of Bahrain by conducting reviews into the quality assurance arrangements of higher education institutions in the Kingdom and identifying areas in need of improvement and areas of strength
• conduct programme reviews within higher education to ensure that international standards are being met
• ensure that there is public accountability of higher education providers through the provision of an objective assessment of the quality of each provider and programmes (Review Reports) for use by parents, students, the Ministry of Education’s Higher Education Council, and other relevant bodies
• promote quality assurance in higher education through (i) facilitating capacity development workshops and related activities; (ii) liaising with the Higher Education Council, industry, business and other stakeholders; and (iii) identifying good practice where it exists and disseminating it throughout the Bahraini higher education sector
• serve an advocacy role for Bahrain higher education within the Kingdom, the region and internationally.
What does the Directorate of Higher Education Reviews do?
1. Institutional Reviews
In keeping with this mandate, the DHR conducts institutional reviews across all higher education institutions operating in Bahrain. The external quality reviews of higher education institutions in Bahrain are consistent with the Guidelines of Good Practice of the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education.
The review process assesses the effectiveness of an institution’s quality assurance arrangements against a pre-defined set of quality indicators through which areas of strength and weakness can be identified. The first review cycle started in May 2008 and completed in 2013. The second review cycle is planned to start in 2014/15 academic year.
The DHR adheres to the principle that the primary responsibility for the quality of provision belongs to the university itself. The role of the DHR is to provide external validation of the claims made by a higher education institution in its self-evaluation report, submitted as part of its review portfolio. This portfolio forms the basis of the quality review. An external panel of peers and experts in higher education is constituted. The Panel carries out a site visit during which it gathers information which is compared to the claims made in the self-evaluation report and against the DHR’s 25 review indicators. The Panel then prepares a Review Report which makes judgements about the effectiveness of the institutional quality management systems. Once the Panel is satisfied that the report reflects its findings the report is taken over by the DHR. This Report goes through a number of internal quality assurance processes before being presented to the Board of the QQA for approval and endorsed by the Cabinet of Ministers. The report is then posted on the QQA's website.
2. Programme Reviews
The DHR embarked on programme reviews of higher education qualifications in 2009. The purpose is to ensure that graduates enter the workplace with the skills and knowledge to be able to contribute to the further economic development of Bahrain. Programme reviews are a specialized exercise, which focus on the quality assurance arrangements within existing learning programmes in a particular disciplinary or subject area. The reviews are carried out using four indicators developed by subject specialists and peers. The Report on the programme review will make judgements about whether the programme meets minimum standards as well as make recommendations for the enhancement of the programme. This Report goes through a number of internal quality assurance processes before being presented to the Board of the QQA for approval and endorsed by the Cabinet of Ministers. The report is then posted on the QQA's website. In 2012 a new framework was approved and is being implemented in which all the programmes within a college are reviewed at one time.
3. Capacity Building
The DHR also engages in capacity development initiatives. These are designed to improve institutional and individual knowledge of the management of quality assurance in the three core functions of teaching and learning, research and community engagement. They will enable institutions to improve their quality assurance arrangements in core functions as well as to foster a shared understanding of the DHR’s quality assurance system.
How does the Directorate of Higher Education Reviews relate to the Higher Education Council?
The Higher Education Council is responsible for the licensing of private higher education institutions. The outcomes of the institutional and programme quality reviews contained in review reports are used by the Higher Education Council in making decisions regarding the private higher education institutions.