A Preliminary Analysis of the OUC Credit Bank’s Quality Assurance System

Li Lingqun
(Credit Bank, the Open University of China, Beijing 100039)

Abstract: The credit bank of the Open University of China, the Learning Outcomes Accreditation Centre, is a new type of national educational service institute providing accreditation, accumulation, and transfer of all kinds of different learning outcomes.

It is also one of the main systems for learning outcomes accreditation, accumulation, and transfer of credits for continuing education in China. Quality is the foundation of the credit bank to establish its credibility, and its lifeline to sustained development. A gradual establishment of a quality assurance system that is internally and externally integrated, as well as dynamically adjustable, has become an extremely important focus during the credit bank’s construction. This article makes a preliminary exposition on the OUC credit bank’s quality assurance system with respect to why (significance and purpose of the construction), who (the main body of the construction), and how to construct (construction principles), as well as what kind of system is to be built, and how it is to be operated (the assurance system framework and operating mechanisms), and makes suggestions on the construction.

Keywords: the OUC Credit Bank; quality assurance system; construction main body; construction principles

The OUC Credit Bank, the Learning Outcomes Accreditation Centre, is one of the main executors of the nationwide continuing education system’s learning outcomes authentication, accumulation, and transfer of credits. As a new, nationwide type of educational service institution, its main task is to provide society with accreditation, accumulation, and transfer of all types of learning outcomes. After more than three years of development, the OUC Credit Bank has an initial operational mode comprised of learning outcomes and a standard system as its technological path, a learning outcomes transfer alliance as the operational platform, and learning outcomes service system and information platform as service carriers. Now, it has entered its full trial implementation, and a gradual establishment of a quality assurance system that is internally and externally integrated, and dynamically adjustable, is extremely important to the credit bank’s continued development.

Quality will be the foundation of the credit bank’s credibility. It’s difficult to become established and less possible to gain momentum toward sustainable development without credibility. This article makes a preliminary exposition on the OUC Credit Bank’s quality assurance system, with respect to why (significance and purpose of the construction), who (the main body of the construction), and how to construct (construction principles), as well as what kind of system is to be built and how it is to be operated (the assurance system framework and operation mechanisms), and makes suggestions on the construction.

I. The significance of and purpose for constructing an OUC Credit Bank quality assurance system

The OUC Credit Bank shoulders two major tasks. On the one hand, it’s a special OUC institution providing society with learning outcomes accreditation, accumulation, and transfer services, which characterises and embodies the OUC’s aim to adapt to everyone’s needs in the pursuit of lifelong learning, expanding educational functions, and undertaking a historical mission as an important support to the construction of a learning society. On the other hand, the technological path of the OUC Credit Bank’s pilot framework and standard system of learning outcomes represents an exploratory trial for the future establishment of a national qualification framework. Therefore, the construction of a quality assurance system is both the major means to promote the sustainable development of the OUC Credit Bank, and the path of exploration to gain experience in quality assurance of the construction and operation of a future national system.

International experiences in building a qualification framework demonstrate the necessity of establishing a strict quality assurance system and accreditation mechanism alongside a unified framework for grades and capacity criteria quality assurance. Otherwise, the qualification framework will be meaningless. That’s why great importance is attached to quality assurance and accreditation in promoting the qualification framework construction across all countries and regions, and the work is done through legislation or is delegated to specially established institutions. For example, the Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications Ordinance was passed in Hong Kong in 2008, which delegated the Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic & Vocational Qualifications (HKCAAVQ) the statutory role to make quality assurance and accreditation under a qualifications framework, to announce to the public the courses accredited by quality assurance institutions via registering their qualifications, and to guide people to take personalised paths of further study, choosing majors and courses of verified quality. The South African Qualifications Authority Act was promulgated by the South African government in 1995 to establish the South African Qualifications Authority as a statutory body to construct the National Qualifications Framework (NQF), and to supervise and ensure the quality of a qualifications framework during the process of implementation. With the formation of the NQF’s three major sub-frameworks, the South African authorities also established the South African Quality Assurance Authority for Regular Education, Continuing Education, and Training, the Commission on Higher Education, and the Commission on Trade and Industry Quality, with each respectively in charge of quality assurance of different types of education. New Zealand was the first country in the world to establish a national qualifications framework, and it has more in-depth practical experience in quality assurance systems as well. In April 2011, the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) renewed the New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF), and major reforms were made to the national qualifications framework. After its reforms, New Zealand also assigned different institutions to take responsibility for quality assurance of different types of qualifications and educational training content. The New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee (NZVCC) and New Zealand Qualifications Authority are responsible for the approval and quality assurance of qualifications programmes; the Academic Quality Agency for New Zealand Universities is responsible for comprehensive quality reviews of universities in New Zealand, and makes regular reviews of the quality assurance mechanisms established within universities.1

Seen from our current practice, the credit bank serves as a carrier for the implementation and operation of the qualification framework institution. It is an innovative cause, involving stakeholders such as the government, certifying and training institutions, resource providers, learning organisations, and learners, stretching across several fields of education, training, and human resources management. It must be recognised and supported by all of society if it is to operate smoothly. However, without existing powerful and forceful supportive and guiding policy, a gradual establishment of the credit bank’s credibility can only be achieved by respecting and safeguarding the interests of all parties involved, building a set of standard, deliberate, open, and transparent operating mechanisms, prohibiting and eliminating all accidental and intentional actions detrimental to the credit bank’s impartiality and authority, improving the quality of management and service at the credit bank, and meeting the diversified accreditation needs of various institutions and members of society. Hence, the OUC credit bank’s quality assurance system is, in fact, a set of operable tools and means built on the current operating mode and core tasks to achieve the above objectives. Quality construction involves long, complex, and dynamic development, and the construction of a quality assurance system must be continually adapted, improved, and perfected along with the credit bank.