ASSESSMENT AND ACCREDITATION PROCESSES: CONTRIBUTION TO IMPROVE A QUALITY ASSURANCE SYSTEM OF HIGHER EDUCATION IN PORTUGAL
The purpose of this paper is to contribute to the assessment and accreditation process of the Master in Integrated Management Systems (MIMS) offered by the Technology and Management Higher School of the Polytechnic Institute of Guarda (Portugal), in the past, now and in the future. In Portugal, the Agency for Assessment and Accreditation of Higher Education (hereinafter referred to as the A3ES) is the institution that has as mission to contribute to improving the quality of Portuguese higher education, through the accreditation and assessment processes of higher education institutions (HEI), in general, and their study programs, in particular, ensuring the integration of Portugal in the European quality assurance system of higher education. The methodology of the paper takes the form of an editorial review and argument, based on the MIMS study program undergone a formal assessment and accreditation process by an External Assessment Team, including foreign experts, who visited the HEI in order to produce a report supporting the resolutions of the assessment and accreditation process, ensuring the assessment of the study programs quality. Thus, the paper evaluate the impact of main principles of the assessment and accreditation process: specificity of the Technology and Management Higher School of the Polytechnic Institute of Guarda and the type of teaching/learning; all stakeholders are asked to participate and their contribution is taken on board; and self-evaluation is a key element in the process. The paper provides an empirical research based on information to scholars in the interdisciplinary social field of research about the assessment and accreditation process of study programs to ensure the integration of Portugal in the European quality assurance system of higher education. Indeed, the results of the paper prove that the MIMS program is designed to train senior staff in integrated management systems, such as: Social Responsibility (SA 8000; NP 4469-1), Quality (ISO 9000), Environment (ISO 14000) and Occupational Health and Safety (OHSAS 18000). The students get the knowledge and skills, techniques and scientific information, necessary for develop the professional activity in these areas, and strengthen the capacity of analysis, planning, implementation and management control, individually or integrated, these systems, both mandatory (legally) as a volunteer. Other result show that the Master’s degree meets what is defined on the mission of the HEI, which is “to train highly skilled professionals with an entrepreneurial spirit and solid humanist bases, and contribute to the cultural, social and economic development of the region and the country through quality service training, supported by academic programs with an appropriate educational model based on competence”. Another result of the paper demonstrate that the A3es have produce a positive report of the assessment process which had contribute to the highly skilled training that Technology and Management Higher School of the Polytechnic Institute of Guarda aspires by helping students to differentiate them from the market and be recognized for its contribution to regional development by economic and social promotion, as well as, the competence in the training it offers.