Blue Ribbon Commission Examines Issue of Quality

Posted: May 12, 2000 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

The Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Higher Education says “an effort has quality if it achieves its purpose.” In its report, it concludes that the purpose of Virginia’s colleges and universities is three-fold: to prepare students for citizenship in a democratic society, for successful employment, and for personal fulfillment. To help assess student learning, the commission introduced a Quality Assurance Plan, to be fully implemented for the 2001-2002 academic year. As outlined in the report, this plan has three goals:

  • Define the knowledge and skills that cross the boundaries of the academic discipline or undergraduate major, degree type, or institutional mission and that are expected of every graduate of a public college or university in Virginia

  • Identify measures that will assess student mastery of these core competencies at key points in the undergraduate experience, and at completion of the undergraduate program

  • Provide a meaningful vehicle for public communication of the commonwealth’s expectations for its college and university graduates.

The commission calls on the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) to oversee the implementation of this plan. The commission also produced 11 recommendations to address the issue of quality. Following is a representative sampling:

  • Boards of visitors should set and maintain admission standards consistent with their institutional missions.

  • Boards of visitors should review the general education curriculum at least every six years to ensure that it provides students with a “core of common learning,” which includes instruction in mathematics, the sciences, technology, history, literature, and communication skills.

  • Presidents should implement a plan for posting all course syllabi on each institution’s website, so students, parents, and taxpayers can review what is being taught in particular departments and programs, including general education courses.

  • Boards of visitors should examine faculty performance review criteria and tenure review processes to ensure that they encourage and support undergraduate teaching. Boards should consider financial incentives for faculty members who make teaching a priority and exhibit excellence in the classroom.

The report, which is available on the SCHEV website, was produced by a committee including President Alan Merten and Sidney Dewberry, a member of George Mason’s Board of Visitors, as well as representatives of many of the commonwealth’s other colleges and universities, members of the General Assembly, and business leaders.

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