The University Act establishes Prince Edward Island's only university and protects the university's credentials by stating that no organization other than the University of Prince Edward Island may use the term "university." The statute outlines the University's authority to govern itself through the operations of a board of governors and a senate. These bodies have the authority to determine all matters relating to programs and qualifications of employees, as well as all other matters deemed to be in the interest of the institution. No explicit reference is made to mechanisms for or accountabilities pertaining to quality assurance of educational programming. Program quality responsibilities are implied through the powers and duties assigned to institutions' internal governing bodies.
The Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission Act establishes the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission (MPHEC) and applies to seventeen postsecondary institutions, including 15 publicly funded universities and two specialized applied arts and technology postsecondary institutions in the Maritime region. The act provides the commission with the responsibility of (a) reviewing the academic programs prior to implementation and (b) monitoring the institutional quality assurance policies and procedures. The commission is an agency of the Council of Atlantic Premiers, and it provides advice to ministers responsible for postsecondary education in the Maritimes.
The University of Prince Edward Island has no formal affiliations with colleges or other universities. It should be noted, however, that the Atlantic Veterinary College is housed within the University of Prince Edward Island. The AVC has professed and demonstrated strengths in aquaculture and fish health, biomedical or comparative medical research, and population medicine.
External and internal review
The quality of the University of Prince Edward Island's programs is addressed in three ways. First, programs are evaluated by the university's own process of self-study and review conducted in accordance with internal policies and procedures. Second, the MPHEC reviews all new program proposals and all significant changes to existing programs. The commission focuses on continuous quality improvement of programs and teaching. The overall objective of program reviews is to ascertain the suitability of the program given its objectives, structure, institutional appropriateness, resources, stated student outcomes, and their relevance. Detailed program proposal guidelines are provided to institutions.
The third quality assurance activity is the MPHEC's monitoring of quality assessment procedures used by institutions. This is especially important given that the cornerstone of quality assurance is self-assessment by the institutions. The specific objective of the MPHEC monitoring function is to ascertain that the procedures used by institutions to assess the quality of existing programs are performing adequately. The process is formative; institutional policies and practices are reviewed with a view to providing assistance and advice to institutions.
The process pays particular attention to each institution's mission and values. In both processes outlined above, MPHEC's quality assurance procedures start with internal reviews by the universities. For details on these procedures, contact the individual institutions. Full details on quality assurance procedures used by the MPHEC are available on the Internet.
Many of Canada's regulated professions have associations that conduct accreditation reviews of university programs pertaining to their professions. In these instances, accreditation teams from the professions review reports provided by the universities and may conduct on-site visits in accordance with the policies and procedures established by the professions.
Other Organizations Related to Quality Assurance in Universities
The University of Prince Edward Island is a member of the Universities Canada. Although the association does not perform formal quality assurance functions, it does maintain membership criteria that address the primary mission of institutions, the range of program offerings, the breadth and depth of programs, the nature of members' relationship with parent institutions, the size of enrolment, institutional focus on scholarship, academic inquiry, and research, and compliance with the principles of academic freedom and responsibility. Institutions applying for membership must host an Universities Canada Visiting Committee that reports to the Universities Canada Board of Directors on a variety of items and recommends a decision on whether the applying institution is providing education of university standard.
The Association of Accrediting Agencies of Canada (AAAC) is a national organization composed of professional associations involved in promoting good practices by its members in accreditation of educational programs.