Definition of an audit
An audit is a systematic, independent and documented process, in which the obtained audit material is objectively assessed to identify the extent to which the agreed audit criteria have been met. An audit can be carried out by the organisation itself or by a stakeholder such as a customer or other third party. An audit examines whether the organisation's quality management system conforms to the goals set for it, and whether it is efficient and suitable for the purpose. In practice, auditing is based on the quality documentation and on the selected standard or evaluation model (e.g. ISO, EFQM, CAF, etc.). An audit doesn’t focus on the objectives and outcomes of the activities as such; instead, it assesses the processes by which a higher education institution manages and develops the quality of its education and other activities. Present-day auditing supports the carrying out of an organisation's core mission and development projects, as well as the achievement of goals.
An internal audit is an independent and regularly occurring organisational development procedure addressing the quality management system. It examines how agreed procedures, stakeholder expectations and obligations set by the authorities are realised in practice, and in which sections the audit target still needs to further develop its activities.
In accordance with the university’s internal audit plan, each faculty, independent institute and service centre, as well as University Services are audited by specifically trained members of the academic community every second year. The Quality Coordinator prepares an annual audit plan for the entire university, and this plan features monthly timetables for the audit targets of the year in question, and defines the auditors in charge of each target.
For the purposes of auditing, there is a sufficient number of staff members on each campus and unit (1–2 persons) who have been trained to carry out audits. When auditing teaching, student representatives appointed by the university’s Student Union are sought to be included in the audit team. When necessary, the university organises training for internal auditors.
An internal audit evaluates the units’ quality management systems, their functionality and strengths, and proposes possible targets for development. An audit mainly focuses on themes that are agreed separately every year. In auditing, particular attention is paid to the identification of possible targets for development as well as to existing best practices. The objective is to help the unit to develop its activities in a direction characterised by better quality, and to learn from best practices of other units. Furthermore, another objective is to establish that the quality management system conforms to the plans and requirements set by the unit and the university.
A report is prepared relating to each audit. The university’s Quality Manager compiles the audit reports for each year and the university-level development targets identified in them, and prepares a summary for the management review. Heads of units are responsible for making sure that the results of the internal audit are discussed within the unit, that the development targets identified in the audit are reacted to, and that these are reported to the Quality Manager as agreed.
Internal audit reports are either public or for internal use only; the unit can decide the level of the report’s publicity.
Auditing can also be substituted with internal benchmarking, allowing an easy identification and dissemination of best practices. Both internal auditing and benchmarking involve self-assessments.
External audits and benchmarking
The university participates in audits carried out by the Finnish Education Evaluation Centre, FINEEC, in accordance with a national-level timetable. FINEEC audits are carried out every six years.
For years already, the university has been actively involved in the nationwide network of universities addressing quality-related matters. A couple of times per year, the network meets to discuss a topical quality-related theme. In addition, the university is involved in the local quality network of the Kuopio region.
The university and its units seek to identify good partners in matters related to quality both in Finland and abroad, and also to benchmark against these partners.