SSE Educational Improvement System
SSE Educational Improvement System - Summary
The SSE Educational Improvement System is the name chosen for the educational quality management system at SSE. As such, the SSE Educational Improvement System starts from a view of a quality management system as being “a formalized system that documents processes, procedures, and responsibilities for achieving quality policies and objectives”. Thus, the SSE Educational Improvement System provides a descriptive framework and overview of the many and varied routines, activities, and policies that all come together to ensure that SSE delivers high-quality education to its students.
The SSE Educational Improvement System describes and supports the systematic and ongoing work of both assuring and continuously improving the quality of education at SSE. It supports that work by providing information to both internal and external stakeholders, such as faculty, staff, students, and accreditation bodies. The summary description of the SSE Educational Improvement System is purposefully written for use by a general readership. There is a more detailed version of the Educational Improvement System available for internal use. To complement this description there are manuals that contain the operational details of various aspects of the quality system.
The SSE Educational Improvement System encompasses the degree programs on Bachelor, Master, PhD, and MBA level. The Vice President Degree Programs has the overall responsibility for the SSE Educational Improvement System and works closely with the Quality Assurance team to ensure it is up to date.
A visual representation of the SSE Educational Improvement System is found below. The SSE Educational Improvement Systems has four constituent parts and the visual representation highlights the important linkages among these parts.
Strategy and Goals
Important starting points for all work with assuring and improving the quality of education is SSE’s strategy and the goals that follow from this strategy. The strategy governs all activities taking place within the SSE Educational Improvement System. Three components are crucial here:
- SSE’s mission, as formulated by its founders in 1909. The mission of the Stockholm School of Economics is to strengthen Sweden’s competitiveness through science-based teaching and research.
- SSE’s strategy. Based on this mission, the School has formulated a strategy, which currently guides the School’s activities through 2025. The strategy includes a set of key performance indicators, which are monitored by the SSE Board of Directors.
- SSE’s educational mission. The school has formulated a goal that characterizes qualities it expects of SSE graduates.
The Board of Directors is responsible for the legally defined oversight of the School’s activities. The International Advisory Council advises the Board of Directors on strategy development from an international perspective. Together, the Board of Directors and the International Advisory Council perform the governing and strategic advisory functions for the School. This includes establishing goals and priorities, advising the School on its strategic development and international positioning, and providing guidance about the School’s relationship with the business community and society at large, particularly these communities’ current and future expectations and requirements.
Student Learning Journey
Central to the SSE Educational Improvement System is the student learning journey. This journey serves as the focal point and organizational framework for the School’s educational activities. It consists of three different phases. It starts with the recruitment and admission of students. The second phase is teaching and learning assurance. Phase three is the assurance of educational outcomes.
Phase 1 - Recruitment and Admission of Students
It is crucial to SSE’s mission to recruit high-quality students. Selection of high-quality students is an essential quality factor because high quality education follows from the interaction of students who are talented, motivated, and academically accomplished. SSE must therefore have recruitment and selection processes that ensure the enrollment of a diverse body of excellent students. Based on the applicable admissions regulations, admissions is carried out by Admissions Boards, one for each educational level.
To monitor the quality of the recruitment and admissions process, the SSE Program Office carries out annual surveys of admitted students (Entrant Survey) and of those who decline the admissions offer (Decline Survey). For applicants who were admitted but declined the offer, assessment is exploratory rather than criterial, and it seeks to understand why accepted applicants decline and where they have enrolled instead of SSE.
Phase 2 – Quality Work with Teaching & Learning
Because SSE only enrolls students into degree programs and not into standalone courses, degree programs are the central component in the second phase of a student learning-journey approach to quality improvement. The program level serves as the key arena for the achievement of educational outcomes. The operational organization of programs reflect this. There is a Program Director for each program, whose role and responsibilities are regulated by the Rules of Procedure. At each program level, there is also a system of program managers, who deal with much of the day-to-day student interaction. Program evaluations are carried out annually, and these constitute one of the sources used.
Although there are elements of the program experience that go beyond individual courses, degree programs ultimately rest upon a set of courses. Assuring the quality of these courses is therefore central to assuring the quality of the degree program. Courses and their outcomes are assessed at three different points: mid-course, end-of-course, and grade-distribution reviews.
- SSE uses a system of mid-course feedback. Course Directors are free to determine the format, parameters and criteria for mid-course feedback and use them to address potential concerns with the course, particularly those that may be addressed during an ongoing course.
- Each course is subject to a centralized end-of-course evaluation. There is a standardized format for these evaluations, although Course Directors are free to add additional questions. The end-of-course evaluations collect both qualitative and quantitative feedback. The information collected in the course evaluations is therefore shared widely in the organization.
- As part of the quality assessment of courses, SSE works to safeguard against grade inflation. This safeguard consists of a stipulated limit on the proportion of students receiving the highest grade (Excellent). To monitor the compliance with this stipulation, there is a system of grade-distribution reviews in place.
As the final dimension of the quality assessment of teaching and learning, SSE continuously monitors student progress. These assessments are used primarily to support students. Because SSE is a small academic institution and all but one of our degree programs has 90 students or fewer per cohort, student advisors and program managers keep track of students’ academic progress and offer support whenever needed.
Phase 3 - Quality Work with Educational Outcomes
Given its mission and close relationship with the business community, SSE must ensure the quality of programs beyond graduation in students’ careers and contributions to society. Two types of quality work measure this long-term strategic impact. First, a placement survey of recent graduates. Second, the data collection carried out as part of business school rankings that are conducted by various ranking bodies, primarily the Financial Times (FT).
Key to delivering a high-quality student learning journey, is the provision of high-quality resources that are necessary for the education. These resources come in several forms, and they fall into four categories.
Excellent faculty is key to developing excellent education. SSE works to ensure and improve the quality of the faculty through three channels – the recruitment and promotion of faculty, professional development, and the provision of pedagogical incentives.
Professional Services staff
The Professional Services staff at SSE play a critical role in providing a high-quality educational experience for students. This staff is organized in departments based on and around the student journey, supporting and contributing to educational quality. All the different roles/departments contribute importantly to providing a high-quality educational experience for students, and Professional Service staff collaborate across organizational boundaries, for example by working jointly on recruitment activities and by sharing data necessary for improvements of the student learning journey.
The provision of high-quality education is also strongly affected by the quality of the infrastructure in place, particularly regarding the School’s premises and information technology. There are several forums where SSE gets input from the students about the premises, for example student focus groups and the regular meetings between representatives from the Management Team and the Student Association.
A strong financial commitment is a necessary condition for the kind of internationally competitive, high-quality education SSE aims for and provides. Nevertheless, given the special status of SSE in the Swedish university system, essentially being a private university with partial support from government funding, yet having no opportunity to charge tuition fees from EU nationals, financing the School’s activities is a critical task. In working to attract the funding necessary to run the school, a number of stakeholders have important roles and responsibilities.
Continuous improvement of all aspects related to educational design and delivery is important to SSE. This is the reason that the work of continuous improvement is located at the center of the visual depiction of the SSE Educational Improvement System. The various links between continuous improvement and the other parts of the Educational Improvement System also serve as reminders that input into the work of continuously improving comes from several different sources.
A central pre-requisite for the continuous improvement of the education quality is the strong quality culture that exists at SSE. This culture is driven by the focus on recruiting high-quality students, faculty, and professional staff. Combined with the long-standing history of the School and its focus on excellence, the continuous improvement of education is built into the culture of SSE. The creation and maintenance of this culture is enhanced by the relatively small size of SSE.
The work of continually improving is conceptualized here as a set of improvement cycles that operate at different levels and that have different input and governance.
- Course improvement cycle. At the level of the course, course directors are responsible for continually improving their courses. The improvement of courses takes place on an annual cycle because courses normally run once per year. Important input to course improvement comes from end-of-course evaluations, but is complemented with other sources of information.
- Program improvement cycle. Program directors are responsible for the quality of their respective program. In improving the program quality, they rely on a number of different sources of input. These include program advisory boards, benchmarking exercises, program evaluations and student dialogue.
- Program level improvement cycle. For each program level (BSc, MSc, PhD and SSE MBA) there is a program committee in place, which always involve student representatives. The role of the program committee is to support program directors and it is an important source of learning across different programs and thus provide input into the program directors’ work of improving programs.
- Program portfolio improvement cycle. At the highest level, there is a program-portfolio improvement cycle. At this level, changes are made to the composition of the program portfolio. Such changes are infrequent, but over the years programs have been added, merged, and removed. Input to such changes may come from various sources, including competitive analysis, performance evaluation of existing programs, and input on future strategic directions of SSE from the Board of Directors. Larger decisions on changes in the program portfolio are decided by the Faculty and Program Board.
There is of course a significant flow of information across these different levels, so that for instance input into the improvement of courses may come from discussions pertaining to the whole program portfolio, taking place for instance in meetings of the Board of Directors.
SSE is, finally, also embedded in an eco-system of different stakeholders, who in different ways guide and impact the work of assuring and continually improving the quality of education. A dialogic perspective guides SSE’s quality assurance work with external stakeholders. Each of these dialogues contributes both directly to the work with quality at SSE and indirectly to improvements in SSE’s Educational Improvement System.
Each stakeholder is unique, with a particular relationship to the School, and therefore each dialogue is unique. There are, nevertheless, principled similarities among some of them. Three quality-assurance partners (UKÄ, EQUIS/EFMD, and CEMS), who are all in distinct ways accreditation bodies, work with peer-reviewing methodologies. Two other stakeholders work with self-reporting methodologies. These are PRME and the Financial Times (FT). PRME is a United Nations-supported initiative that raises the profile of sustainability in business schools around the world and equips today's business students with the tools needed to deliver change tomorrow. The Financial Times is a newspaper that publishes rankings of business schools and their programs, and in addition to SSE’s self-reporting, the FT collects survey data from graduates on their program satisfaction and career development.
Finally, SSE regularly conducts benchmark studies with schools both in Sweden and abroad. The benchmarking studies are used to gain valuable input and ideas on how to improve specific areas within the SSE Educational Improvement System.