Paul Bowen: Very impressed with the process

29 March 2004

Prof Paul Bowen.

Paul Bowen: Very impressed with the process

He explained: "We have regular, annual professional accreditation visits from a number of bodies - the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the South African Council for the Quantity Surveying Profession (SACQSP) and the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) in the UK.

"These accreditation documents take an enormous amount of time to prepare, and tie up staff who should otherwise be engaged in academic work. So, you could say, we were a little accreditation-weary as we had just had such a visit when the dean, Professor Cyril O'Connor, asked us if we would volunteer for the trial run.

"Initially, I was a little bit alarmed that the university was going to be bringing in it's own system. I thought: 'Oh no, not another one!' But then I thought: 'Why not kill two birds with one stone?'"

By being one of the first to volunteer, Bowen figured this might be a golden opportunity to promote the idea of streamlining the whole accreditation process. He also thought it would raise awareness of how much work these visits actually entailed.

Professor Rob Pearl of the University of Natal chaired the committee. Internally, it included Professor Gerald Nurick, of mechanical engineering, and Sue-Ellen Shay from the Centre for Higher Education. Judy Favish and Colette February of Institutional Planning gave professional support.

To his pleasant surprise, he found the internal process to be quite different to his earlier experience of accreditation visits.

"Really, it was excellent, I have to say. They were here for two days, and it was far more thorough than any professional accreditation we have ever had. They asked more searching questions from an academic and developmental point of view. There was a different emphasis altogether that was very rich and deep. I was very impressed."

As it turned out, Bowen's department got a "very favourable review with a few minor points to think about", and this will be taken forward with staff and students in the department.

However, Bowen says he does feel some sympathy for departments that do not have the kind of documentation they have on hand because of the regular professional appraisals they go through. This is why he's willing to extend a helping hand to any department up for an appraisal by making documentation available for scrutiny.

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