Over the past few years, De La Salle University (DLSU) has been consistently regarded as an esteemed university locally and internationally. With the several acclaims attached to the University’s name, these have come as a result of providing quality education, evidenced by its accreditation levels, rankings, and board exam results.
Quality Assurance Office (QAO) Director Dr. Gerardo Largoza states that these are social facts that present an idea on the level of quality that the University exhibits.
According to DLSU President Br. Raymundo Suplido FSC, the continuous challenge is maintaining the established recognition of the University. In an effort to do so, the QAO is dedicated to coordinating concerted evaluations that assess the quality of the institution.
Internal, external accreditation
In order to ensure certain standards are met, several quality assurance measures are administered both internally and externally. Different types of evaluations may accredit the University as a whole or only a certain department, and the accrediting bodies may be local or international. While these evaluation processes are not mandatory, DLSU pushes for consistent renewal of such to assist in the recognition and improvement of its services.
Suplido narrates that initially, the QAO conducts preliminary evaluations in preparation for external accreditation. In coordination with department heads, the QAO composes a report that includes statements of their department’s enrollment figures, student-to-faculty ratio, among others. Other offices also contribute to the detailed report, such as the Accounting Office that provides information on maintenance, repairs, and finance.
The report acts as a guide for external accreditors such as the Philippine Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (PAASCU) when they formally enter a university for evaluation purposes. PAASCU and other accreditors view exhibits, which validate the data found on the report given. These include interviewing students, viewing evidences, assessing faculty distribution, and determining financing sources and allocation.
The findings of both internal and external evaluations will be compared by the University for future references, but ultimately, the accrediting body has the authority to renew the accreditation or upgrade the level previously given. In addition, the performance of the University will be used to determine the duration of the accreditation. In the case of PAASCU, their accreditation may be valid for three to five years.
At the national level, the University boasts that its colleges all have programs with Level IV accreditation status granted by PAASCU, as well as 14 Centers of Excellence and five Centers of Development designated by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). In addition, CHED has granted DLSU autonomous status, the highest status that can be conferred to a university.
Last November 28 to 29, PAASCU visited the campus as part of their re-accreditation of undergraduate programs in the College of Liberal Arts, School of Economics, Br. Andrew Gonzalez FSC College of Education, Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business, College of Computer Studies, and the College of Science.
DLSU is also voluntarily being evaluated by an international standard, the ASEAN University Network Quality Assessment (AUN-QA). Largoza explains that the evaluation is based on certain criteria that gauge whether a department’s curriculum is at par with ASEAN standards. Fifteen undergraduate programs in DLSU have been assessed by the AUN QA. Suplido also mentions other international accreditation boards which include the Philippine Technological Committee, partnered with the Washington Accord, and the Accrediting Board of Engineering and Technology.
Other social facts
Recently, DLSU’s research practices earned it a spot among the top 1000 research universities in the world in the 2019 Times Higher Education World University Rankings. Furthermore, the University has been performing well in the recent board exam results, with topnotchers in the Chemical Engineer and Certified Public Accountant Licensure Exams belonging to DLSU. Collectively, these achievements are social facts that manifest the institution’s performance. Largoza reiterates that the growing number of social facts about the University give the academic community confidence that DLSU is providing quality educational services.
As Suplido explains, this overall reputation of quality serves the purpose of providing a gauge in measuring DLSU’s quality for external stakeholders such as would-be students, faculty, and even foreign institutions that may take interest in the University. However, not all prospective stakeholders weigh quality as a deciding factor whether to enroll in DLSU or not. Suplido asserts that some may rely on other social facts that are not quantifiable. In particular, they may take into consideration the school being Catholic, the school’s tuition fees, and even the school’s performance in athletic competitions.
Room for improvement
While DLSU continues to garner achievements, Suplido still searches for areas of improvement that would further progress DLSU’s quality. At present, not all departments have reached Level IV PAASCU accreditation status, while some departments are currently designated as a Center of Development instead of the higher rating of Center of Excellence, all of which encourages improvement. In these cases, feedback from past evaluations and accreditations are used to better identify points for development.
Feedback from the accreditations also reveal areas of improvement for the University as a whole. Suplido points out examples such as the lengthy procurement process which sometimes causes delays in projects, the lack of equipment in some laboratories, and the need of support facilities in the Laguna Campus. He, however, gave examples of how student-specific needs have been given solutions, citing the launch of e-jeepneys in the Laguna campus, the new retreat venue in the Br. Andrew Gonzalez Hall, and the construction of an athlete’s dormitory which is nearing its completion.
Likewise, seeing how various sectors of the University almost unanimously agree that university governance remains to be a big problem, Largoza notes that school “systems” in the student, financial, and human resources cycles are unable to efficiently communicate with one another. Thus, the administration plans to launch an initiative that exactly aims to address this issue—the Bituin Project, aimed at harmonizing and resolving DLSU’s internal governance issues.
Initiatives such as these are aimed to ensure that the development of the University does not stagnate. The challenge for DLSU is not to reach the minimum level of its expectations—such has long been guaranteed for a university that has as many resources as the University does; instead, what DLSU actually strives for is to produce better results after every cycle.
This culture of continuous improvement is something which the QAO wants people to participate in through numerous opportunities. This entails subjecting the University to assessments at the department level, which DLSU fulfilled by partnering with an international body such as the AUN. The way these evaluations engaged students, faculty, and administrators alike was how DLSU cultivated its culture of constant development.
Working towards vision-mission
The University can expect to benefit from the effort it puts into quality assurance and the recognition it receives for it, as it can anticipate more partnerships and higher student influx. However, while these in themselves are important considerations, these, according to Largoza, are not their main target and are merely “secondary considerations.” Rather, he asserts, “I think the Brother President or the Chancellor or other members of the administration would be pretty consistent about saying it’s (quality assurance) really about the vision-mission.”
DLSU openly declares in its vision-mission statement that it values faith, sustainability, and service, and these are the things that Largoza argues give meaning to the work done in the University. A university is expected to know whether it has been able to work toward fulfilling its vision and mission. And because there is no world governing body that assesses the school, the QAO director states they must opt for “the next best thing”, which is to engage with various organizations and open the school for quality evaluation.