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Academic audit report of Lincoln University


Monitoring and enhancing academic quality in New Zealand universities since 1993
Media release 31 October 2012

Academic audit report of Lincoln University

Te Whare Wānaka o Aoraki

The New Zealand Universities Academic Audit Unit (NZUAAU) is today releasing the report of its most recent academic audit of Lincoln University. This audit is the eighth and final of the Cycle 4 academic audits of New Zealand universities to be conducted by NZUAAU between 2008 and 2012. Cycle 4 audits cover all aspects of an institution which are related to academic activity.

Lincoln’s history as a tertiary institution dates to 1878 when it was founded as a School of Agriculture linked to Canterbury College. The College transitioned to Canterbury Agricultural College in 1896 and achieved autonomous status as Lincoln University in 1990. On 1 January 2011 Telford Rural Polytechnic was incorporated into the University. Lincoln University now enrols approximately 3,500 equivalent full-time students and, with the incorporation of Telford, the University’s qualification portfolio ranges from Level 2 to Level 10 (PhD).

Lincoln University’s mission is “to provide national and international leadership in research and teaching that will contribute to ensuring a sustainable environmental, social and economic future for New Zealand”. The University offers twenty Bachelor’s degrees, thirty-four postgraduate degrees and a range of undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate diplomas and certificates with a particular emphasis on land-based disciplines, biosciences and agribusiness. The University highlights the practical component of many of its programmes and promotes its programmes as being interdisciplinary.

The University enjoys a very collegial environment which extends to including postgraduate students as academic peers. Staff and students are congratulated on their resilience and positive outlook in the face of the unusual difficulties stemming from the 2010-2011 earthquakes, as well as other disruptions to normal business. The audit panel commends the University on the highly effective processes it has used to facilitate the merger with Telford Rural Polytechnic.

The University is also commended on the manner in which its land-based focus is being redeveloped and reinvigorated. To bring full effect to this change, the panel recommends that the University improves its external communication with respect to the achievements and research and educational opportunities which flow from the core focus on the land.

Central to the University’s mission are its links with AgResearch Limited, Ngai Tahu and relevant university and industry partners. The panel commends the University on the range and depth of its domestic partnerships. In particular, the strength of the University’s interface with the Māori community is commended along with the University’s focus on ensuring students have opportunities to receive an education which reflects Māori interests and aspirations.

Academic quality assurance at Lincoln University is undertaken in a manner broadly consistent with the approaches taken by most New Zealand universities. The panel recognises that at Lincoln University there is the potential for quality oversight to rest with a small number of individuals as part of a portfolio of multiple responsibilities. To mitigate risk associated with this, the panel recommends the articulation of an academic quality assurance framework which shows how processes are developed, coordinated, and monitored, and how risks related to academic activity are managed across the organisation.

The panel also recommends that the University explores opportunities for benchmarking academic practice and academic standards. At the postgraduate level, the panel commends the University for its management of postgraduate study, including initiatives to reduce thesis completion times, and the provision of appropriate support. The panel recommends that that the University review its examination procedures including the externality of research Master’s degrees and PhD examination panels, and develops external moderation procedures for the grading of Honours degrees.

The panel affirms the University’s approach to a new coordinated and contemporary strategy for learning and teaching and applauds its student-centred ethos. Both Lincoln-based students and Telford-based students speak highly of the “open-door policy” of academic staff. The panel recommends that the University explore the feasibility of extending its current systems to identify students with particular needs for support.

The panel affirms the University’s recent review of student experience and retention, and its planned approach to recommendations in this area. Given the number of wide-ranging enhancements the University has planned for the next few years, the panel recommends that the University consider its prioritisation, planning, people and financial resource capacity to deliver the changes it requires. The panel also recommends that the University develops institution-wide principles for academic workload management, and develops strategies for ensuring staff have regular opportunities to take research and study leave to refresh their academic practice.

Copies of the report are available from NZUAAU; a Portable Document Format (PDF) file version of the report is posted on the NZUAAU website: www.nzuaau.ac.nz/lincolncycle4.

Dr Jan Cameron

Director

31 October 2012

About the New Zealand Universities Academic Audit Unit
The New Zealand Universities Academic Audit Unit (NZUAAU) was estab
lished in 1993 to carry out audits of the processes in universities which underpin academic quality. Academic audits are carried out by panels of auditors appointed from NZUAAU’s Register of Auditors. Each panel includes an overseas external member, who is usually selected from the Australian Register of Auditors. The NZUAAU governing Board is appointed by Universities New Zealand - Te Pōkai Tara (formerly the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors' Committee). NZUAAU is operationally independent of Universities New Zealand - Te Pōkai Tara. NZUAAU is a full member of the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE) and follows its guidelines in quality assurance conduct. Further details, including copies of all Cycle 4 audit reports, are available from the NZUAAU website: www.nzuaau.ac.nz.

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