The criteria for measuring standards are divided into various categories. This categorization can be debated, and certainly other groupings are possible and defendable. However, after the inspection of several sets of criteria and/or standards used in international evaluation and accreditation, it was concluded that one could divide criteria for measuring standards into two groups: the first being those concerned with the organizational nature and characteristics of the institution providing programs and the second being those criteria that relate to the actual program being delivered by the institution.
Therefore we distinguish:
This can be subdivided into four subcategories:
A. Institutional Criteria for Measuring Excellence in Program Organization
The following set of criteria applies to the institutional level and can be seen as prerequisites to the delivery of excellent programs.
1. Strategic planning process: the program systematically should develop and update a program strategy within the framework of its chosen or mandated purpose. This process should address the programs activities in the areas of instruction, training, research and public services. This process should result in a distinct mission for the program.
2. Financial and budgetary structure: there should be a transparent and efficient financial and budgetary structure where those responsible for the program have clear budget control.
3. Quality assurance system: the program should have an adequate (continuous, circular and comprehensive) and formal quality assurance system (strategy, policy and procedures) in which the involvement of relevant stakeholders is assured. The output of this system should be publicly available.
4. Human resource management (HRM) system: the program should have an adequate HRM-system with respect to remuneration, personal development (and especially the development of educational skills and international experience) and involvement. Also, the faculty and staff should reflect the diversity in the population of the country.
5. Contribution to the discipline: appropriate to the mission of the program or institution, the faculty receives adequate support and stimulus to generate and disseminate new knowledge in the discipline of public administration and related fields.
6. Social and cultural diversity: the personnel policy and practice should reflect and promote social and cultural diversity.
7. Facilities: there should be adequate facilities with respect to library, support staff, classrooms and instructional equipment, ICT-systems and faculty offices, and (if applicable) residential facilities. The facilities should be accessible for disabled persons.
8. Student services: the institution should have adequate student services of good quality at least with respect to individual advice or tutoring and job placement assistance.
9. Public relations: the programs should have a public relations system that provides adequate, accurate and objective information on its tasks, objectives and structure, on the specific programs offered and their costs, on the awards offered and on the general performance of the program and institution.
10. Grievances: the institution should have an adequate (fair, accessible) system for the handling of grievances.
11. Exemplary function: the program should be run as an exemplary public organization.
12. Benchmarking: the program should regularly compare its functioning with (other) high performing organizations.
B. Criteria for Measuring Program Excellence
The second set of criteria for measuring standards applies to the substantive aspects of programs. Here four subsets are distinguishable: criteria for measuring standards for the development of programs, the management of programs, the content of programs and the performance of programs.
B1. Program Development and Review or Measuring Program Excellence
1. Program development and review process: there should be an adequate process for both the development of and the reviewing of the program – one in which all relevant stakeholders are involved.
2. Program goals and objectives: the program development or review should result in a set of clear and realistic program goals and objectives, including identifying the program target group(s) and program activity level; ideally the objectives should be formulated in the form of competencies or learning outcomes (knowledge, skills and attitudes) to be obtained. These goals and objectives can take the form of a program mission.
3. Educational strategy: on the basis of the program goals, objectives, level and target group(s) an adequate educational strategy should be designed. Especially the balance between theory and practice should be addressed. The use of multiple teaching methods should be realized. The teaching methods used should be ‘evidence-based’ as far as possible. When e-learning elements are used in the program, special attention should be given to them.
4. Program design: the goals, objectives and educational strategy should be translated into a program design that encompasses the program components, schedule, assignments and assessments.
5. Program coherence and consistency: the program should be coherent and consistent and the student should be able to fulfill its requirements within the time foreseen. The relation between the objectives, competencies and/or learning outcomes and the program elements, assignments and assessments should be clear.
6. Program faculty: the core faculty should include individuals with both academic and non-academic experience. For the most part, faculty teaching in graduate degree granting programs should possess terminal degrees and be actively engaged in research, service and, as appropriate, consulting activities. Adequately prepared practitioners should be involved in all academic programs and/or training programs.
7. Number of core faculty/staff: the number of full time faculty responsible for the core of the program should be at least four, or greater, depending upon the mission, size and comprehensiveness of the program.
8. Research involvement: the faculty/staff responsible for the core of any degree granting program should devote a significant percentage of their time to research and community service.
9. Program admission: there should be an adequate, transparent and fair admission procedure with the admission criteria publicly available.
B2 Program Content
1. Program coherence and consistency: the content of a program should logically follow from the program goals, objectives and chosen educational strategy.
2. Program level: the content should be adapted to the level appropriate for the target group(s).
3. Formal program requirements: the content should encompass the elements prescribed in requisites for a certificate or degree.
4. Program basis: the content of the program should, appropriate to the level of the program, reflect international ‘state-of-the-art’ concepts and insights, theories and methods. As far as possible, the methods/procedures/policies taught should be ‘evidence-based’.
5. Multidisciplinary: the content of the program should reflect the multidisciplinary basis of the public administration field.
6. Practical experience: Degree granting programs should be structured in such a manner as to insure that all graduates have had some sort of structured experience in the public or not for profit sector.
7. Community consultation: In the development of both training and degree granting programs, the needs of the organizations for which the individual is being prepared is of critical importance. Toward that end there must be appropriate consultation and dialogue.
8. Curriculum components: The program or training curriculum shall enhance the student's competencies, values, knowledge, and skills to act ethically, equitably, effectively and with efficiency: Subject to the mission of the program, they should include:
The Management of Public Service Organizations:
- Human resource management
- Budgeting and financial processes
- Information management, new technology applications, and policy
- Administrative and constitutional law
- Effective communication skills
- Organization and management concepts and behavior
- Not for profit and private sector relationships and grant management
Improvement of Public Sector Processes:
- Development of high performing organizations
- Management of networks and partnerships
- The delivery of public goods and services
- Management of projects and contracts
- Supporting workforce diversity
- Motivation and design of public sector organizations
Leadership in the Public Sector:
- Creative and innovative problem solving
- Leading institutional and organizational transformation
- Conflict prevention and resolution strategies
- Promoting equity in service delivery
- Developing approaches to poverty alleviation
- Promoting democratic institutional development
- Public Sector Ethics
The Application of Quantitative and Qualitative Techniques of Analysis:
- Institutional and developmental economics
- Policy and program formulation, analysis, implementation and evaluation
- Decision-making and problem-solving
- Strategic planning
Understanding Public Policy and the Organizational Environment:
- Political and legal institutions and processes
- Economic and social institutions and processes
- Historical and cultural context
- The management of economic development
- The implications of the “third party government”
- Acknowledging and reconciling cultural diversity
These area requirements do not prescribe specific courses. Neither do they imply that equal time should be spent on each area or that these courses must all be offered by public affairs, public policy or public administration programs. Nor should they be interpreted in a manner that might impede the development of special strengths or areas of specialization in each program.
9. There are other criteria that are relevant for assessing the excellence of programs. Such criteria refer to more general aspects of the program and contribute to the more overarching goals that are critical to the well being of any society. Consequently, programs preparing individuals for the public sector, or to enhance their skills, should have content addressing the following:
Public sector ethos: all education or training programs produced for the public sector should contribute towards the development of individuals with a true public sector ethos who can be characterized as being knowledgeable about and understanding the importance for an effective public sector of:
● Democratic values
● Respect for individual and basic human rights
● Social equity and the equitable distribution of goods and services
● Social and cultural diversity
● Transparency and accountability
● Sustainable development
● Organizational justice and fairness
● Recognition of global interdependence
● Civic engagement
Public sector skills: education and training programs preparing individuals for the public sector should enable (with respect to the goals and the level of the program) those participating to build personal capacities for:
● Analytical and critical thinking
● Dealing with complexity
● Dealing with uncertainty and ambiguity
● Operating in a political environment
● Building high performing organizations
● Involving other groups and institutions in society to realize policy goals
● Life time learning
● Applying life experiences to academic and training activities
Public sector nature: educational or training programs produced for the public sector (with respect to the goals and the level of the program) should address:
● Internationalization and globalization
● The balance between centralization and decentralization
● Impact of multinational organizations and agreements
● Weakening of the state (the influence of cutbacks and new public management).
● New modes of communication and their impact
● Collaborative governance
B3 Program Management and Administration
Another set of criteria for measuring standards has to do with program management:
1. Program responsibility: there should be a clear structure of responsibility for the program.
2. Program budget: the budget (in terms of finance, personnel and facilities) should be adequate to attain the programs goals and objectives.
3. Program administration: there should be adequate program administration.
4. Participant progress: there should be an adequate accounting for student’s progress that is available to the individual student.
5. Assessment: the performance of the students should be measured adequately, preferably in terms of competencies attained. Students should be assessed using published criteria, regulations and procedures which are applied consistently and students should have access to due process with regard to issues involving their performance.
6. Program information: students should have available timely, up-to-date information on the program.
7. Faculty review: faculty/staff involved in the program should be reviewed regularly and assessed on their performance.
8. Communication: there should be an adequate system of communication between all persons involved (students, teachers and staff).
9. Delivery consistency: in the case of multiple deliveries of courses, consistency in delivery should be guaranteed.
10. Program monitoring and review: there should be an adequate (continuous, circular and comprehensive) system of monitoring (course and program evaluation) and reviewing of the program with the involvement of all relevant stakeholders. This system should be consistent with the overall quality assurance system of the institution.
B4 Program Performance
1. Performance measurement system: there should be an adequate system of program performance measurement. The program performance measurement system should be related to the program objectives and to the degree feasible include a bench marking system.
2. Satisfaction: the satisfaction with the program as seen by relevant stakeholders (students, graduates and employers) should be measured regularly.
3. Basic operating information: information on relevant (depending on type of training or education) data such as number of participants, target group coverage, drop-outs, and (average) study time, should be readily available.
4. Specific targets: if specific targets are to be attained, the measured performance should be evaluated against these targets. Targets could be set by the institution itself, but also by relevant outside institutions.
5. Benchmarking: the performance of the program should be compared with the performance of other relevant programs when possible.
6. Impact on the community: appropriate to the mission of the program, its impact on the community should be measured and assessed.
7. Financial performance: Depending on the institutional arrangements, information on financial performance such as cost per student and return on investment (in terms of time, effort, funding) should be available.
8. Program Impact: Regular efforts to obtain assessments by the organizations for which individuals are being educated and/or trained must be undertaken. The results of these assessment efforts should be used to adjust program education and training activity in such a manner as to improve effectiveness and assure responsiveness.