3.3.4 Self-assessment and internal auditing

Self-assessment is a powerful tool for quality, if and when it is an inherent part of the quality approach within a VET institution and is carried out systematically and comprehensively. In most cases it is coordinated and implemented by the core quality team of a VET institution, assembling quality officers and experts under responsibility of a quality manager, but it goes without saying that other staff members – preferably teachers and trainers – are invited to participate in this process as well. Senior management should participate too and should motivate teachers, trainers and other stakeholders to engage in small teams for self-assessment of quality, where the organisation’s strengths and weaknesses should be addressed in an open and honest debate.

The debate should of course consider the facts and feedback data collected from different sources, but it should also rely on ‘intangible knowledge’ of teachers, trainers and other staff. Ikujiro Nonaka and colleagues have demonstrated that new organisational knowledge is always generated from two sources: ‘explicit knowledge’ consisting of data, standards and indicators, and intangible ‘implicit knowledge’ based on experience, opinions and individual perceptions of reality (Nonaka et al., 1994). This kind of knowledge is difficult to detect using standardised feedback instruments and a big advantage of self-assessment is that complex, so far undetected problems, hidden conflicts and blockages can be tackled and solved in open debate. Both sources of knowledge should be combined and their cross-fertilisation will generate new knowledge and innovation in an organisation.


Box 19. Preconditions for successful self-assessment

  1. Commitment, support and participation of the head of the institution.

  2. A core quality team to coordinate and integrate self-assessment activities.

  3. Involvement of staff in the self-assessment exercise.

  4. Openness towards data, facts and potential changes.

  5. Open and honest debate addressing ‘intangible knowledge’.

  6. Immediate decisions on improvements based on self-assessment results.

  7. Agreement among staff on implementation of improvement actions.


Self-assessment has proven to be a useful and effective instrument for creating robust dynamics leading towards quality, but its full potential is only realised when it becomes an integral part of management standards and organisational structure of a VET institution. When they are widely agreed among staff members, its results can be transformed into immediate decisions to improve quality. This can result in consider able improvements, for example developing pedagogical culture, harmonising theory and practice, introducing new media in everyday teaching activities, or elaborating common criteria for assessing students’ performances. Thus, when its results are used to define immediate solutions for improving quality, self-assessment can play an important role in establishing an internal quality culture in VET institutions.

Internal quality audits are another tool for self-assessment in VET institutions. These audits are undertaken by part-time quality officers recruited from the teaching and training staff, who can build on their own experience but should be trained continuously as well, to audit different departments of an organisation with a professional view. Being familiar with an institution and staff, quality officers can provide immediate feedback to staff members responsible in the audited areas, based on their audits. They can thus push for quality. Besides, they produce audit reports, which are considered in annual planning and updating quality objectives and in preparing for external accreditation. The reports are presented to the senior management team, where decisions on further change and improvements can be made, if necessary.