Three University-wide evaluations of research have been carried out at the University. They have all been called “Quality and Renewal” and known popularly as Q&R. The first Quality and Renewal evaluation was in 2007 and was followed by two more in 2011 and 2017. The first two were more focused on the outcome of the research, while the third focussed on processes and conditions for good research.

Next year, 2024, it is time for the next Quality and Renewal – Q&R24 – and preparations are well under way.

Review of the University’s quality system

All higher education institutions in Sweden have received instructions to adopt their own quality system for research and the Swedish Higher Education Authority (UKÄ) reviews these quality systems. UKÄ therefore reviews universities’ systems for assuring quality rather than the actual quality of their research. The “Quality and Renewal” evaluation is an important component of Uppsala University’s quality system.

The evaluation is intended to be forward-looking and to promote higher quality.

“The evaluation is a good opportunity to examine our research in depth and identify both strengths and weaknesses,” says Coco Norén, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and project manager for the University-level parts of the evaluation in “Q&R24”.

Mission, Goals and Strategies the starting point

The Q&R24 evaluation will be rooted in the University’s Mission, Goals and Strategies, adopted by the University Board in December 2019. This central policy document was supplemented in October 2021 with University-wide indicators for following up the development goals in the document. The indicators will now be used as a basis for self-evaluations and by assessment panels in the Q&R24 process.

New two-part design

Q&R24 is designed in a slightly different way than the earlier evaluations. Q&R24 is divided into a University-level part and a part conducted by disciplinary domain or faculty. One of the reasons for this is that an evaluation model intended to fit all parts of the University’s research risks not being appropriate for any.

“This model allows each disciplinary domain or faculty board to adapt the evaluation to its own needs and conditions so as to make the evaluation as useful as possible.”

This means that each faculty board is responsible for evaluating the research and research environments in its own area, an approach that parallels the organisation of evaluations of education.

At the same time, some people have commented that the University Management and support structures for research also need to be evaluated. Q&R24 will therefore include two University-level evaluations: the University's work with inter- and multidisciplinarity and research infrastructure.

“As both the University Management and the support organisation are essential factors affecting researchers, we will now evaluate these aspects as well. This perspective has been somewhat lacking in the previous evaluations. We have chosen to evaluate the management and support organisation on the basis, firstly, of research infrastructure, which of course plays a really key role for research, and secondly, of inter- and multidisciplinarity, which is a vital factor in the ability of research to tackle the major societal challenges of our time.”

Thus, it is not the research infrastructure and inter- and multidisciplinary research per se that will be evaluated, but the University's work with these. The support for research and collaboration, which is another important support structure for research, has been examined previously in a different way (see fact box below).

Open webinars in November

The way in which the University-level parts are conducted will vary. The work with research infrastructure will be evaluated using a common model consisting of self-evaluation and an assessment panel. The work with inter- and multidisciplinarity, on the other hand, will be evaluated by means of benchmarking, where inspiration is drawn from equivalent activities in two or three other universities visited by the University Management.

“Now, in November, we are holding two open webinars [see fact box below, editor’s note] to get the University-level part of the evaluation started. I hope many members of staff will have a chance to participate in the webinars, it’s important to ensure the evaluation gets off to a good start.”

Results will be presented at a conference

According to plan, the results of the entire Q&R24 evaluation will be presented at a University conference at a date to be determined later.

It is unclear at the time of writing how and when UKÄ will carry out its review of Uppsala University’s quality system for research. UKÄ used to follow a six-year cycle for its reviews of quality systems at higher education institutions but has now abandoned that model. UKÄ has announced which higher education institutions will be subject to peer review until 2026. Uppsala University is not included among these higher education institutions.