The purpose of this document is to establish general university policy guidelines for fulfilling our institutional commitment which has prevailed as part of the Ana G. Méndez University System's mission: academic excellence. The reach of academic excellence is outlined within the basic principals of academic-administrative character that impose the conditions for achieving it. It provides general guidelines for achieving excellence in academic program areas, the teaching process, and the faculty.
A. CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK
Academic excellence is the educational process that has a multidimensional and dynamic character. Excellence seeks to improve people's quality of life in all its dimensions, which includes critical rigor, well-informed thinking, and in general, a climate of intellectual discipline.
We want the University System to be known for providing an education of excellence that enables our graduates to contribute to the processes of change in our socio-economic reality. In order to achieve this, we must immerse ourselves in developing the critical capabilities of our students in order for them to make intelligent and prudent judgments, solve problems, and make decisions. In addition, we must equip them to make use of the most advanced technology without losing perspective on the balance that must exist between developing their skills and abilities and their full, integral, and harmonic formation. We must be equally concerned with the development of students' creativity throughout their entire professional careers.
That which was expressed above can be achieved when the University System complies with its function as a superior educational entity that serves as a: (1) a depository and diffuser of human values; (2) a forger of techno-scientific and professional resources needed by society; (3) a molder of educated and integral individuals; (4) a creator of new knowledge through research; (5) a servant of society with specialized services; and (6) molder of a critical social conscience.
1. Definition of Academic Excellence
We characterize excellence in terms of the full, integral, and harmonic formation of those who attend our classrooms, and the effective participation of those in society. For full, integral, and harmonic formation of an individual, we understand maximum development according to one's interests and intellectual, cultural, social, and affective potential. In this way, one can develop effectively and have a positive impact on the social surroundings where they are immersed as a citizen. An education of excellence roots students in their time, their country, and their means, while exposing them to the realities of the global culture. It provides a sense of value for things, people, ideas, and more.
The effectiveness of their social participation is understood in terms of employability, productivity, and behavior as a positive citizen in the political, social, and economic dimensions. Such complete formation, such as social participation is, among other things, a product of an educational environment that facilitates the integral and harmonious development of the student. Therefore, excellence, like all values, is immersed in a cultural and historic means and must be visualized in a singular context and from a particular frame of reference.
In order to comply with what has been expressed, the University System is responsible for establishing those indicators that allow one to achieve excellence and that guarantee: (1) to provide and promote an educational, social, and cultural environment; (2) to be instrumental in the use of resources, methodologies, and technology to facilitate teaching, learning, creativity, and research; and (3) to contribute to the knowledge of our social reality, interpreting and generating harmonious change with its historic trajectory.
This is only feasible if we first ensure that the academic measures taken in the University System units are coordinated and integrated in a coherent form, and in consistent courses of action with their respective missions. Only then are we sharing in the effort to search for academic excellence.
2. Relation of Academic Excellence to the University System's Message
The University System's functionality and development are guided by the following principles:
a. In a democratic society, all citizens that comply with the academic requirements established by the university have the right to an education, regardless of race, sex, color, origin, age, physical condition, or social, political, or religious affiliation.
b. The development of human potential requires an educative policy that causes the development of student talent through academic offerings according to aptitude and motivation.
c. Academic excellence must be the fundamental aspiration of educative institutions and translates into the formation of viable academic and professional goals.
d. The student's educative development must involve a balance between the development of academic skills and personal growth. This in turn will equips individuals to effectively integrate and contribute to their communities.
e. University institutions must analyze and understand the needs of the community in order to effectively contribute to the enrichment of its people and the improvement of the quality of community life, integrating themselves without losing their critical perspective.
f. Academic institutions must maintain a congruency between their goals and objectives for excellence and the means used to recruit, retain, and award the best academics and professionals.
The introduction and development of these principles operate through the University System's educative policy statements, as well as through the institution's particular mission, programs, and services.
In this context the three University System institutions include, as part of their mission, the extension of educational opportunities to economically disadvantaged students, which includes opening the doors to academia and offering services and specialized programs to help them overcome their limitations.
In order to comply with this educative service mission on the plane of academic excellence, there needs to be harmony between the University System's mission and that of each individual institution. In other words, academic excellence has as an indispensable condition that all our educational efforts, in consensus with our mission and in harmony with our fiscal reality, are aimed at developing the talent and objectives of the student as an individual, independent of the development stage they are at when beginning their studies. That is, in order to achieve academic excellence, all of our academic and administrative processes must be rationally postulated and oriented towards our students becoming participants in an educational experience that promotes complete, integral, and harmonic development. This experience, in order to be fruitful, must be adjusted to current and future needs and interests of a humanistic, vocational, technical, and professional nature.
B. BASIC ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE PRINCIPLES
If we conceptualize academic excellence as an institutional ability to develop the student's talents to the maximum, as Alexander Astin has expressed, then we must consider as basic elements of this model the academic programs, the teaching-learning process, and the faculty.
There are academic administrative principles that exist that impose the conditions for achieving academic excellence as we have defined in this document. Those principles are:
1. The educative program (curriculum, support services, administrative management) will include all planned activities that are aimed at promoting the full, integral, and harmonic development of a student's talent while adding value.
2. There will exist a tight relationship between the goals and institutional objectives and the educative program.
3. The educative program will be much more inclusive than the curriculum of the academically determined program.
4. The professional and technical degree curriculums will maintain a balance between their specializations and general education.
5. The effectiveness of the curriculum will result fundamentally in the instruction imparted by the teachers.
6. The rendering of institutional services will respond to the student's needs, maturity, and study year.
7. The daytime, evening, weekend, and extramural students will receive services of equal quality.
8. The institutional organization and administration will facilitate the teaching-learning process, the production of new knowledge (research), and community service.
9. The goals and the educative program will justify the appropriateness of the human, physical, and fiscal resources assigned.
C. GENERAL GUIDELINES FOR THE FORMULATION OF ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE POLICIES
This document has identified the academic program, the instruction process, and the faculty as the key areas in the formulation of the academic excellence policy.
Corresponding to the institutions that make up the operational University System, these policies determine the excellence indicators, establish standards of execution for each indicator, and design strategies for achieving them in the areas that follow:
ACADEMIC PROGRAMS AND INSTRUCTION PROCESS
Academic programs and instruction must be articulated in a way that demonstrates the integrity of the academic experience. This should also guarantee that the teaching-learning process is grounded in the effective interaction between the teacher and students, the integration of teaching methods, the organization of knowledge, and the effective use of new technological developments.
That expressed above signifies what is necessary to create conditions where true learning is achieved. For that reason, it is essential to maintain a faculty that is constantly developing professionally, an effective communication process between students and teachers, and the use of appropriate teaching strategies and a logical ordering of the skills and objectives of each course.
In order to achieve all of the above, it is necessary to comply with the following excellence guide:
1. Maintain a balance between selective and flexible admissions programs so that each academic program is consistent with each institution's mission.
2. Design academic Certificate, Associate's, Bachelor's, and graduate degree programs in a way that equips students with the knowledge, skills, and values required for them to practice a profession within a reasonable period of time.
It is also necessary to ensure that the academic programming maintains a harmony between the degree's general requirements for practicing the profession, while taking into consideration those recommended by the specialized agencies that accredit the academic program. For this reason, the institution will try to obtain accreditation from a greater number of professional organizations. Attention must also be given to the inclusion of requirements for the development of basic academic skills.
3. Keep the articulated academic programs in line with our historic-social reality and in accordance with advances in knowledge. This calibration will consider the interdisciplinary nature of the studies and the importance of the humanistic disciplines as central to the convergence of knowledge. In looking at the curricular relevance, the following aspects must be considered:
a. The desirability of reconceptualizing the nature and sense of the study program's concentration or specialization as a measure in achieving continued fortification and the possible consolidation of courses and programs to maximize the functionality of the administrative structures. If this was necessary, the process could lead to the elimination of courses and programs by determining their lack of relevance.
b. That the process is a profound study of the structure and organization of the knowledge of a discipline of human knowledge, or a professional or technical field. This study will require domination of learning methods, of the theory that grounds the focuses of the discipline at issue, as well as the practices that are congruent with the socio-economic demands of the island.
c. To direct all reconceptualization efforts of the concentration to require that the graduate dominates the discipline at the pre-established level in each academic program in line with the goals and quality standards established. This reconceptualization is conceived not only for the specialization, but also for the totality of the degree, including general education its function in same. The task of reconceptualizing all of the curriculum seeks to respond to the expectations of society, as well as to the socio-economic and techno-scientific; the internal logic of the disciplines and professions, as well as to the development of knowledge; and to the needs, interests, and abilities of the students.
4. Comply with the same quality standards for academic programs offered in extramural and through special academic modalities as are maintained for the regular academic offerings at the institutions.
5. Periodically evaluate the academic programs. This implies that evaluations must occur (1) one year of having graduated its first class and periodically after the time of the first evaluation.
6. Calibrate the relevance of the academic offering to meet the educational needs of the growing adult population. Special attention must be given to continuing education programs.
7. Give special emphasis to the enrichment of bibliographical, hemerographical, and audiovisual collections and the diversification of services provided by the Learning Resource Centers. These academic resources represent one of the pillars by which one can strengthen academic programs and the teaching-learning process, as well as encourage research, and support publications generated by graduate students and professors. For this reason, they must be strengthened, considering the characteristic of each institution with respect to its mission, goals, educative program, size, complexity, degrees awarded, teaching-learning process, and research requirements.
8. Integrate the use of technology and telecommunications into the teaching process in an effective and systematic way. This implies the fortification of laboratory resources so they are competitive and in line with current technological changes. The efficient use of technology resides in the way it is integrated into the instruction and learning systems. This integration must facilitate the active participation of students in the teaching-learning process as a strategy that leads to the independent participation of students.
9. Promote the intensive use of writing as a means of expression, communication, and learning in the disciplines taught in the various academic programs. Oral expression will be promoted with the same intensity as well.
10. Tie written expression to the development of thinking skills in the various disciplines, using the premise that language is the instrument that has an organizing function. Reading and interpretation will be promoted in the same way.
11. Evaluate and adopt instructional systems that lead to active learning and student participation in the learning process. The systems must combine various modes of instruction, with an emphasis on cooperative learning, among others, understanding that group activities as a teaching strategy also provide for the development of socialization skills, highlighting the importance of community and solidarity among students. This implies considering increasing the use of the laboratory as a teaching method.
12. To calibrate the process as much as the product of the student's educational experience in order to determine the âadded valueâ in the development of student talent. The Institutional Assessment Model and the assessment processes of âinstitutional effectivenessâ will be introduced as established by the accrediting agencies. The assessment will be centered around the student, the educative process, the product, and the impact of the academic programs on the students will be calibrated. This will include, among others, the conditions that give life to the program and the planned and assigned resources. This function of the educative assessment task will be recognized as a continual, systematic, and dynamically integrated activity oriented towards achieving academic excellence.
13. To fortify the practice of establishing dynamic collaborative relations with the industrial community, the corporate world, schools, and other social and government institutions.
Among the measures taken in this sense, the educative needs of people based on their respective work centers will be taken care of in the university campuses, as per the agreements of the interested parties.
Our faculty members are assigned an extraordinary role of responsibility in designing and developing active courses that are geared towards the integral transformation of the students and talent development. This means that the faculty is called to establish the balance adapted in the strategies they follow in order to satisfy the student's professional and occupational needs as well as those of a humanistic, cultural, and civil nature. All will be experienced in a climate of academic freedom that guarantees independent and expression amongst the members of the academic community.
The predominant way in which the University System fulfills its mission and goals is through student education. This educational task requires the transmission of knowledge as well as the building of same, from the skills and talents of the students, to the process. The effective interaction between this and the facilitators (faculty) allows for teaching to operate.
In order to comply with the above, the following guidelines are incorporated to strengthen teaching and research:
1. To fortify and expand, in each institution, a Faculty Development Program that includes the regular faculty and lecturers. This program must be in harmony with the guidelines defined in the Academic Development Plan of each institution and must cover the refinement of teaching strategies and the improvement of the knowledge of the discipline being taught. Faculty development must be aimed at what the professor teaches, and at experimenting and evaluating more effective ways to teach that discipline and reflect on these practices. Given the adolescence of the information and knowledge, teachers must be patient with the development of their disciplines, attending, among others, advanced professional training courses.
2. Faculty evaluations must be periodical and of a formative nature. The same must allow for greater development in line with the policies outlined in the Faculty Manual.
3. Lecturers represent a broad sector of personnel that use the institutions to convey knowledge to their students. Therefore, it is necessary that the established criteria and procedures for recruiting, evaluation, and development make them important components of the institutional staff.
4. To promote research and creative activities amongst the institution's faculty. The search for knowledge through research is part of the university institution's mission. To achieve this, qualified faculty members will be given time for research and technical advising, with institutional policies stimulating faculty participation in research projects and creative production.
5. Fortify scientific and pedagogical investigation amongst the Ana G. Méndez University System faculty. Research will be promoted and supported in the University System institutions and a research incentives program will be established for faculty members who wish to develop teaching innovation research projects.
Standards and procedures will be elaborated to regulate the incentives program. The eligible projects for the concession of funds through this program will include all academic disciplines. This will include research designs for applied research projects and creative artistic and literary projects as well.
D. ADMINISTRATION OF THE ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE POLICY
In agreement with the institution statues that integrate the University System, the Academic Board is the originating body of academic policy for each institution. In complying with its responsibility statutes, the Academic Board will recommend to the Administrative Body, the institution's legislative body, the approval of regulations, the implementation of programs, and decisions in cases related to aspects of the academic curriculum, which are as follows:
- All new academic programs or courses.
- Amendments to programs or courses.
- The effective evaluation of programs or courses.
- Admissions, retention, and graduation requirements.
- Innovations in teaching methods.
- Student qualification systems.
- The creation and implementation of specializations and new academic offerings.
- The creation or elimination of divisions, departments, programs, or academic services.
- Standards and regulations for the above mentioned items.
In performing the functions mentioned above, the corresponding Academic Board of each institution will act as a depository of these documents and initiate the operability of same by recommending to the Administrative Council courses of action of an academic and administrative nature that serve to move the institution towards the desired levels of academic excellence.
APROVED BY THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS AT THE MAY 27 1993 MEETING