Reasons to study QI
Quality infrastructure (QI) is a new field of knowledge that has yet to find its way into university teaching. But why should students study quality infrastructure? The following reasons speak in favour of acquiring knowledge about quality infrastructure:
- Career opportunities: Learning about quality infrastructure will expose students to potential career opportunities in metrology, standardization, accreditation and conformity assessment. Employment in these areas requires a systemic understanding of ensuring quality and safety beyond operational quality assurance and quality management. It is a worldwide growing sector with plenty and distinctive employment opportunities.
- Relevance for trade and consumer protection: Knowledge of quality requirements and services are fundamental for anyone from the business, public or consultancy sectors involved in trade and development. Here, students learn what requirements a product or service must meet before or after entering a market. This helps comprehend trade agreements and technical regulations, especially regarding protecting the population’s safety and health or protecting the environment. Understanding the interaction of metrology, standardization, accreditation, and conformity assessment is essential.
- Systemic thinking skills: studying quality infrastructure can help students understand the complex interplay of regulations, standards, testing and accreditation that determines the quality assurance of products and services. This knowledge is vital to gain an overall system perspective during the later professional specialisation. This perspective prevents silo thinking and enhances productivity and innovation.
Quality Infrastructure Management
The only course worldwide on “Quality Infrastructure Management” is offered by the Chair of Innovation Economics, Prof. Knut Blind, at the Faculty of Economics and Management of the Technological University Berlin and is open to economics and engineering students. Several of the lecturers on this course are practitioners from QI institutions and companies. The course started in the winter semester of 2016/ 17 and has been held regularly since then.
The course gives participants a broad overview of the elements and actors involved in national, European and international quality infrastructure management. The students learn how the different actors in the quality assurance process work together and how issues such as product safety, consumer protection and free trade can be addressed effectively and efficiently. The students are enabled to describe the interplay between government regulations, European and international standards, product certification and market surveillance.
The course is a module with a workload of 180 hours
1.1. Definition and importance of quality infrastructure
1.2. Objectives of quality infrastructure management (product safety, consumer protection, free movement of goods and services)
2. Elements and actors of quality infrastructure
2.1. Standardization, conformity assessment, accreditation
2.2. Conformity assessment (testing, inspection, certification approval)
2.3. Market surveillance
3. Labour, environmental and safety law
4. Economic benefits of quality infrastructure
4.1. Business benefits of quality infrastructure
4.2. Macroeconomic benefits of quality infrastructure
4.2.1. Quality infrastructure and international trade
4.2.2. Quality infrastructure and sustainable development
4.2.3. Quality infrastructure and international technology transfer
5. Governmental design options for quality infrastructure management
In the latest version of the module, the topic of digitalisation received special attention. New contents are 5G standardization, market monitoring practices, international standardization, the use and impact of eco-labels for sustainability or the basics of correct measurements. The course sharpens the view of the broad relevance of the topic for daily lives and the economy, as well as for the role of QI in the students’ future careers.
Given the growing importance and perception of quality infrastructure, other universities should consider integrating the topic of quality infrastructure into their curricula. A QI module could complement engineering courses, where quality and metrology are already covered. In the same way, courses in economics and social sciences could supplement their teaching with the topic of quality infrastructure. Overall, the subject lends itself to interdisciplinary study programmes. Development policy courses could be expanded to include the topic, given that QI institutions are part of the institutional setting offering development support globally.
Important topic. I frequently discuss, or at least mention, QI with early-career researchers in fields such as engineering and management and am struck by how unfamiliar they tend to be with the term and the concept.
I particularly like point 3 above – a good way of selling the need for academic study.
I’d add one further (contentious) point; teaching and learning about QI might encourage people to reflect on QI within academia, where I suggest the QI (as in reliance on per review and doctoral examination) might not be as strong as often supposed.
Excellent description dear Ulrich, while I was reading it I reflected on the usual way of understanding the subject of managers and related actors, which in general is a combination of training and experience. Great aforementioned course, I agree with you that many careers that cover parts, should be extended to the entire spectrum of QI
Very relevant and important suggestion, where I often see even the basic elements of e.g. Quality Management, Metrology and Standardization missing on many university curricula. I also like your spreading this out to the non-scientific curricula, and maybe even thinking in terms of “interdisciplinary study programmes”. Interesting!
One more benefit of looking into QI in the various curricula (may primarily the science oriented ones) could be that it would make it easier to see the relevance of quality management, certification/accreditation etc., when it is seen in the bigger context (nationally and internationally).
LikeLiked by 1 person
Interesting article and an eye opener. Just wondering why it has taken this long for QI to be taught in university. Well done to the Technological University, Berlin. It’s a great start!