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Quality rules

Marine Institute celebrates 20 years of ISO 9001 certification

Campus and Community

By Kim Thornhill

Susan Knight starts each day by asking: “How can we do better?”

In 2001 the Marine Institute (MI) received its ISO 9001 Quality Management System certification. Now after two decades, eight re-registration audits and more than 500 internal audits, the institute is reflecting on the importance and value of the certification to its operations.

Choosing ISO 9001

ISO 9001 is an international reference for quality management requirements, and a benchmark for improving customer satisfaction and achieving continual improvement of an organization’s performance.

The start of the MI Quality Management System began in 1998 when one of its centres developed a quality plan for a client proposal, followed by the development of a system built to the 9001:1994 Quality Management System requirement. Not long after, MI recognized the value of the system and work began in the early 2000s to create and adopt the system institute-wide.

Ms. Knight, the Quality Management System administrator in MI’s Quality Office, says having ISO 9001 certification in the education sector is unique.

“Our system sets essential management and quality assurance practices that are applied to the design, development, provision and improvement of education and training, student support services, industrial and applied research, and industrial assistance at every level,” she said. “Our long-standing commitment to our quality management system provides assurances to our students, clients, accreditation bodies and ourselves.

“Every time we seek accreditation or are audited by an accreditation body, we look to our quality system to draw information,” Ms. Knight continued. “This is what our system supports and gives us an advantage in this process. It provides accreditation bodies, such as Technology Accreditation Canada, the confidence that we have a structure in place for our operations, ensuring we understand and meet our clients’ and regulatory bodies’ expectations and is verified internally and improved.”

“The ISO 9001 certification is our mark of quality,” said Laurie Skinner, associate vice-president (administration and finance), MI. “As a management tool, it has helped us focus our business objectives and brought national and international recognition to our ocean education and research capabilities.”

Employee commitment

“We strive to ensure our educational programs, research and development, and industrial support activities align with the needs and expectations of our students, alumni, industry partners, donors and other stakeholders,” said Paul Brett, acting vice-president, Memorial University (Marine Institute). “For us, our Quality Management System is more than a group of procedures or checklists. It is a shared vision, a constantly evolving system embraced by our faculty, staff and researchers. They are the foundation to ensure it functions well and is improved upon organizationally for the benefit of everyone. It’s thanks to our employees and their leadership that we have maintained our certification and excelled in applying it.”

MI continually seeks to improve the effectiveness of the system through the use of quality policy, objectives, performance indicators, program review, internal audit program, client feedback and management review, just to name few.

MI’s quality office, internal auditors and its registration body, BSI, regularly collect data and information to analyze the suitability and effectiveness of the quality system and identify any improvements to the organization that would add value. It also works with the institute’s schools and centres to demonstrate the system to national and international accreditation bodies and clients for several of the institute’s programs, courses and industrial training offerings.

“Surveys and comment cards are also critical to our success,” explained Ms. Knight. “Their feedback keeps us close to the developing needs of the oceans sector and maintaining a high level of client engagement and satisfaction.”

Future commitment

Mr. Brett thinks those reasons are vital to maintaining the institute’s commitment it made to ISO 9001 more than 20 years ago.

“As we build our global leadership in ocean education and research, we will look to our Quality Management System to support our people and technology, engage with our partners effectively and ensure our academic and industrial programming are at the highest quality expected by the oceans sector.”

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