Quality Board for Higher Education in Iceland

Professor Norman Sharp: a tribute

It was with great sadness that we learnt that Professor Norman Sharp had passed away on Monday 19th June 2023. Norman had been unwell for some time and had to step down from the Quality Board in November 2022 as his health deteriorated. 

As the founding Chair of the Quality Board, which was formally established in 2011, Norman was instrumental in developing and implementing the current quality framework for Higher Education in Iceland. In developing a system that was designed specifically for the Icelandic universities he worked closely with the Icelandic Ministry, the Higher Education Institutions themselves and with his own extensive network of international expert contacts. Many of these contacts also became Quality Board members or supported institutional reviews in Iceland, and so Norman was able to draw together a significant body of expertise to support the developments in quality assurance and enhancement across the Icelandic university sector.

Of course, Norman himself made an enormous personal contribution to the initiatives in Iceland.  Coming from an academic background he had direct experience of curriculum development and management, and an understanding of the needs of diverse groups of learners. As Director of QAA Scotland Norman was responsible for the development of a new enhancement-led and student-centred approach to Higher Education quality and standards in Scotland, a real shift in direction from the approaches used previously. This model was of significant international interest and in itself led, in part, to Norman’s engagement with Iceland.  In fact, over the years Norman was active in higher education quality assurance work on a wide international basis and in many different national frameworks, especially across Europe and in Africa, and supported a number of countries in their implementation of the cross-European Bologna processes.

Norman was also involved in the creation of the comprehensive credit and qualifications framework for all levels of education in Scotland, the SCQF, and in 2007 became a founding Director of the SCQF Partnership. The SCQF made a significant contribution to creating greater recognition and parity of esteem for learner achievement (and learner progression opportunities) within and between the different education pathways in Scotland. Norman sat on a number of governing bodies throughout his working life, including the boards of universities and the board for Quality Improvement for the National Health Service in Scotland. He was awarded honorary doctorates or fellowships from several UK universities and was awarded the Order of the British Empire for services to higher education in 2006.

It is important to note that the Icelandic quality system that Norman designed and implemented with support from many Quality Board members and administrative staff over the years was, while drawing on his experiences elsewhere, designed specifically for the Icelandic Higher Education sector. It is testament to Norman’s expertise and care in shaping and developing this student-centred and enhancement-led quality system that it is now fully embedded as part of the Higher Education landscape in Iceland and continues to be embraced and valued by the universities. In recognition of his work as the founding Chair of the Quality Board for Icelandic Higher Education, Norman was inducted into the Order of the Falcon on November 18, 2019 by President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson. The Quality Enhancement Framework for Iceland that Norman initiated will start a third cycle of activity in 2024.

But beyond all of this Norman was a wonderful colleague and a good friend, whose insights, enthusiasm and willingness to provide support were valued by everyone that worked with him. He will be very much missed by all.

On behalf of the Quality Board for Icelandic Higher Education

Professor Crichton Lang, Chair.

Posted on 3 Jul 2023.

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