Quality Assurance

Quality Assurance in Higher Education

The concern to enhance quality in higher education lies at the heart of the Bologna Process, and major developments in quality assurance have taken place throughout the evolution of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). Quality assurance and recognition are essential for any concept of a European Higher Education Area (EHEA) function effectively for citizens. Quality assurance is one of the main ways to develop and ensure trust, and recognition of qualifications cannot take place without trust.

Quality assurance continues to be an area of dynamic evolution in the European Higher Education Area; while, despite multiple layers of action across the EHEA to increase coherence and transparency, recognition challenges still remain. The objective of continually striving to improve quality in European higher education systems is implicit throughout the Yerevan Communiqué, while two important policy documents underpinning quality were adopted in the appendix. The first is the revised Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG, 2015), and the second is the European Approach for Quality Assurance of Joint Programmes.

The findings of  European Higher Education Area - Bologna Implementation Report for 2018 show that the transparency of quality assurance for higher education institutions continues to increase, and the requirement for higher education institutions to develop and publish quality assurance strategies and evaluation reports is becoming increasingly established as a norm.

With regard to external quality assurance, national agencies already are or are being established. The dominant tendency is for external quality assurance to be supervisory in nature – with the outcomes of evaluation used to grant permission for programmes or higher education institutions to operate. 

The Standards and Guidelines for quality assurance in the EHEA (ESG) have been very well integrated into national quality assurance practice.

One area where there is still room for progress is in involving students as equal partners in quality assurance activities. 

Despite these positive trends in cross-border quality assurance, the report shows there has been little follow-up to the commitment made by Ministers in Yerevan to permit the use of the European Approach to the Quality Assurance of Joint Programmes. Understanding why this commitment has not been followed up, and developing suitable action to ensure that the European Approach to Quality Assurance of Joint Programmes is implemented in the future will be a challenge in the coming years.

Registering on the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education

Quality assurance is not restricted to the national sphere, and the Bologna Implementation Report provides evidence that crossborder restrictions to the work of quality assurance agencies are steadily being removed with several countries making significant progress in this area. This trend goes alongside increasing numbers of Quality Assurance agencies being registered on the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR), thus demonstrating that they work in compliance with the ESG.

These developments signal again that trust is being strengthened in quality assurance.