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European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education


Eligibility and Criteria for Inclusion

Quality assurance agencies that wish to be included on the register need to demonstrate that they operate in substantial compliance with the European Standards and Guidelines (ESG). Compliance with the ESG will only be considered if the application fulfils all eligibility requirements.

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Important: ESG Revision


The ESG are currently undergoing a revision, and the revised version is expected to be adopted by EHEA ministers in May 2015.

Initial applications based on the current ESG will only be possible until 15 March 2015, i.e. the last application deadline before the expected adoption.

(This is independent of the arrangements for renewal of registered agencies, which are currently under consultation.)

Eligibility

The eligibility requirements address two sets of issues: the applicant's type of activities, and the external review of the applicant.

Eligibility will be assessed as the first step when an application is considered. Only if all eligibility requirements (Procedures §1.1 – 1.16) are fulfilled, does the Register Committee proceed to consider the applicant's substantial compliance with the European Standards and Guidelines (ESG). Should the application not be eligible, it is refused without making any judgement on the applicant's substantial compliance or not with the ESG.

Determination of Eligibility Potential applicants may choose to confirm their organisational eligibility as well as the adherence of a planned external review to the requirements before making an actual application. This is to avoid the risk of undertaking a costly external review process that cannot be used for an application afterwards.

In order to confirm eligibility, potential applicants should address a request to the EQAR Secretariat (by email), including a description of the applicant's activities or information on the planned external review process (coordinator, draft Terms of Reference), depending on what the request concerns. There are no specific forms for these requests.

If eligibility can be determined clearly and unambiguously on the basis of that information, the EQAR Secretariat will confirm eligibility or non-eligibility.

Otherwise, the case will be considered by the Register Committee. A potential applicant may also specifically request that its case be considered by the Register Committee.

A confirmation of eligibility before an actual application is not binding if it is later revealed that the applicant's activities or the actual external review process, respectively, differ substantially from the information that was submitted.

Activities The introductory sections to the ESG and the standards themselves indicate that parts 2 and 3 of the ESG are applicable to organisations whose core activity (or one of their core activities) is to review, evaluate, accredit or audit higher education institutions, organisational units or individual study programmes.

Thus, only organisations (or sub-units thereof) that carry out such activities themselves are eligible for inclusion on the Register. Organisations that do not directly perform such activities will not be considered for inclusion on the Register.

The complex realities of different systems may not always allow a sharp distinction between bodies with direct responsibility for external quality assurance and meta-level bodies with standard-setting or other similar responsibilities. Eligibility is always considered carefully based on the individual applicant's own merits.

External Review Applicants are required to provide evidence of their substantial compliance through an independent external review of their activities.

While such reviews are organised by third parties and are not under EQAR’s supervision, the external review is the main basis for the Register Committee's judgements. It is thus of utmost importance that the external review is sound and reliable, and provides the Register Committee with sufficient information.

Please consult carefully the requirements for external reviews when planning your application and ensure that the review coordinator is aware of them.


Criteria for Inclusion

Through their external review, applicants need to demonstrate that they substantially comply with the European Standards and Guidelines (ESG). The Register Committee makes a judgement on the applicant's substantial compliance with the ESG based on the external review report and additional documentation, as appropriate.

European Standards and Guidelines (ESGThe ESG were adopted by the Bologna Process ministerial summit in Bergen (Norway) in 2005 and contain common principles and reference points for quality assurance of higher education in Europe.

The ESG were developed by the European representative bodies of quality assurance agencies (ENQA), students (ESU), universities (EUA) and professional higher education institutions (EURASHE), gathered in the E4 Group.

They consist of three parts, addressing:

  • Part 1: Internal quality assurance within higher education institutions
  • Part 2: External quality assurance of higher education
  • Part 3: External quality assurance agencies

Naturally, parts 2 and 3 thereof are those with direct relevance to quality assurance agencies and thus serve as criteria for inclusion on the register. It should, however, be noted that standard 2.1 expects part 1 of the ESG to be considered in external quality assurance activities. The extent to which part 1 is reflected in the agency's work with higher education institutions and programmes thus plays an important role, too.

Translations

The ESG were developed and adopted in English. ENQA gathered on its website references to some (unofficial) translations of the ESG into eight (as of 7/5/08) further European languages. It should, however, be noted that for the purpose of inclusion on the register only the English original version of the ESG shall be relevant.

English version [PDF]

Overview of translations [ENQA website]

Revision

The ESG are currently undergoing a revision, and the revised version will be adopted by EHEA ministers in 2015.

Initial applications based on the current ESG will only be possible until 15 March 2015, i.e. the last application deadline before the expected adoption of the revised ESG.

Substantial compliance The Register Committee therefore makes a holistic judgement on an applicant's substantial compliance with the ESG, rather than following any numerical rules.

Since the ESG aim to be “applicable to all higher education institutions and quality assurance agencies in Europe, irrespective of their structure, function and size, and the national system in which they are located”, they focus on principles rather than on prescribing procedural details:

  • It has not been considered appropriate to include detailed "procedures" in the recommendations of this chapter of the report, since institutional and agency procedures are an important part of their autonomy. It will be for the institutions and agencies themselves, co-operating within their individual contexts, to decide the procedural consequences of adopting the standards contained in this report.” (ESG p. 11f.)

Bearing this in mind, the ESG can obviously not be used as a check-list. EQAR expects applicants to be in substantial compliance with the ESG: that is, if a standard is not fulfilled by the letter of the law, the applicant might still be considered substantially compliant if the stipulated principle is appropriately respected in practice.

The different standards are often linked to each other and there is sometimes considerable overlap between them. Furthermore, some standards are much broader than others.

Geographical Scope  Applicants are expected to comply substantially with the ESG (in all their evaluation, audit and accreditation activities) wherever they operate within or outside the European Higher Education Area (EHEA).

Several quality assurance agencies also operate in other countries than their base country, within and outside the EHEA. Users of the Register will, however, assume that all registered quality assurance agencies always work in substantial compliance with the ESG.

ENQA membership Full membership of ENQA is normally considered as satisfactory evidence for substantial compliance with the ESG, since agencies also need to evidence their substantial compliance with the ESG in order to become full member of ENQA.

Considering that those agencies and their external review processes have undergone sound scrutiny by ENQA, the Register Committee can sometimes build upon ENQA’s considerations: for instance, if ENQA has already addressed certain questions, EQAR might use that information and be able to solve certain issues more efficiently.