Contributing to the Development of the EHEA

Contribution to the EHEA Work Plan

During 2019, EQAR continued to contribute actively to the EHEA working structures in the fields of quality assurance and recognition. EQAR is part of the BFUG Monitoring Working Group (WG1) and the Thematic Peer Group on Quality Assurance (TPG C). In addition, EQAR was asked to punctually support the work of the Thematic Peer Group on Recognition (TPG B).

EQAR contributed to the preparation of the 2020 EHEA Implementation Report and in particular its chapter on quality assurance. The data collected for the Implementation Report also served to update EQAR’s knowledge base on legal frameworks for QA.

As part of the TPG on QA, EQAR actively supported the Staff Mobility project, facilitating and financing peer support to the EHEA countries. This 2-year project, co-funded by Erasmus+ KA3 Support to the implementation of EHEA reforms, is led by the Ministry of Education and Training of the Flemish Community of Belgium, in collaboration with the National Center for Educational Quality Enhancement in Georgia and the Ministry of Education and Culture in Cyprus. The project supports the professional development of staff members working in the field of quality assurance within national authorities (ministries), quality assurance agencies or stakeholder organisations by offering a short-term work placement in another country. EQAR was part of the matchmaking committee, which otherwise includes the co-chairs of the TPG on QA and ENQA as stakeholder organisation.

EQAR contributed to a seminar organised by the TPG on Recognition on the topic of digitalisation. The possible use of DEQAR in the recognition process was highlighted and discussed. Discussions in the peer group also paved the way to exploring the direct use of DEQAR data in recognition workflows with a number of ENIC-NARICs. This became one strand of the DEQAR CONNECT project proposal, which was made for the second round of Erasmus+ KA3 projects to support the implementation of EHEA reforms.

Developments in Cross-border QA

Considering the developments in the countries’ commitments allowing higher education institutions to choose a suitable EQAR -registered agency some, albeit timid, developments can be noted. Currently, 30 of the EHEA systems have put in place legislative provisions to allow (all or some) higher education institutions to request accreditation, evaluation or audit from a foreign quality assurance agency, with only 19 of these systems making a specific reference to using a suitable EQAR-registered, ESG-compliant agency and thus make full use of the established European framework for quality assurance. The most recent developments in their legal framework and regulations relating to their quality assurance system in the past year took place in Latvia, Hungary, Ukraine, Turkey and Slovakia.

  • In Latvia: EQAR-registration serves as a condition for agencies to be allowed to carry out reviews. The higher education institution or college in Latvia has to inform the Academic Information Center (AIC) of its decision to be reviewed by a registered agency. In carrying out the review, the agency has to make sure a number of national requirements (specified in the Law On Institutions of Higher Education) are followed i.e. nomination of a minimum of five experts; including observers from the student and trade union; use of the evaluation scale (excellent, good, mediocre, unsatisfactory) etc.
  • In Hungary: higher education institutions may choose a quality assurance agency that works in line with the ESG (thus all EQAR-registered agencies) for the establishment of doctoral schools and in cases involving the launch of a bachelor, master or tertiary vocational programme. The Hungarian Accreditation Committee (HAC) may also consider institutional accreditations by EQAR-registered agencies as equivalent to its own accreditations.
  • In Turkey: quality assurance agencies have to be recognised by the Higher Education Quality Council of Turkey (THEQC Regulation) before carying out programme accreditation procedures. The recognition process of QA agencies closely follows the standards of the ESG. Currently two EQAR registered agencies (FIBAA and AQAS) have been authorised to carry out programme accreditations in Turkey.
  • In Ukraine: higher education institutions may choose a quality assurance agency that has been approved by the order of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine. The current list of approved QA agencies include agencies registered in EQAR before July 2019.  The agencies may use their own criteria. Once the programmes receive a positive accreditation they are entered into the Unified State Electronic Database on Education in Ukraine.

In 2019 EQAR-registered QA agencies carried out a total of 310 cross-border activities of which 63% at programme level, 20% at institutional level and 17% at joint programme level (see also the map and charts below). Compared to the previous year, the overall number of cross-border QA activities has fallen by 9%.

The reasoning behind the drop in CBQA activities is due to a decrease of programme level reviews. A higher number of QA agencies have reduced by more than half of their programme level CBQA activities in 2019 compared to 2018.
Amid the fall in the programme level external QA activities, the number of cross-border QA at institutional have however recorded an increase by 17% while joint programme reviews have tripled compared to the past year.

For the first time in the past six years, the volume of cross-border QA activities was lower within the territories and countries (42%) of the EHEA compared to the cross-border activities beyond the EHEA. This change possibly indicates an increased interest from higher education institutions outside the EHEA seeking the recognition of an ESG type of review carried out by an EQAR-registered agency.

Although cross border QA activities are a small share of the agencies total number of external QA activities (including home reviews) – about two thirds of registered agencies have carried out such an activity in the past six years (see stacked line chart below) and a little over half of these agencies carry out cross-border QA activities on a yearly basis.

Number of EQAR-registered agencies carrying out CBQA

Use of the European Approach for Quality Assurance of Joint Programmes

By the end of 2019, the European Approach for Quality Assurance of Joint Programmes was available to higher education institutions in 13 countries (map: dark blue). In 16 EHEA countries the European Approach was only available to some higher education institutions or subject to specific, additional conditions (map: light blue). The map below shows the situation as of December 2019, while an up-to-date map can be found on the EQAR website. The information on each country provides further details, such as an explanation of specific legislation or that higher education institutions themselves being responsible for the quality assurance of their programmes.

In order to make the existing examples where the European Approach was used better known and to allow others to draw from these experiences, EQAR has maintained a sepcific page on its website with a list of example cases. This page was re-designed in 2019 and is now integrated into DEQAR. That also means that all European Approach reports are available through the general DEQAR search interface.

EQAR is an associate partner of an Erasmus+-funded project titled “Facilitating implementation of the European Approach for Quality Assurance of Joint Programmes – ImpEA”, involving ENQA, ECA, several registered QA agencies and several higher education institutions as partners. Following the production of a background report, the QA agencies involved implemented accreditation/evaluation procedures based on the European Approach, thus creating more good practice use cases that can now serve as role models.

Four accreditation procedures were completed as part of the ImpEA project in 2019. Together with one additional procedure that brought the total number of cases where the European Approach was used for external programme accreditation to ten. These ten programmes span over 22 EHEA countries, whereas nine countries have higher education institutions involved in two or more programmes: Austria (3), Belgium (2), France (4), Germany (8), Netherlands (4), Norway (3), Poland (2), Slovenia (2) and Spain (4).

It should however be noted that these figures do not include any countries and institutions that used the European Approach in their internal QA arrangements, e.g. in cases where no external programme accreditation/review is required. As there is no reporting on that, it cannot be established to what extent that happened.

Availability of the European Approach for QA of Joint Programmes (December 2019)