If anyone had asked me at the end of last year how to describe 2019, one of the words I would have used would have been “challenging”. Looking at it now, from a Covid-19 perspective, this word seems somehow wrong. The list of challenges that has come our way since Europe locked down from March 2020, is too long to describe. Universities, students, but also quality assurance agencies as well as other stakeholders have had to adapt their modus operandi so thoroughly, that they have scarcely been able to take a much-needed deep breath.

We still have no full idea of the long-term consequences for the European and international higher education landscape, especially with regard to mobility, internationalisation, harmonisation and the social dimension – but we will deal with them. This is our duty and obligation to all the young children that hope to go to university one day.

One thing to our advantage is that higher education has always been a dynamic sector. Countries, higher education institutions and QA agencies have frequently had to adapt to new challenges, new ways of teaching and learning, and new ways of quality assurance. Now they have to adapt to emergency remote teaching, virtual and alternative site visits and many, many online meetings.

Since everything that happens on-line is safe (in the “stay at home” context), it is of the utmost importance to not only keep EQAR’s database DEQAR up to date with the relevant information on the legal frameworks in all EHEA countries, but also to extend the database and get all EQAR register-agencies to participate in DEQAR and upload their reports. International cooperation and mobility remain crucial and despite the current restrictions, we need to stay forward-looking. On-line tools such as DEQAR are essential for HEIs, students and other stakeholders to map their mid-term plans.

Going back to 2019, it cannot be denied that it was a very eventful year, literally and figuratively, and that EQAR accomplished a lot, all of which is recounted in the present report. We saw the number of registered agencies grow by means of three Register Committee meetings, we welcomed Slovakia as new governmental member and had many DEQAR related activities, such as the further development and refinement of the database, and the DEQAR Conference with more than 100 participants, marking the end of the first DEQAR project co-funded by the Erasmus+ programme. Through these and various other activities, EQAR continued to focus and contribute to realising two of the three key commitments that underpin the EHEA, i.e. recognition and quality assurance.

EQAR’s mission “to further the development of the European Higher Education Area by increasing transparency of quality assurance, and thus enhancing trust and confidence in European higher education”, seems now more relevant than ever. Let us contribute to that and safeguard the trust and confidence in European higher education in these challenging times.

Karl Dittrich (President)