Contributing to the Development of the EHEA

Contribution to the EHEA Work Plan and projects

EQAR supports the implementation of the EHEA reforms as a member of the Bologna Follow-up Group and its working structures as well as through the various projects and events where it has been invited to contribute.

In 2021, EQAR continued to contribute actively in the meetings of the BFUG Monitoring Working Group (WG1) preparing the QA indicators of the 2024 EHEA implementation report, in the discussion of Thematic Peer Group on Recognition (TPG B) on digitalisation of credentials and implementation of LRC principle and in the preparation of the work plan of Thematic Peer Group on Quality Assurance (TPG C) .

EQAR further brought its contribution as part of the various peer-learning activities on digitalisation (showcasing DEQAR to ENIC-NARICs), recognition of prior learning, internationalisation and mobility (as part of the BWSE project), microcredentials (as part of the Microbol project), and on quality assurance framework as part a staff mobility exchange (online) with representative from Ukraine.

Last year, EQAR became a member of the European Education Area (EEA) Working Group on Higher Education established by the European Commission addressing higher education related-matters linked to the European Degree, automatic recognition, micro-credentials and building bridges for effective European higher education cooperation, the European strategy for universities, the review of the 2006 Council Recommendation on quality assurance, and the launch of a European “Quality Assurance and Recognition System”.

EQAR continued its work in monitoring the implementation of quality assurance systems in line with the ESG, as part of its knowledge base on different regional/national legal frameworks for QA linking more closely the DEQAR information on reviewed higher education institutions within each country. Additionally EQAR provided a visual account using key insights provided by quality assurance agencies uploading the results of their external QA activities in DEQAR.

In June 2021 EQAR published a policy brief into the external quality assurance frameworks in EHEA and their alignment with the ESG, providing an extensive picture on the coverage of higher education institutions and their student population in DEQAR. The analysis also captures the diverse and evolving nature of external QA frameworks in Europe, reflecting on the aim and focus of such processes (at institutional and programme level), on the frequency of such procedures (validity of reports) and the commonalities and differences of higher education systems.

In addition, EQAR has explored the use of DEQAR data on QA/accreditation to feed the European Digital Credentials for Learning ecosystem and to automatically issue digitally-signed verifiable credentials for the European Blockchain Service Infrastructure (EBSI).

Openness to cross-border external QA with an EQAR-registered agency

In 2021 cross border external QA with an EQAR-registered agency was available to higher education institutions in 21 countries (map: dark blue), while recognising a procedure with an EQAR-registered agencies was possible under certain conditions in 13 other countries (map: medium dark blue).

The most recent development in cross-border external QA was reported in the Slovak Republic. A higher education institution may choose a suitable EQAR-registered agency upon agreement with the Slovak Accreditation Agency for Higher Education.

The past year, as the year before saw few developments in legal framework and regulations relating to quality assurance system’s openness to cross-border QA. This may be largely due to the pandemic, which meant that the development of legal provisions to allow higher education institutions to request accreditation, evaluation or audit from a suitable EQAR-registered agency, might not have been a priority.

More information on the cross-border external QA activities of EQAR-registered agencies can be consulted on our website here.

EHEA countries where higher education institutions may use a suitable EQAR-registered agency for their external QA (December 2021)

Use of the European Approach for Quality Assurance of Joint Programmes

In 2021, the European Approach for Quality Assurance of Joint Programmes (EA) was available to higher education institutions in 17 countries (map: dark blue). Since last year, Estonia and Greece have made changes to their legal framework as regards the use of the EA.

In 14 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 gives an overview, the information on each country provides further details, such as an explanation of a specific legislation or the fact that higher education institutions themselves are responsible for the quality assurance of their programmes.

EQAR has maintained a specific page on its website with a list of example cases where the European Approach was used, to allow others to draw from these experiences. Until the end of 2021, 11 external quality assurance procedures had been completed in line with the European Approach (based on information available in DEQAR); the table below show the agencies that have carried out those reviews.

Agency Number of reports
AQ Austria 1
Unibasq 1
ZEvA 1

These results would 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.

The joint programme consortia span 22 EHEA countries. Not surprisingly, it can be seen that the European Approach was used more often in countries with an enabling legal framework: EA-accredited programmes can be found in half of the countries where the EA is at least partially available, only one third of the countries where an EA-based accreditation is not recognised as part of the obligatory EQA system have EA-accredited programmes.

In 2021, the European Approach has regained significant attention in policy discussions. This is primarily a result of the European Universities initiative and many alliances currently developing new joint programmes in that context. From the side of these alliances, the interest in the European Approach is high; EQAR was invited to present the European Approach and the state of implementation in several events in 2021.

Thus far, this has, however, not led to speeding up progress in terms of fully allowing the European Approach in national legal frameworks.

Availability of the European Approach for QA of Joint Programmes (December 2021)