COVID-19 consequences

The current novel Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic impacts the work and daily life of everyone involved in European higher education at the moment. We are ready to support our members, registered quality assurance agencies and partners in the challenges they are currently facing where we can.

Reachability of the EQAR Secretariat

Following the measures taken by the Belgian government to limit further spread of the virus, all EQAR staff are currently working from home until further notice. But we are reachable by email and phone as usual.

Contact details: see EQAR Secretariat

Questions about registered agencies' operations

EQAR-registered agencies are currently facing the challenge to continue their operations under “lock-down conditions” and with activities of most higher education institutions in Europe suspended or moved partially online. We wish to encourage registered agencies to respond flexibly to the situation. EQAR wishes to assure agencies that your registration will not be jeopardised resulting from any suspension or adaptation of your activities as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We believe that the guiding principle should be to best support higher education institutions to master the extraordinary challenges they are currently facing and to sustain quality of their education provision through these times. ENQA, the European representative association of quality assurance agencies, has highlighted the important role that agencies might play. We wish to draw your attention to a social media campaign launched by ENQA for agencies to share practices and experiences.

In the following, we provide answers to specific questions as to the compliance with the ESG and EQAR registration:

How should we handle the ESG requirement to have site visits?

A site visit to the institution/programme under review is normally required in an ESG-compliant external quality assurance process. In the current situation and during the time where site visits cannot actually be organised, it is perfectly acceptable to replace site visits by video conferences or other appropriate formats, to be determined by the agency. Alternatively, site visits could be postponed to a later time if that is possible.

Can we prolong accreditation/validity periods?

Generally, the ESG do not prescribe the length of accreditation/validity periods. If the agency concluded that the best approach to the current situation is to extend the validity periods of accreditations to expires shortly (e.g. in order to postpone site visits and re-accreditation decisions), this will be considered reasonable and acceptable. If such decisions are taken, please remember to update the affected records in DEQAR in order to avoid any uncertainty.

What happens if meetings, trainings or other activities are postponed or moved online?

The ESG contain no provision that require meetings to be physical. Also, if meetings are postponed to be held in physical form later, such a delay would not be held against an agency. While trainings for experts are usually physical meetings, it is perfectly acceptable to replace those by virtual arrangements if needed under current conditions.

What happens if our external review for renewal of registration is delayed?

Based on the current information, we do not expect that any registered agency is immediately facing a delay in the report on its external review against the ESG. If you do expect a delay in your next renewal of registration, please contact us.

Do we need to make a Substantive Change Report if we adapt our activities?

We do not expect a Substantive Change Report for temporary adaptations of your external quality assurance activities that are a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. We, however, recommend that you document any such changes so that they can be explained in a future external review of the agency, if necessary. If you make permanent adaptations beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, please report them as usual.

We aim to extend and update this list during the coming weeks.

If you have additional questions, doubts or uncertainties about EQAR registration and ESG compliance, please contact us.

If you wish to share your practice and approaches to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, please respond to ENQA’s social media campaign and use the #QAfromHome hashtag.

Events

  • The EQAR General Assembly was scheduled for 4 May 2020, in conjunction with a BFUG meeting. The BFUG will take place online/virtually on 25 June 2020, and the EQAR General Assembly in the morning of 26 June.
  • ASHE envisaged to host the DEQAR CONNECT workshop for QA agencies in May 2020 in Zagreb. A kick-off webinar was held on Monday, 11 May 2020, instead as an additional activity; the workshop is postponed.
  • CIMEA planned to host the DEQAR CONNECT workshop for ENIC-NARICs in May 2020 in Roma. An additional webinar was held on 18 May 2020; the workshop is postponed.
  • We are looking into possibilities for the EQAR Members’ Dialogue in the autumn of 2020 (dates not yet fixed). EQAR members interested in hosting the meeting (preferably in November/December) are encouraged to contact us.