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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- The EQAR General Assembly was scheduled for 4 May 2020, in conjunction with a BFUG meeting. The BFUG was rescheduled to 25/26 June 2020 in Split, and the EQAR General Assembly will take place in the afternoon of 26 June. If the meeting will not take place physically, the General Assembly will be held virtually on that day. Please save the date in any case.
- ASHE envisaged to host the DEQAR CONNECT workshop for QA agencies on 11/12 May 2020 in Zagreb. This will be replaced by a webinar on Monday, 11 May 2020.
- CIMEA planned to host the DEQAR CONNECT workshop for ENIC-NARICs on 18/19 May 2020 in Roma. Participants will be informed of alternative arrangements.
- 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.