Members’ Dialogue – Back to the Future

“Back to the Future” – How to embrace current and future trends without losing sight of our aims

The 12th EQAR Members’ Dialogue (MD) was held in Prague, in the impressive Technology Centre of the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design. The event, taking place on 8-9 December 2022, was hosted by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic, under the auspices of the Czech Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Deputy Minister of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic, Radka Wildová, opened the Members’ Dialogue and welcomed all participants to Prague. The Deputy Minister stressed the importance of EQAR and of the fact that quality assurance is and will be an integral part of any planned progress within the European Commission’s “European Strategy for Universities”, an ambitious and comprehensive vision of how European higher education should develop and what role it should play not only in Europe but also on the global level.

Karl Dittrich, President of EQAR, welcomed everyone and expressed his hope for fruitful, inspiring discussions and exchanges of ideas. On a more serious note, he felt that the higher education sector was at a crossroads and that, although a lot had been accomplished, big steps were still necessary to make the European Higher Education Area a success. He illustrated the myriad difficulties that the European University Alliances seemed to have with their quality assurance activities and asked himself whether it was still necessary that different national authorities take a decision on the accreditation of joint programs in the Alliances if the QA agencies concerned are listed on the Register, some for over 10 years?

Many topics passed the revue, ranging from the European Strategy for Universities and the Council Recommendation on building bridges for effective cooperation, to the QA of micro-credentials, QA of the European Universities and the European Degree and the value of Cross-border QA, Transnational Education and the European Approach.

Participants also enjoyed the lively debate on the role of the ESG and EQAR registration (accountability tool or driver for change?) and the first public showcase of the visual solution for inclusion of alternative (non-higher education institution) providers in DEQAR.

Check out the presentations, agenda and speakers list here.

Some sound-bites of our event to reflect upon:

  • There is a risk of creating a two-speed system between the EU and the EHEA.
  • Before creating new tools, we should first work on the proper and effective implementation of the tools that we already have.
  • Everything the EU creates (under the umbrella of the European strategy for universities and the Council Recommendation on building bridges for effective cooperation) should be open to all EHEA countries.
  • Quality assurance is not the universal medicine for all the problems in higher education.

Regarding the ESG:

  • Trust is crucial for walking the tightrope of accountability and enhancement.
  • The ESG should not be overloaded; sometimes less is more.
  • We are in different world (since 2015) with new realities, so why not revise ESG? Simultaneously we should make sure our tools are better linked.
  • If HEIs have to adapt all the time, why not the ESG?

Did we in fact go “back to the future”? We will perhaps find out at our next MD in the autumn of 2023!