External Review Process
Following the confirmation of the Tripartite Terms of Reference, the external review of the applicant can commence. The external review report, drafted by an independent review panel, will form the basis for the next step, the decision on registration.
An assessment of the level of compliance with the ESG should be clearly defined as one purpose of the external review and the fact that the review report will be used for an application for (renewal of) inclusion on EQAR. This will help to avoid misunderstandings during the review process.
In some cases a review of an agency might have other, additional purposes, such as an independent overall assessment of the applicant’s performance. Such a review with additional purposes might as well be used for an application to EQAR, as long as compliance with the ESG is addressed.
The agency is expected to ensure that all confirmed eligible activities, as listed in the Tripartite Terms of Reference, are addressed in the self-evaluation and external evaluation process.
The self-evaluation report shall reflect on the applicant’s compliance with each of the ESG in parts 2 and 3, while including under ESG 2.1 a mapping of their criteria and procedures onto the standards of Part 1.
It should be a critical reflection on the activities, strengths and weaknesses of the applicant and the added value they provide for quality improvement of higher education institutions.
The self-evaluation report should be written in English. Documents and annexes in another language than English will not be reviewed by the Register Committee.
The review panel must consist of at least four persons. Those need to be fully independent from the applicant and should possess the knowledge, expertise and experience required to review the applicant’s compliance with the ESG. Two members will usually assume the roles of the Chair and Secretary of the panel.
The review panel should comprise of members who represent a broad range of expertise and cover the perspectives of the different stakeholders in higher education. There must always be at least one student and one academic staff member of a higher education institution on the review panel. The academic staff members is expected to be involved in teaching and research; an academic working in administration does not fulfil the requirement.
To ensure an international dimension at least one review panel member must come from a country other than the applicant’s.
The coordinator must ensure that the panel members have no conflict of interest, as described above.
During the site visit, the external review panel is expected to interview the leadership and management of the agency and all stakeholders of the applicant agency including students, higher education institutions, staff, government representatives and other stakeholders, such as employers or external partners.
The external review report needs to provide sufficient evidence of the applicant’s substantial compliance with the ESG. The Register Committee’s decisions are primarily based on the external review report, the quality and reliability of which are therefore of crucial importance.
The report should clearly address each relevant ESG (standards 2.1 to 2.7 and 3.1 to 3.7) and reflect on the agency’s compliance with it. It benefits readability and comprehensibility if the report contains for each standard a summary of the evidence reviewed, a weighing analysis of the agencies’ activities in the light of the standard and an argued conclusion demonstrating the agency’s compliance with the standard.
In order to ensure that these reviews are a sufficient and robust basis for the Register Committee’s decisions, it is vital that coordinators are aware of the policy on the Use and Interpretation of the ESG, and ensure that the panel undertaking a review takes them into account in preparing the review.
In reviews that will be used for renewal of an agency’s registration, it is expected that the review report explicitly addresses the issues where the agency was found to only partially comply when the agency was admitted to the Register (where applicable).
The review report should be agreed amongst all review panel members, although it might reflect majority judgements or opinions on issues where there was no unanimity.
The review panel should provide the applicant with the draft report for comment on factual errors before it is finally agreed upon. Should the applicant still have comments on the final report, those may be submitted to EQAR with the application.
The review report should be submitted to EQAR including all annexes and dissenting opinions, where such exist.