Why quality assurance?

Report
Peter Williams
Former Chief Executive,
The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education,
Former President, ENQA
Lisbon Recognition
Convention
European Credit Transfer and
Accumulation System (ECTS)
European Standards and
Guidelines for QA in HE
European Diploma
Supplement (DS)
European HE
Qualifications
frameworks
European Register of
Quality Assurance Agencies
(EQAR)
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Commissioned at the Berlin ministerial meeting
September 2003
From the Berlin communiqué:
Ministers call upon ENQA through its members, in cooperation with the EUA, EURASHE and ESIB, to develop an
agreed set of standards, procedures and guidelines on
quality assurance, to explore ways of ensuring an adequate
peer review system for quality assurance and/or
accreditation agencies or bodies, and to report back through
the Follow-up Group to Ministers in 2005.
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16 month development process
Accepted and adopted at the Bergen meeting May
2005
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ENQA
EUA (European Universities Association)
EURASHE (Association of non-university HEIs)
ESIB (now ESU) The European Students’ Union
European Commission
)
) The ‘E4’
) Group
)
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Two parts
set of standards, procedures and guidelines (SPG) on
quality assurance
peer review system for quality assurance and/or
accreditation agencies
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Two working groups
SPG working group
Agency review working group
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Six members from QA agencies in
Bulgaria
Denmark
France
Germany
Ireland
Sweden
UK (chair)
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Consultant appointed Spring 2004
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Brief to identify common features of quality
assurance in Europe
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Principles-based: not to be prescriptive or
operational
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Lukewarm response: more rules requested: ‘tell
us what we should be doing!’
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Back to the drawing board (Autumn 2004)
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Deadline for finished ESG – end January
2005
Revised ESG redrafted over Christmas
Redraft discussed and approved by Working
Group
Redraft shown to E4
E4 (with some new members) discusses and
accepts redraft, January 2005
Ministers accept and adopt ESG, May 2005
3
parts:
Internal quality assurance
External quality assurance
Peer review of quality assurance
agencies
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‘Standards’ in this context are not meant to
imply ‘standardisation’ or ‘requirements’
‘Standards’ are statements of basic good
practice; they are short and general
‘Guidelines’ are meant as illustrations of the
standards in action; they provide additional
information and explain why the standards
are important
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to encourage the development of higher education institutions
which foster vibrant intellectual and educational achievement;
to provide a source of assistance and guidance to higher
education institutions and other relevant agencies in developing
their own culture of quality assurance;
to inform and raise the expectations of higher education
institutions, students, employers and other stakeholders about
the processes and outcomes of higher education;
to contribute to a common frame of reference for the provision of
higher education and the assurance of quality within the EHEA.
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Generic, not specific, standards and
guidelines
A view of what should be done, not how it
should be done
A source of assistance and guidance
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Prescriptive
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A checklist
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A compendium of detailed procedures
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A European quality assurance system
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Development of quality culture
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The language of the ESG
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Distrust of external control
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Formalisation of quality assurance systems
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Need to change, especially:
Student assessment (including comparability, consistency
and fairness)
Information systems
QA of teachers
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The language of the ESG
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Clarity of purpose
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Professionalism of expert panels
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Resistance by HEIs to external ‘control’
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Use of students
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Reporting
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Independence
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Organic development or external
imposition?
Support or hindrance for autonomy and
‘quality culture’?
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Total compliance or acceptable variations?
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Consequences of 47 local interpretations?
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How to limit the burden on institutions?
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Deadline 2010 –gone!
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‘It must be emphasised that the report is no more
than a first step in what is likely to be a long and
possibly arduous route to the establishment of a
widely shared set of underpinning values,
expectations and good practice in relation to
quality and its assurance, by institutions and
agencies across the European Higher Education
Area (EHEA). What has been set in motion by the
Berlin mandate will need to be developed further if
it is to provide the fully functioning European
dimension of quality assurance for the EHEA.’
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‘The possibility of rapid implementation of certain of the
proposals of this report should not be taken to mean that the
task of embedding the rest of them will be easy. It will take
longer for the internal and external quality assurance
standards to be widely adopted by institutions and agencies,
because their acceptance will depend on a willingness to
change and develop on the part of signatory states with long
established and powerful higher education systems. …the
standards for external quality assurance and for quality
assurance agencies themselves will require all participants,
and especially the agencies, to look very carefully at
themselves and to measure their practices against the
European expectation’.
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Most countries now have quality assurance or
accreditation agencies
Mixture of programme accreditation,
institutional accreditation, and non-accrediting
external quality assurance reviews
Some countries are moving/have moved from
programme focus to institutional focus
Some moving the other way
ESG have become very influential in Europe and
beyond
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ESG have frequently been treated as ‘tablets
of stone’, not consultation document
Some countries have enshrined ESG in law
Compliance is generally expected
Translations (13, including two in Albanian)
make local interpretations inevitable
ENQA and EQAR (European Register of QA
agencies) use ESG as membership criteria
Review process under way
Revision process hard to envisage
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Common concepts?
Common language?
Shared understandings and values?
A European HE quality culture?
Qualifications recognition?
Comparable academic standards?
Useful information for stakeholders?
Improved academic professionalism?
Better higher education??
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because higher education is a complex
business
because universities and their staff need
help to face an uncertain and everdemanding working environment
because universities are not likely to
survive much longer as ‘secret gardens’ or
‘seminaries’ to train novices for the
academic ‘priesthood’
because universities are becoming large
service organisations
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because the ‘culture of deference’ is in
decline
because demand for higher education is
expanding world-wide
because higher education is becoming a
competitive business
because higher education is an expensive
claim on public and/or private purses
because professional and institutional
reputations will depend upon it
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what are you trying to do?
why are you doing it?
how are you going to do it?
why will that be the best way to do it?
how will you know it works?
how will you be able to improve it?
...but the view from the top is fantastic!

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