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QA Policy Development

EUA has been active contributor to the quality assurance debate in Europe since its beginning. At national level within Europe, EUA maintains dialogue with its national collective members about developments taking place at system-level.

A major part of EUA’s policy work related to QA is done in the framework of cooperation with the E4 Group (consisting of EUA, ENQA, ESU and EURASHE).

Most recently, in 2012-15, this partnership worked in cooperation with other stakeholders, namely Education International, Business Europe and EQAR, to develop a revised version of the European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG).

The revised ESG were approved by the European Ministers for Education in Yerevan in May 2015 and build on the original version which was developed by the E4 Group in 2005. In September 2015, EUA published an occasional paper outlining what is known about the current status of implementation of the standards of part 1 of the ESG 2015, and identifying future challenges for institutions.

Since 2006, the E4 Group, at EUA’s initiative, has been organising the annual European Quality Assurance Forum (EQAF). EQAF brings together QA agencies and higher education institutions at European level in order to bring forward a European QA agenda based on a broad understanding of what constitutes best QA practices in the context of European higher education trends.

The E4 Group are also founding members of the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR).

Alongside its involvement in European policy development, EUA is also active internationally to ensure the visibility of European higher education on the world stage. Through its membership in INQAAHE and involvement in CHEA, EUA strives to shape international QA discussions as well. EUA also supports the development of QA frameworks outside Europe. It has carried out a number of projects in this regard, including in AsiaAfrica and Latin America

EUA has contributed significantly to the European and international debates on quality and has addressed issues related to quality assurance in several policy documents.

The most recent EUA policy document on quality and quality assurance in the European Higher Education Area was adopted by the EUA Council in October 2010. This position argues strongly in favour of a notion of quality and quality assurance processes that are based on institutional responsibility for quality and that recognise the autonomy of universities and the diversity of the sector. Furthermore, it states that the ultimate goal of all quality assurance – both internal and external – is to enhance quality thus promoting trust among stakeholders. In this context, the policy position focuses on the need to promote cultures of quality at the system as well as the institutional level and encourages governments to ensure that external quality assurance frameworks focus on promoting quality cultures aiming at institutional development rather than attempting to measure quality in quantitative terms.

Previous key policy documents addressing quality assurance are as follows:

  • The Prague Declaration was adopted in March 2009 and identified enhancing quality and improving transparency as one of 10 success factors for European universities for the next decade. It stated that universities should work towards this goal “by fully embracing the responsibilities derived from the commitment of universities to quality and by providing accurate information about institutional mission, activities, performance and results obtained to learners, employers and other stakeholders.”
  • EUA’s 2007 policy position on quality assurance identified key principles for internal and external quality assurance processes and stated the Association’s commitment to the development of the European Register of QA Agencies.
  • EUA’s Lisbon Declaration, adopted in 2007, highlighted the importance of linking external quality mechanisms to internal processes, so as to ensure their wide-spread acceptance within the university, to benefit from synergies and to keep bureaucracy to a minimum.
  • Based on the preceding debates and initiatives on quality assurance, the Glasgow Declaration of March 2005 further developed and specified universities’ priorities for instance by: stressing the link between a systematic quality culture, the scope of autonomy and funding levels and expressing universities’ commitment to an internal quality culture that fits their institutional mission and objectives.
  • In light of the ministerial summit in Berlin in September 2003, EUA's 2004 QA policy position was adopted by the EUA Council on 1 April 2004 in Marseille, France. This further developed EUA’s position (outlined in the , which called for a European QA code of principles) in the context of the QA action lines of the Berlin Communiqué. Graz Declaration
  • The Salamanca Convention, which marked the creation of EUA in 2001, stated the central importance of quality for European universities. The Salamanca Declaration links quality, accountability and autonomy as key aspects of the universities' responsibility to society and the public. The Salamanca Convention was preceded by a CRE project, which aimed at exploring the context and feasibility of accreditation across national borders in Europe.

The European framework for quality assurance was developed and established by the main stakeholder organisations in the field, gathered in the E4 Group:  EUA, European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA), European Students’ Union (ESU) and European Association of Institutions in Higher Education (EURASHE).

The E4 Group launched the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR) in 2008 at the request of European ministers of education in Bergen (2005) and London (2007), in a move designed to improve the quality of European higher education and to promote greater student mobility. EQAR is the first legal entity created in the context of the Bologna Process and, in addition to the E4, has a number of Bologna signatory countries, BUSINESSEUROPE and Education International as members.

As a founding member of EQAR, EUA is a member of its Executive Board and of the General Assembly and nominates two members of the Register Committee.

EQAR's role is to provide clear and reliable information on credible and legitimate quality assurance agencies operating in Europe. It provides a public register of quality assurance agencies that substantially comply with the Standards and Guidelines for European Quality Assurance in the EHEA (ESG), with decisions on inclusion taken by the independent Register Committee on the basis of an external review of the agency against the ESG.

EQAR's objectives are to:

  • help increase trust in and recognition of quality assured higher education institutions and their qualifications;
  • provide a basis for governments to recognise agencies from the Register and their findings or decisions;
  • provide a means for higher education institutions to choose any agency from the Register;
  • reduce opportunities for “accreditation mills” to gain credibility.
Please click here to find out more about EQAR.

European University Association (EUA)

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