Report details national student fee and support systems in European HE

One of the key challenges in developing quality mass higher education systems is to ensure that students have the necessary material conditions to study and fulfil their potential. The question of how this is ensured at the national level is a key aspect of the social dimension, and one which is explored in the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency’s (EACEA) new report called National Student Fee and Support Systems in European Higher Education – 2017/18.

European countries differ significantly in the level of public expenditure allocated to higher education. Acknowledging that issues regarding the interaction of student fees and support are complex and difficult to compare accurately at the European level, the EACEA nevertheless attempts to provide a comparative overview of fees and financial support presently available to students while also outlining the main elements of national systems. The report includes information from the 28 EU member states as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Montenegro, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Norway, Serbia, and Turkey.

Study on modernisation of higher education

The European Parliament has published a study on modernisation of higher education which analyses policy developments since the European Commission’s 2011 agenda for the modernisation of Europe’s higher education systems and assesses developments towards the aims of the agenda. The study notes that cooperation between EU member states has significantly grown in recent years in the field of higher education, guided by objectives and targets set at the EU level. By addressing not only employment concerns but also exploring the contribution which higher education can make to tackling wider societal challenges, the 2017 communication offers a more integrated approach, but with higher expectations. The report further indicates that there is evidence of important developments in the priority areas set in the 2011 communication, however, challenges remain, and these require further concerted action – particularly with a view to supporting improved dialogue on teaching and teaching excellence, developing more sustainable funding models, and moving beyond seeing higher education institutions (HEIs) as utilitarian organisations.

The study recommends that the European Parliament’s Committee on Culture and Education focuses its follow-up work on the 2017 communication in five areas, which include: supporting dialogue on teaching enhancement, addressing the funding challenge, mainstreaming internationalisation in four priority areas, supporting a wider disciplinary focus, and working to ensure that HEIs, industry, and regional actors are on board.

European Commission publishes a new vision on the European Education Area

The European Commission has published a vision for the creation of a European Education Area by 2025. According to the vision, the European Education Area should, for instance, make mobility a reality for all by building on the positive experiences of the Erasmus+ programme and the European Solidarity Corps and expanding participation in them. The mutual recognition of diplomas should be made reality by initiating a new “Sorbonne process”, building on the Bologna Process, which would prepare the ground for the mutual recognition of higher education and school-leaving diplomas. Lifelong learning is promoted by seeking convergence and increasing the share of people engaging in learning throughout their lives with the aim of reaching 25 percent by 2025. The mainstreaming of innovation and digital skills in education is sought by promoting innovative and digital training and preparing a new Digital Education Action Plan.

In the Commission’s view, it is in the shared interest of all member states to harness the full potential of education and culture, as they can be considered drivers for job creation, economic growth, and social fairness as well as a means to experience European identity in all its diversity.

UNESCO’s GEM Report recommends that QA outputs be more widely shared

The Global Education Monitoring Report, which monitors progress towards the internationally agreed Sustainable Development Goal for Education (SDG4), has recently published the second in its GEM Report series, entitled Accountability in education: meeting our commitments. The report examines the different ways people and institutions can be held accountable for reaching SDG4 including regulations, testing, monitoring, audits, media scrutiny, and grass roots movements.

In a section dedicated to quality assurance, the report provides a brief background on the need for and development of quality assurance in higher education, citing examples of various international legal frameworks in place which allow for quality assurance to be conducted and referencing deficiencies in quality assurance in which systems cannot keep up with the growth of institutions and the presence of fraudulent or predatory institutions. The European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR) was cited as a means by which agencies can demonstrate transparency. Even in countries with well-developed quality assurance systems, university leaders, faculty, staff, and students showed that few are aware of its impact on teaching or research quality; therefore, the report recommends that outputs of quality assurance systems be more widely shared and that sufficient resources be set aside for communicating the reports to the ultimate beneficiaries.

New legislative framework and system for quality assurance and accreditation in Cyprus

The Council of Ministers of the Republic of Cyprus appointed, after consultation with the related stakeholders, the members of the Council of the Cyprus Agency of Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Higher Education (DIPAE), as laid out in recent legislation.

The new legislation provides a quality assurance framework for higher education in Cyprus within which higher education institutions will be driven to enhance quality and develop an internal quality culture. DIPAE, an affiliate of ENQA, is responsible for ensuring the quality of higher education in Cyprus and to support, through the procedures provided by the relevant legislation, the continuous improvement and upgrading of higher education institutions and their programmes of study.

ASFOR promotes leadership in changing HE context

The Italian Association for Management Development (ASFOR) recently organised the seventh edition of the Learning Lab, which gathered 100 participants from among its membership to discuss the theme “Leadership readiness for the future”. Key observations from the event include: the emergence of a new profile of leadership, linked to adaptability and flexibility and which is open to collaborative decision making; the need to hasten the organisation innovation process, by way of people empowerment and engagement, and which can be achieved thanks to both technology (new connecting platforms) and collective mindfulness; the key role of management education to let the potential of students (and people already inside organisations) emerge, utilising innovative means and leveraging them; the creation of a culture of inclusiveness, spurred by digital advancements, which overcomes gaps, such as age, experience, and competence.

Within this context, management education and accreditation play a key role, interfacing innovations and challenging institutions to define and measure outcomes and impact of learning goals, which include not only knowledge and abilities but also a leadership mindset in learners.

Promoting sustainable development in Swedish higher education institutions

The Swedish Higher Education Authority (UKÄ) has recently published a report concerning their thematic evaluation on how Swedish higher education institutions (HEIs) work in promoting sustainable development in higher education, exploring areas such as: governance and organisation, environment, resources and area, and design, teaching/learning, and outcomes. Each area also includes an assessment criteria focusing on follow-up, actions, and feedback. Higher education institutions were requested to complete a self-evaluation concerning the aforementioned areas, which in turn were peer-reviewed by a panel of experts.

A primary conclusion of the evaluation is that approximately one-fourth of the HEIs are considered to have a well-developed process for promoting sustainable development within education, whereas the majority would benefit from improvements, especially in their mechanisms for follow-up, actions, and feedback. Positive outcomes often seem to coincide with clear management and functions with well-defined responsibility for the overall integration of sustainable development, especially at HEIs of larger size. On the other hand, some of the smaller HEIs described that the closeness within the organisation served as an advantage, facilitating communication, actions, and implementation of sustainable development. Long-term support, as well as a driving force from management, were in general considered important factors for a fruitful result.

QAA-QQI joint conference: transnational education in the European Higher Education Area

Working in partnership in the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) was the theme of the joint QAA and QQI conference in Belfast, Ireland, on 7 November 2017. Recent external political events mean that the EHEA is more important than ever for UK higher education; the effects of Brexit are also being felt in the Irish higher education sector. The conference provided an opportunity to reflect on what membership of the EHEA means in practice. It also considered some truly cross-border and joint quality assurance initiatives such as the recent transnational education review of UK higher education in Ireland which was run by QAA (the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, United Kingdom) and to which QQI (Quality and Qualifications Ireland) contributed.

The conference programme covered topics such as the challenges and opportunities inherent in transnational education and the regulatory framework provided by the Bologna Process. The conference included country-specific case studies and breakout sessions from colleagues from other ENQA member agencies as well as from higher education providers from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Key messages from the conference include:

  • The benefits and opportunities of working in partnership are evident.
  • The challenges of such work and the need for proper due diligence at institutional and programme level, and the commitment to develop strong partnerships, are of utmost importance.
  • The student experience must be considered from the beginning.
  • The recognition of degrees, transfer, and progression must be prioritised. Quality assurance alone is not enough to sustain a partnership.
  • The EHEA provides important tools and a framework within which to work with other member states, but the importance of national context and the local regulatory environment and the need for an understanding of and respect for that context cannot be underestimated.

AQ Austria offers recommendations following experience with European Approach

A consortium of cooperating public and private universities from Austria, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Slovenia requested AQ Austria to conduct an external quality assurance of its joint master’s programme in Political Science – Integration and Governance (PoSIG) according to the European Approach for Quality Assurance for Joint Programmes. A site visit took place in Salzburg on 1-2 December 2016 and in March 2017, the Board of AQ Austria granted accreditation to the joint master’s programme for a period of six years, subject to three conditions.

The European Approach provides a sound methodology regarding quality assurance of joint programmes, however, AQ Austria faced several problems in practice. The agency makes the following recommendations for those involved in a similar future procedure:

  • Consortia need to have an overview of legal frameworks and the various national regulations dealing with joint programmes. Legal obstacles need to be dismantled and an understanding of how the agency’s decision will be implemented in each country need to be clarified at the beginning.
  • Consortia should pay attention to Standard 1: Eligibility. Consortia need to prove that all partners are recognised as higher education institutions by relevant authorities in their countries. Consortia need to sound out responsibilities and particular national requirements regarding cooperation agreements.
  • QA agencies that have experience with the European Approach should communicate their lessons learned to colleagues in the field and share the experience with ministries.
  • Ministries need to follow up with the Yerevan agreement and integrate the European Approach into national legislation and make sure that results taken are accepted by competent authorities/bodies.
  • Ministries should take the European Approach into account when discussing/developing national strategies regarding internationalisation.
  • Joint programmes should not be considered a mass phenomenon, therefore pioneering flexible pathways regarding quality assurance and legal aspects should be allowed.

2018 University-Industry Interaction Conference: shape the agenda!

The University-Industry Interaction Conference is currently calling for abstracts for presentations, papers, good practice case studies, next practice concepts, and posters relating to university-industry interaction, engaged and entrepreneurial universities, and innovation spaces and districts for the next event taking place 20-22 June 2018 in London, United Kingdom. Submissions will be reviewed by a scientific or practitioners’ committee and will be published in either the conference proceedings, the case study series, or next practice book (all registered with ISBN). The deadline for the submission of abstracts is 18 December 2017.

Further information is available at or by contacting