Higher education professionals invited to give feedback on future of digital education and training

The European Digital Learning Network (Dlearn) in cooperation with the European Association of Career Guidance (EACG) and the European Association of Erasmus Coordinators (EAEC) have opened a survey to collect feedback on trends and ideas regarding future education and training developments in the era of digital transformation. The survey is targeted to people working in the fields of higher education, VET, school or adult education. The survey remains open until 31 July 2017. More information about the survey is available here.

UNESCO: Six ways to ensure higher education leaves no one behind

The Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report and the UNESCO International Institute for Education Planning (IIEP) have published a paper that makes policy recommendations for equitable and affordable higher education to better support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. To do this, the policy paper reviews recent trends in higher education expansion, identifies disparities in student participation, examines policy tools and practices for fostering equity, and explores ways to target assistance to those who need it the most.

In the paper, six specific recommendations are given to policy makers: 1) to guarantee that those who need help the most are getting it; 2) to guarantee equity and affordability in regulatory frameworks; 3) to establish national agencies to ensure equal opportunities; 4) to use different admissions criteria to respond to different individuals’ needs; 5) to establish an agency to coordinate different forms of student aid, such as loans and grants; and 6) to limit student loan repayments to under 15 percent of their annual income. More information on the policy paper is available here.

Renewed EU agenda for higher education looks ahead while building on work already done

The European Commission released its renewed agenda for higher education (with an accompanying staff working document) in May 2017. This renewed strategy identifies four main priority areas for action: (1) tackling future skills mismatches and promoting excellence in skills development; (2) building inclusive and connected higher education systems; (3) ensuring higher education institutions contribute to innovation; and (4) supporting effective and efficient higher education systems.

Along with the renewed agenda, the Commission also proposes some concrete actions to support the modernisation of higher education, including, for example, a European Graduate Tracking initiative aiming to improve the quality and availability of information on graduates in member states.

Building on World-Class Quality: a new strategy for QAA

QAA has launched Building on World-Class Quality, the organisation’s new strategy for 2017-20, which aims to support QAA’s vision for world-leading and independently assured UK higher education. The strategy foresees that by 2020 QAA will be recognised and valued by student bodies, institutions and governments as: (1) the expert independent quality body supporting a diverse system of co-regulation of UK higher education; (2) delivering valued services that provide assurance and drive quality enhancement; and (3) using its international reputation and partnerships to benefit UK higher education.

The strategy was discussed during Douglas Blackstock’s speech at QAA’s annual conference, at which point Mr. Blackstock also confirmed QAA’s intention to be designated the independent quality body in England in accordance with the Higher Education and Research Act 2017, as well as news that Universities Wales has commissioned QAA to be the independent external quality reviewer on behalf of all universities in Wales.

NCEQE revises QA standards and procedures

In May 2017 Georgia adopted revised standards and procedures for institutional evaluations of higher education institutions. The National Center for Educational Quality Enhancement (NCEQE) initially began preparation for the revision of the quality assurance system in 2014. The process was carried out with wide participation from higher education institutions (HEIs), national and international experts, and other stakeholders. The updated standards and procedures essentially shift the system to one which is more development oriented and focuses on student-centred learning and teaching, while supporting the development of a quality culture at HEIs and considering the national context.

For the implementation of the renewed standards and procedures, NCEQE is carrying out pilot institutional evaluations against the new standards, three of which will take place by the end of 2017. In 2018 new standards will be established nationwide.

Transition from state attestation to independent accreditation completed in Kazakhstan

In 2017 Kazakhstan’s higher education system moved to a new stage of quality assurance in higher education, which established independent accreditation as the main instrument of quality assurance. From 2012-17 there was a transition period which involved simultaneous functioning of the state attestation of higher education institutions conducted by the Committee of Control in the Fields of Education and Science of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan and independent accreditation conducted by non-governmental, non-profit QA agencies listed in the National Register of Accreditation Agencies of the Republic of Kazakhstan. The transition period was introduced as a mechanism to allow a gradual shift from state-controlled quality assurance to an independent quality assurance system.

Despite the voluntary nature of accreditation, the majority of higher education institutions in Kazakhstan were accredited by national and/or foreign QA agencies because of incentives in the form of state student grants. The integration of Kazakhstan’s higher education system into the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) contributed to the increase in the number of national higher education institutions accredited by foreign agencies in recent years, as evidenced by the results of the thematic analysis conducted by the Independent Kazakh Agency for Quality Assurance in Education (IQAA).

Spain develops model to move from programme to institutional accreditation

Through its involvement in the Spanish University Committee for Regulating and Follow‐up of Accreditation (CURSA), the Quality Assurance Agency for the University System in Castilla y León’s (ACSUCYL) has contributed to the design of an evaluation model for institutional accreditation, a model which will focus evaluation on universities’ internal quality assurance systems (SGIC).

With the new model, institutional accreditation will be conducted by centres, but in order to qualify for review, universities must have previously accredited at least half their taught degrees at the relevant centre, in accordance with the protocol for accreditation of programmes. In addition, centres need to have been awarded the certificate for implementation of an SGIC by a Spanish agency with membership in ENQA, thereby guaranteeing the quality of the teaching provision. All of this must be accomplished in accordance with European standards and guidelines (ESG).

As well as its involvement in CURSA, and in order to promote this project, ACSUCYL is developing its own protocol for carrying out certifications of SGIC in conjunction with universities in Castilla y León.

New model for periodic review of institutional quality work in Norway

The Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education (NOKUT) is implementing a new model for periodic review of institutional quality work and has started a pilot including seven specialised university colleges. In Norway, it is obligatory for higher education institutions (HEIs) to have internal quality assurance systems, and NOKUT is required by law to perform audits of institutional quality work. In 2017 the regulations underwent a revision, and practices concerning quality work at the study programme level are now more central than before, partly because the regulations for quality work are linked to those for study programmes. From now on, NOKUT will request documentation demonstrating how the institutions monitor their study programmes as well as how they systematically check that the demands in the regulations are met.

NOKUT hopes that the new model will inspire institutions to develop beyond what the regulations require. To increase enhancement through shared experiences and challenges, NOKUT has divided the HEIs into project groups, where they will be encouraged to share experiences and practices from their reviews.

University autonomy in Europe: EUA releases comparative analysis

EUA has released a full comparative analysis of the state of play of university autonomy in 29 higher education systems in Europe. This extensive study, marking 10 years of EUA’s work on university autonomy and more than five years of mapping, portrays and scores 29 higher education systems and is a central reference in discussions and analyses of institutional autonomy – both in Europe and beyond. The report addresses the question of university autonomy in organisational, financial, staffing, and academic matters and compares data for all indicators that constitute EUA’s Autonomy Scorecard. It allows readers to have a full overview of the state of play and of recent developments in each of these fields – assessing the capacity of universities to decide on issues as diverse as tuition fees, governance structures, recruitments and salaries, or language of instruction and student numbers.

While some countries have achieved a relatively high degree of university autonomy in all or most of the four dimensions considered, the Scorecard helps to recognise that there is no unique model for fostering autonomy. Countries scoring high in at least three dimensions include models as diverse as those in Finland, Luxembourg, Estonia, or the UK (England). The report also reveals a persisting lack of a global view on university autonomy when designing and implementing reforms.

This latest edition of the EUA Autonomy Scorecard features the comparative reportan online toola summary presentation and for the first time a compendium of country profiles.

ESU elects new leadership and approves paper on quality of higher education

New leadership was elected during the European Students’ Union’s 72nd Board Meeting and Seminar, which took place in Malta on 2-6 May 2017. As President, delegates elected Helge Schwitters from Norway, while Caroline Sundberg (Sweden) and Adam Gajek (Poland) were elected Vice Presidents. Seven Executive Committee members were also elected, namely Chiara Patricolo (Italy), Aleksandar Šušnjar (Croatia), Filip Prihoda (Czech Republic), Gohar Hovhannisyan (Armenia), João Pedro Estêvão Martins (Portugal), Katrina Koppel (Estonia), and Yolanda Trujillo Adriá (Spain). The newly elected leadership will represent more than 15 million students in Europe. Their one-year mandate began on 1 July 2017.

During the meeting, student representatives also approved the revised policy paper on quality of higher education, available on ESU’s website.