In a specially developed assessment scheme for refugees, Greece is the first partner to issue the European Qualifications Passport for Refugees. This document helps refugees enter higher education, proving their qualifications, work experience, and language skills based on available documentation and a structured interview. It provides reliable information for integration and progression towards employment and admission to further studies.
As for the process, a questionnaire previously sent to applicants is evaluated by a review team who then invite selected candidates for an interview. If the decision is positive, the European Qualifications Passport for Refugees is issued with a validity of five years and acceptance throughout Europe. Three rounds of interviews took place from March to September 2017 in Athens, Greece.
The project brings together the Greek Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs and qualification recognition centres in Greece, Italy, Norway, and the United Kingdom to facilitate and accelerate the recognition of refugees’ qualifications. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Greece also supports the project.
Eurydice (the network on education systems and policies in Europe) has published a report called Modernisation of Higher Education in Europe: Academic Staff – 2017. The report explores the current realities for academic staff within the changing higher education landscape: teaching ever greater numbers of students, undertaking research, and responding to growing societal needs, while academic jobs become more competitive and job security more tenuous.
The report, which covers higher education systems in 35 European countries, focuses on the qualification requirements for academic staff, the recruitment process, the employment and working conditions in academia, the impact of external quality assurance, and top level strategies for internationalisation. Some key findings of the report include the following:
- Women are underrepresented in academia in most European countries. In some countries, less than 20 percent in the rank of professors are female.
- Job security in academia varies across Europe: France, Malta, Turkey and Sweden offer indefinite contracts in more than 70 percent of cases, while such contracts amount to less than 30 percent in Germany, Estonia, Austria, Finland, and Serbia.
- Training in teaching skills is rarely a requirement to enter academia, and continuous professional development of academic staff is an exception rather than a rule. Senior academics are usually expected to dedicate less time to teaching than their junior colleagues.
- External quality assurance criteria focus on teaching and research but cover human resources management in just over half of the countries.
The FAIR (“Focus on Automatic Institutional Recognition”) project consortium have recently published a final report, which goes beyond general descriptions of national recognition procedures (as can be found in the Bologna Stocktaking Reports and the Lisbon Recognition Convention monitoring report) by specifically looking at the practices and perspectives at higher education institutions.
The report contains recommendations to further improve the recognition of foreign qualifications in Europe in the framework of international student admission and selection. Some of the recommendations suggest that national recognition infrastructures could be clarified and that transparency about the roles and responsibilities of the different bodies involved could be ensured. Institutional recognition procedures should be more consistent and transparent and include a clear division of roles between the central admissions office and the faculties. The turnaround time of recognition decisions could be improved by including elements of automatic recognition, and internal and external quality assurance of the recognition process should be ensured, in conformity with the European Standards and Guidelines for quality assurance (ESG 1.4).
The Romanian Agency for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ARACIS) is implementing, as a partner, the project “Improving public policies in higher education and enhancing the quality of regulations by updating quality standards (QAFIN)”, coordinated by the Ministry of National Education – Unit for the Management of Externally Financed Projects and co-financed by the European Social Fund.
QAFIN, which runs from May 2017 – May 2020, aims at the achievement and implementation of evidence-based public policies in the field of financing of higher education institutions, through the enhancement of regulations regarding external quality assurance and ranking in higher education. The project also aims at the improvement of administrative capacity within the Ministry of National Education and within ARACIS, by adapting structures, optimising processes and training human resources, and enhancing the use of transparent public consultation mechanisms that ensure citizen participation in decision-making and by applying European best practices.
After almost three decades of external quality assurance at programme level, the quality assurance system of Flanders has shifted from external quality assurance mainly organised at the level of programmes towards external reviews at the institutional level. All universities and university colleges have chosen to engage in a pilot that intends to grasp the effectiveness of an institution’s educational policy model and the conduct of quality at the level of teaching and learning. By introducing these changes, the Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders (NVAO) intends to amplify the institutions’ autonomy regarding quality assurance and reinforce the further development of quality cultures.
General conclusions from the first round of institutional reviews indicate that the institutions have clear visions and educational policies; they have found a good balance by developing central policies that are rooted in initiatives at the programme level. Institutions have shown they actively respond to societal challenges and the regional environment, and diversity is prioritised. Talent coaching and guidance on an individual basis is seen as the key to success, for excellent students as well as for students that need additional support. With these conclusions, NVAO has confidence in the ability of institutions to take ownership of quality assurance of programmes. Nevertheless, there are still challenges ahead. The most important is the continuous, systematic, and documented involvement by institutions of stakeholders, peers, and experts, as more autonomy implies increased public accountability. Institutions should also do more to ensure public accessibility to information on the quality of education.
It is anticipated that further evaluation will lead to new legislation in 2018 which will introduce a system of institutional reviews in 2020.
The BuildPHE project is developing a self-assessment framework which will allow institutions to develop quality assurance policies and procedures tailor-made for their own specific professional higher education (PHE) provision. The framework will allow PHE institutions to quantify, among other things, the extent of their relationship with the world of work and understand how it is reflected in their missions and activities. The self-reflection framework consists of 12 criteria, each presented with accompanying questions, indicators, and sub-criteria which can be used as building blocks for an internal quality assurance policy and/or self-assessment.
EURASHE will organise two events (one in Brussels in October, and the other in November at the European Quality Assurance Forum), where participants will be able to contribute to the development of the BuildPHE self-reflection framework. The final tool and methodology will be publicly available by the end of the year.
The Database of External Quality Assurance Reports (DEQAR) project was selected for EU co-funding under Erasmus+ Key Action 3 – European Forward-Looking Cooperation Projects. Coordinated by EQAR, the project partners include a number of EQAR-registered QA agencies, the key European stakeholder organisations (including ENQA), and a research partner.
The Database will allow users to identify whether a higher education institution has been subject to external quality assurance in line with the ESG, by an EQAR-registered agency (at institutional level, or one or more of its programmes) and to easily access the corresponding quality assurance report(s). The DEQAR project follows last year’s feasibility study which included surveys of potential users and registered agencies, as well as desk research of existing database initiatives. The resulting Report and Operational Model were presented to EQAR members, most of whom had received positive feedback from their national stakeholders and considered that the database would enhance accessibility of external quality assurance results.
In May 2017, the EQAR General Assembly made decisions to secure the long-term sustainability of the DEQAR within EQAR’s general budget. The Erasmus+ funding will support the initial setup of the database and support QA agencies in aligning their own IT systems where necessary. The project is expected to start in November 2017, and a public preview of the database is expected by May 2018.
As part of UNESCO’s Programme on Higher Education, the Division for Policies and Lifelong Learning Systems is preparing a Global Conference in Quality Assurance in Higher Education. The overarching objective of the conference is to establish a platform of discussion for educationalists, government representatives, QA agencies, as well as international organisations dealing with higher education and sustainable development, to explore the ways in which higher education and its quality assurance mechanisms could better contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The conference will be held at UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, from 5-9 November 2018.
As part of preparations for the conference, a series of regional events are being organised in different parts of the world. Along this line, the joint UNESCO/AAQ regional consultation meeting for Western Europe will be held at the International Conference Center in Geneva from 15-16 February 2018, whereas NAA (Russia) is co-organising the related event for Eastern Europe, to be held in Moscow in April 2018. ENQA is the main partner in setting up these European events and will contribute to the global conference.
Some of the topics that will be discussed during the regional consultation meetings are: quality assurance and the diversification of provision in higher education; quality assurance and higher education in a global context (socio-economic development and lifelong learning); and quality assurance in higher education for sustainable development. The conferences are open to policymakers, governments, QA agencies, higher education institutions, professional bodies, students, and all related stakeholders.
Early bird registration is open until 9 October 2017 for the 12th European Quality Assurance Forum (EQAF), which will take place on 23-25 November 2017 in Riga, hosted by the University of Latvia. After this date, late registration fees will apply; however, capacity is limited, and registrations will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. The recently updated programme indicates that several Forum sessions are dedicated to projects or initiatives in which ENQA is involved.
Outcomes from research conducted by the ENQA working group on quality assurance and recognition will be presented by the working group chair, Teresa Sánchez Chaparro, in a breakout session entitled “Current practices on external quality assurance of academic recognition among QA agencies”. ENQA is also represented through the paper presentation concerning the external evaluation of e-assessment, a paper based on the “Adaptive Trust-based e-assessment System for Learning” (TeSLA) project, in which ENQA is a partner. One of the workshops will present the European Toolkit for Internal Quality Management in Competence-Based Higher Education, as developed in the project “Internal Quality Management: Evaluating and Improving Competence-Based Higher Education” (IQM-HE), in which ENQA is a partner.
One of the parallel plenary sessions will approach global perspectives on regional cooperation in QA by sharing experiences from Africa and the ASEAN region. The African perspective will be disseminated by introducing the African Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance (ASG-QA), as prepared under the coordination of ENQA in the HAQAA Initiative. Developments in the harmonisation of quality assurance in the ASEAN region will be introduced through the lens of the SHARE project, in which ENQA is also a partner.
ENQA is a partner in the EU-funded project entitled “Integrating Entrepreneurship and Work Experience into Higher Education (WEXHE)”, which aims to support the development of work-based learning in higher education (understood as internships/work placements, apprenticeships, and courses/programmes designed to encourage entrepreneurship). The objective is to alleviate stakeholders’ concerns on the shortcomings of the labour market orientation of higher education and to find a balance between the theoretical skillsets of graduates and the practical skills they require during their early careers.
Within this context, ENQA is tasked with surveying its membership in order to find out what role quality assurance plays: what criteria are used, and how are they applied and tested? All ENQA members and affiliates that are QA agencies in the EHEA are invited to participate in the survey, which closes on 9 October 2017.