ENQA, in cooperation with the Magna Charta Observatory of Fundamental University Values and Rights, organised a seminar on quality assurance and transparency in higher education which was held on 17-18 May 2010 in Bologna, Italy.

ENQA realises that there is a steadily-growing interest among students and all stakeholders of HE and the public at large in accessing detailed and reliable information on the quality of individual study programmes, faculties and higher education institutions. ENQA is aware that external quality assurance activities in higher education set up by quality assurance agencies are producing only part of the information. Besides quality assurance agencies that enshrine their activities in the ESG, there is a growing number of providers of information about higher education. The proliferation of ranking schemes and other transparency tools is one aspect of this increasing need for information about higher education institutions and their activities.

The relevance of ranking and other transparency tools has recently been echoed by the Leuven/Louvain-La-Neuve Communiqué of 2009:

“We note that there are several current initiatives designed to develop mechanisms for providing more detailed information about higher education institutions across the EHEA to make their diversity more transparent. We believe that any such mechanisms, including those helping higher education systems and institutions to identify and compare their respective strengths, should be developed in close consultation with the key stakeholders. These transparency tools need to relate closely to the principles of the Bologna Process, in particular quality assurance and recognition, which will remain our priority, and should be based on comparable data and adequate indicators to describe the diverse profiles of higher education institutions and their programmes”.

In the ongoing debate about purpose and relevance, about strengths and threats of rankings ENQA raised the concern that transparency tools could foil the enhancement-driven aspect of quality assurance in higher education by stifling self-critical reflection.

The purpose of this seminar was to discuss expectations from HEIs and other stakeholders concerning information on quality of HE and the contribution of quality assurance and transparency tools to meet these expectations. The expected outcome is a preliminary set of guidelines for information tools which will feed into a position paper on information and transparency tools.

The seminar was addressed mainly to ENQA members, associates and affiliates.

The seminar programme can be found here.

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