The ENQA Workshop on Quality Assurance and Qualifications Frameworks was hosted by the Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC).
Quality assurance and qualifications systems were two of the Bologna Process action lines that saw significant development at the ministerial meeting in Bergen in 2005. The ministers adopted the Standards and Guidelines for the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) and the Framework for Qualifications of the EHEA. Stocktaking for the London ministerial meeting in May 2007 reported on the implementation of these two tools for the reform of European higher education.
The European Standards and Guidelines (ESG) call for quality assurance to pay attention to the learning outcomes of programmes. The Bologna qualifications framework calls for the specification of higher education programmes in terms of learning outcomes.
The Bologna Framework of Qualifications is an overarching framework enabling national frameworks of qualifications to be related to each other. Every EHEA member-state is committed to developing a national framework of qualifications. The alignment of these national frameworks to the overarching Bologna frameworks has to be verified by 2010. This verification is to be self-certified nationally according to a set of criteria adopted in Bergen.
One of the seven criteria is that the national quality assurance system for higher education refers to the national framework for higher education qualifications and is consistent with the Berlin Communiqué and any subsequent Ministerial Communiqués in the Bologna Process [this latter clause anticipates the adoption of the ESG in Bergen].
Moreover, the procedures for self-certification require that the self-certification process shall include the stated agreement of the quality assurance bodies of the country in question recognised through the Bologna Process.
So far there have been two initial national self-certifications, in Ireland and Scotland. These bore out the importance of quality assurance in agencies and in higher education institutions in the implementation of the national framework of qualifications.
It was noted from these initial self-certifications that both countries had demonstrated a commitment to implement the ESG and that this commitment is included in the verification reports. At the same time it was not possible for this to be fully tested at this stage, for example requiring all quality assurance agencies to have undergone an external review. In due course, though, perhaps by 2010, countries may be expected to have demonstrated compliance with the European standards in agencies and HEIs.
- The workshop explored roles for quality assurance agencies in the development of national frameworks of qualifications;
- It examined methods used for the incorporation of national qualifications frameworks into programme accreditation policies and procedures;
- It shared practice and concepts on how responsibility for the implementation of national frameworks is distributed across internal and external quality assurance functions.
- Brief presentations were made on the state of development of national frameworks of qualifications and the engagement to date by the various quality assurance agencies present, followed by synthesis and identification of range of roles played;
- Presentations were made of selected case studies on approaches to using qualification frameworks in accreditation and review of programmes;
- Brainstorming sessions were held on how framework effectiveness within institutions might be assessed and how to make operational the ESG 2.1 (the use of internal QA procedures for external QA) in the context of qualifications frameworks.
The workshop programme can be found here.
Presentation by Christina Rozsnyai, HAC