ENQA Workshop on the Language of European Quality Assurance

29 June 2006-30 June 2006 00:00

QAA coordinated, with the assistance of ENQA and of ENQA member agencies, an important two-day Workshop on the Language of European Quality Assurance in the University of Warwick, UK. It was an answer to increasing need for shared linguistic understanding in the European quality assurance.

Many of the difficulties in communicating ideas, processes and procedures about quality assurance amongst ENQA members result from both the number of languages used by them and, in particular, the consequences of English having been adopted as the common international language for the purpose. Many terms used in quality assurance do not easily translate from English into other European languages and vice versa. The use of English as the ‘mediating’ language between others can also give rise to misunderstanding and even a misplaced sense of effective communication.

There have frequently been calls for the development of authoritative and comprehensive ‘glossaries’ of concepts, words and terms used in quality assurance in Europe, but these have invariably proved to be of limited value because of the difficulty in agreeing the meanings of the concepts and words themselves in English. The consequent lack of a shared linguistic understanding is one of the major stumbling blocks to the full development of the European Higher Education Area, at least in terms of shared values for quality assurance.

Many people are involved in the translation of documents into and out of English in the course of their work for quality assurance agencies. Some is undertaken by the quality assurance ‘experts’ and agency leaders as part of their normal activities. For them the problem may be limited, as they have opportunities to discuss their work in English during the course of their international activities and to develop an understanding of the complexities of other systems and the way these are expressed through English. Some is the responsibility of professional translators and interpreters who do not, generally, get these opportunities.

The goal of this workshop was to improve understanding and communication amongst ENQA members by examining English words and phrases commonly used in quality assurance and to facilitate future attempts to develop glossaries of those words and phrases.

The objectives of the workshop were to help participants to gain a confident understanding of the range of meanings of relevant English words and phrases used in quality assurance and to relate them more firmly to the corresponding words and phrases in their own languages and also to place these words and phrases in their theoretical and operational contexts.

This ENQA workshop was aimed at anyone whose work required them to translate technical documents relating to quality assurance in higher education into or out of English. The workshop was interactive, with opportunities for participants to share the challenges they face in translating quality assurance concepts and terms. It was led by Peter Williams (CEO of QAA and President of ENQA), and facilitated by Professor Susan Bassnett (Pro Vice-Chancellor and Professor of Comparative European Literature, University of Warwick), Fiona Crozier (Assistant Director, QAA), Carolyn Campbell (Assistant Director, QAA) and Dr Peter Findlay (Assistant Director, QAA).

The workshop programme can be found here.

Please download the workshop report here.

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