ENQA Workshop: Quality Assurance in Postgraduate Education

12 March 2009-13 March 2009 00:00

ENQA organised a workshop on quality assurance in postgraduate education. The workshop was held at the Transilvania University of Brasov and hosted by the Romanian Agency for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ARACIS).

The evolution of the Bologna process is now at a stage in which we have good ground to believe it has become “irreversible”, in the sense that this comprehensive pan-European reform has already shaped a European Higher Education Area (EHEA). The up-coming 2009 ministerial Conference in Leuwen/Louvain la Neuve and the 2010 meeting in Budapest and Vienna will undoubtedly cast a clearer light on what has been accomplished as well as on the future of the EHEA.

However, Higher Education in Europe is moving. The momentum of the previous ministerial conferences, the action of the E4 Group, the involvement of universities and higher education institutions themselves act as driving factors for new questions and for the quest for solutions to unanswered problems. Quality assurance of master and doctoral cycles of higher education is only one of those.

We, in Europe, are pleased that the rest of the world becomes more and more interested with “what is happening” in Europe with the creation of EHEA, and the concern for quality of education is a decisive parameter for the credibility, scientific and/or professional value of the graduates of each of the three academic cycles. As the Bologna declaration points out, each cycle must be relevant for the graduate in its own right not only in terms of academic value but also of professional value, in other words in terms of employability.

While for the first cycle this has been taken by most countries as an important element in shaping the curricula, the two other ones, master and doctoral cycles, have still to break the barrier from what it was understood as “postgraduate studies” to what in Europe has become “university study programmes”. For some countries, having already had by tradition an “Anglo-Saxon” type of structure of Higher education, the concept was better understood and accepted by all the stakeholders, in other countries the understanding of the role and professional value of master studies is not obvious and not yet followed by improved professional recognition. Comparing the situation with the doctoral studies, it seems that the latest are in a better position, as far the understanding of their role and value are concerned, as compared with the master cycle. For instance, there is no doubt on the role of research in a doctoral cycle, while referring to master studies different concepts coexist, like “scientific” of “professional” master. An important element to this emerging confusion is the “massification” of master studies, deriving from the very generous idea of increased access of students to the second cycle. In reality the idea is not “generous” in itself: it reflects the essential element of the “Knowledge Society”, namely the need to build the KS with more and more educated people.

The main objectives of the workshop were to shed more light on a number of essential problems related to quality of master and doctoral programmes, which will lead to answer questions such as:

  • what becomes the concept of “postgraduate education” in EHEA where master and doctoral programmes are “higher education” cycles and are meant to attract more and more students?
  • when assessing quality of master and doctoral programmes what is the definition and where is the distinction between quality of education and quality of research?
  • what are the differences and what should be the distinction – if any, between quality of scientific and professional master programmes?
  • how should higher education institutions adapt their mission(s) to the challenge of offering quality master and/or doctoral programmes?

The workshop programme can be found here.

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