The quality assurance of Estonian higher education will undergo a major change starting in 2019, when the former system of parallel institutional accreditation and study programme group assessment will be replaced with a new, integrated model. The aim of the new model is to support the development of strategic management and a quality culture that values learning-centredness, creativity, and innovation in higher education institutions (HEIs), as well as to increase the impact of academic, research, and development activities of the HEIs on social development.
Benefits of the new model will include reduced assessment burden for HEIs; less or no overlapping between different types of assessment, and better understanding of how decisions made at the management level are implemented in study programmes, i.e. real learning. Potential challenges include finding experts suited for both management and programme evaluation as well as the method for choosing the most relevant study programmes to be assessed (e.g., representative, random, or risk-based selection). The main risk is that study programmes not under review will get little or no attention, which means that their quality may suffer unnoticed. This risk can be overcome by focusing especially on internal quality assurance processes during the accreditation – how HEIs themselves assure that all study programmes are of high quality.