Recommendations for QA agencies implementing the QACHE Toolkit

In 2016, ENQA published the main outcome of the Erasmus Mundus-funded project “Quality Assurance of Cross-Border Higher Education” (QACHE), called Cooperation in Cross Border Higher Education: A Toolkit for Quality Assurance Agencies. The QACHE Toolkit, directed at QA agencies and their networks, aims to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the quality assurance of cross-border higher education (CBHE) by articulating, through practical advice, initiatives and good practices that QA agencies could consider adopting to strengthen cooperation. However, this advice is accompanied by a proviso – that its possible implementation, and the precise extent and way in which QA agencies may be able to cooperate in quality assuring CBHE, will depend on the different national and regional quality assurance and regulatory contexts within which they operate.

It is with this proviso in mind that the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA, United Kingdom), which led the development of the QACHE Toolkit, has undertaken, with INQAAHE’s support, research on the concrete obstacles and limits to possible inter-agency cooperation. The aim of this research was to help inter-agency cooperation by identifying the concrete ways in which agencies can, or cannot, cooperate across borders. The research drew upon the findings of the QACHE project and the responses to a survey administered to QAA’s partner agencies in key sending and receiving countries for CBHE.

On the basis of the responses provided by QAA’s partner agencies, it is possible to extract two key strategic recommendations for QA agencies to help them in their efforts to implement the advice contained in the QACHE Toolkit:
1. Adopt a strategic approach and long-term commitment to partnership building. Recognising the critical importance of building reciprocal trust, and that building trust takes time and resources, agencies are recommended to adopt a strategic approach and long-term commitment to partnership building.
2. Engage with all other key stakeholders in CBHE provision. Recognising that QA agencies do not operate in isolation, but within broader regulatory systems involving a variety of other stakeholders, it will be crucial for QA agencies to engage with stakeholders in order to be able to develop more efficient and effective ways to quality assure CBHE. In particular, QA agencies are recommended to engage closely with government, higher education providers, students, and other sector bodies, including professional bodies, in addition to counterpart quality assurance bodies.
Further details of the project and its findings have been published and are available here.

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