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Mapping the implementation and application of the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area.

It can be stated that the Standards and Guidelines for the Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG) have significantly contributed to the consistency of quality assurance (QA) procedures and transparency in the European Higher Education Area (EHEA).

The E4 group (the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA), the European University Association (EUA), the European Students Union (ESU) and the European Association of Institutions in Higher Education (EURASHE)) as authors of the ESG and as founding members of the European Quality Assurance Register (EQAR), have had a major impact on the enhancement of common European approaches to Quality Assurance (QA).

The ESG have fostered a common understanding of QA and have contributed to the development of a European dimension of QA. However, it is possible that the implementation of the ESG still has some way to go.

The purpose of the project was to gather information on how the ESG have been implemented and applied in the 47 Bologna signatory countries, on national level, in higher education institutions (HEIs) and in QA agencies. By analysing gathered data, the project evaluated whether the ESG are appropriate and up-to-date to fulfill their main task in contributing to the development of the EHEA. The main output of the project was a report on the application and implementation of the ESG. Based on this report, Ministers of Education of the Bologna signatory countries were able to decide whether they wish to charge the E4 with the revision of the ESG. The report was prepared for the ministerial conference taking place in Bucharest, Romania on 27-28 April 2012.

Project Consortium

  • European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA)
  • European Association of Institutions in Higher Education (EURASHE)
  • European Students’ Union (ESU)
  • European University Association (EUA)


The project provided a systematic approach to assess how the ESG have been interpreted and applied in the Bologna Signatory Countries. The mapping exercise closely looked into possible areas of concern in the structure and contents of the ESG. It considered whether there are developing areas of higher education (such as Life-long Learning, transnational education or e-learning) that are not covered in the current version of the ESG.

As mentioned in the EC report on progress in QA in HE, “awareness of the quality standards varies between countries and constituencies, but considerable experience with their application has been gained […]”.The five-year experience in the implementation of the ESG has provided clear evidence of their usefulness and applicability in various national contexts and within differing organisational missions and setups. The applicability of the ESG in different settings is a clear asset of the EHEA and constitutes a real European dimension.

After five years of experience with implementing and applying the ESG, it was important to thoroughly investigate how the ESG have been implemented and applied in relation to their original purpose. Ample evidence can be found about applying the three parts of the ESG, e.g. in higher education institutions (HEIs), QA agencies and at national level.

Description of different actors in the project

  • A Steering Group with eight individual members, two members nominated by each of the E4 Group. The SG actively contributed to all stages of the project; consultation phase, reporting and analysis of the results, dissemination activities and project management;
  • An Advisory Board consisting of the most important stakeholders closely involved in the consultation and dissemination phases: EQAR, Education International, Business Europe and three national Bologna Follow-up Group representatives from Norway, Slovenia and Spain nominated by the Steering Group.

Project phases and workplan

Please see the workplan for monthly activities in the project. The duration of the project was 18 months, from October 2010 until April 2012.

1st phase (October 2010-December 2010)

The first step of the project consisted of gathering preliminary feedback from stakeholders on the application of the ESG, in order to identify the most relevant issues to be investigated in the actual evaluation process. In this phase, the core questions to be sent to all respondents in the consultation phase were formulated. In addition, the project consortium agreed upon the tools for the consultation process. The internal consultation among the project consortium’s member organisations may have differed from organisation to organisation but a common framework was agreed upon. A template was being developed for processing and presenting the gathered data in similar manner between organisations.

2nd phase (December 2010-October 2011)

In the second phase, specifically chosen respondents, namely HEIs, QA agencies, EQAR, students and other stakeholders were consulted on their experience in the application of the ESG. In addition, an open consultation was announced in the project consortium’s homepages.

3rd phase (October 2011-December 2011)

In the third phase, information gathered during previous phases was analysed. The template for presenting and compiling the outcomes of the different consultation strands was used to present and process the information. A draft report was discussed with relevant stakeholders before it was finalised.

4th phase (December 2011- April 2012)

Finally, in a fourth dissemination phase, the report was submitted to the BFUG and a dissemination conference of the project arranged. Further dissemination and exploration of results took place after the launching of the report.


The final report presents the results of the activities carried out in the context of the MAP-ESG project. In doing so the report provides the first overarching study on the implementation of the ESG in all its parts, and a thorough analysis of their impact.

The report is based on the analysis of expert views from all relevant actors and stakeholders in higher education, notably teachers and students, higher education management and internal quality assurance bodies, external quality assurance agencies, EQAR and ministries, and the social partners.

Related documentation

Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area

European Commission Report on progress in quality assurance in higher education

The project was co-funded by the Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Commission.

For further information on the Bologna Process, please see the homepage of the Bologna Secretariat 2010-2012.

For further information on the project, please see the MAP-ESG website.

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