European standards for quality assurance to be revised

COPENHAGEN - European stakeholders in higher education in the E4 Group have proposed that the European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance (ESG) should be revised. This is the core recommendation of the MAP-ESG report that was launched at an event in Copenhagen on 17 January. The E4 consists of 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).

The report is the result of a year of work and is based on comprehensive consultation of the membership of each organisation. It looked into usability, applicability and implementation of the ESG and found them to be a success. Building cooperation in the field of quality assurance has mostly been based on this document and in most countries, quality assurance systems have been revised to reflect the principles agreed within the ESG.

Although the ESG, that was adopted by the ministers in 2005, has been a success, there was an overall feeling that the ESG needs to reflect the current time and thus be improved consistently just like any quality assurance procedures themselves. The E4 is recommending that ministers of the EHEA countries mandate the E4 organisations to carry out, in consultation with all relevant stakeholders, notably Education International, Business Europe, the Bologna Follow Up Group and the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR), a careful revision of the ESG in order to improve their clarity, applicability and usefulness.

The launch conference of the report in Copenhagen gathered more than 100 participants from universities and higher education institutions, student organizations, representatives of ministries, national rectors’ conferences, quality assurance agencies and employers. In an active discussion, participants largely agreed with the conclusions of the E4, but they also reflected on several issues how the revision could look like and what it could touch upon.

In connection to the ESG, some fundamental issues were raised including the ownership of quality assurance among academics, connection of quality assurance to quality of education itself and the need to find smart links between the ESG and processes like Bologna that are implementing a new structure with qualification frameworks and a more targeted approach towards describing learning outcomes. ESU is surely keen in seeing the revision interlinking with these discussion as to keep the ESG relevant also in the future.

The European Commission supported MAP-ESG project is the first overarching study on the implementation of the ESGs, and a thorough analysis of their impact on European higher education. The full report is available for download here.