Institutional Quality Assurance and Evaluation has been going on for many years in several European countries and institutionsand has been increasing. Given the emerging discussion about institutional quality assurance at the European level, ESIB is stressing the following principles.
The need for institutional quality assurance and the development of a quality culture in European higher education institutions
Focus on institutional level is becoming more and more important in the development of strategies for quality assurance in Higher Education. As for the emerging discussion about institutional quality assurance, ESIB feels the necessity to first engage in a discussion at institutional level about the goals and missions of each higher education institution in the increasingly diverse landscape of higher education.
The increase in participation of higher education, the diversification of the student population and the changing demand for Higher Education within a context of lifelong learning bring about HEIs with different profiles and missions which need to be clearly defined within the institution.
In this approach there is a need to develop institutional and internal quality assurance mechanisms in the framework of a “fitness for purpose” approach to measure and assess whether the institutions are fulfilling the missions they have defined for themselves. The development of sound internal and institutional quality assurance mechanisms plays a key role in that assessment. With a framework for institutional quality assurance in place, HEIs will also be better empowered to meet the challenges posed by societal change and the development of knowledge based economy and society.
The ultimate goal of institutional quality assurance is to develop an internal quality culture, which ensures that quality is a focus of the institution at all levels and is incorporated in the everyday work of the university management, staff, students, professors and teachers.
The development of such frameworks should be seen complimentary to external and programme quality assurance, which could include accreditation. 1) The existence and implementation of institutional and internal mechanisms of quality assurance can also be used as criteria for external reviews. Institutional quality assurance cannot substitute programme quality assurance.
ESIB considers institutional quality assurance primarily as a responsibility of the higher education institutions. The first step of the process has to be the definition of goals and missions by the decision making bodies at institutional and faculty level.
Internal quality assurance bodies consisting of professors, teachers, staff and students need to be set up at all levels afterwards to carry out the internal quality assurance work. A coordinating body, comprising the university leadership, teachers, staff and student representatives should be set up at the institutional level to monitor these processes and comprise the missions and goals into a cohesive institutional strategy. This body should be accountable to the decision-making bodies and the university management to ensure that necessary steps are taken and the process is carried out in a continuous manner to reach the goals of the institution. All results and outcomes of the quality assurance process must be made public and especially accessible to students.
At the regional, national and international level, ESIB believes there is a need for cooperation and exchange of best practice in institutional quality assurance. This will ensure that each institution has the best possible opportunity to develop tools for implementing quality assurance mechanisms in its institutional context.
ESIB commits itself to co-operate with its partners at the European level, namely the European University Association (EUA), the European Network on Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA), the European Trade Union Committee on Education (ETUCE)/Education International (EI) and the European Commission, to foster the process and contribute to the development of institutional quality assurance mechanisms to improve the quality of higher education for all students studying in Europe.