Between 16-17 February, in Brussels, student experts met during the first of a series of six focus groups in the framework of the Enhancing Quality through Innovative Policy & Practice (EQUIP) project. They discussed the effectiveness of the Quality Assurance (QA) practices, with a particular focus on student involvement in dealing with European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance (ESG) in the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). The outcomes of these meetings will be collected and eventually used for the drafting of a study that will examine the impact of the ESG, as well as highlight innovative ways of tackling these challenges.
Ever since the beginning of the focus group, participants identified common challenges, such as for instance the lack of student participation or the need to find more qualified individuals working on Quality Assurance processes on specific fields.
They were further asked to identify the predominant purposes of higher education (HE) in their system or institution: preparing students for active citizenship, preparing students in their personal development, preparing students for their future careers or creating a broad and advanced knowledge base and stimulating research or innovation. The latter was, without doubt, the one that participants recognised as the most powerful purpose for HE in their countries, followed by preparing students for their future careers and with only one country each for the first two purposes stated above. The same was done for the four approaches to defining internal and external quality assurance (purposeful, exceptional, transformative or accountable). It was identified that both internal and external QA had purposeful and transformative traits, leading to the question of whether HE being seen as leading to employability and QA as purposeful could be linked and why.
Following the first day, a lot of questions were answered but even more remained. Participants engaged in discussions on issues such as the difference students make when participating in the QA processes or how could QA work towards facilitating student-centered learning.
Summing up, it is of the utmost importance that students don’t stop their proactive involvement in all aspects of higher education, especially in QA review panels while applying the principles of the ESG. Nonetheless, there is a need for a more substantial involvement which leads to one of the major questions asked during the focus group: what can be done in order to have a greater student participation in QA?