At the moment, there are several policy instruments in place in Europe that support improving the quality of higher education on an ongoing basis. However, according to the European Students’ Union (ESU), true involvement of students is still clearly lacking in this area. The recently started ESU project dubbed ‘QUEST’ intends to change this situation.
As part of the project, ESU has created an interactive website for use of students, student representatives and other stakeholders in quality assurance and enhancement of higher education. All deliverables of the project are also available on this website. Please click here to visit the website.
ESU launched the QUEST project in 2010 and it will deliver its final results in 2013. It aims at defining a concept of quality that gives a better answer to the learner-centred high quality model of higher education students in Europe. This idea of developing a student based concept for quality can change the field for quality assurance by transcending the discussion surrounding the topic and information provisions to reflect the views of students as the main benefactors rather than simply as any other actor. ESU organised a consultation conference on the QUEST project held in Malta from 29 November to 1 December 2012. A report explaining the outcomes and discussions of that meeting can be accessed here.
The QUEST project is co-financed with help from the European Commission’s Lifelong Learning Programme.
The project “Quest for Quality for Students-QUEST” stresses that students should also be able to control the sources of information that they use to make their choices. Thus, ESU has aimed at increasing the transparency of the process. If Europe is seriously committed to increase students’ mobility, it needs to back it up with a clear policy that is drawn directly from the students’ perspectives.
The main innovation of the project, being a pan-European survey on students’ opinions, will definitely change perceptions of policy makers and contribute strongly to building a common European Higher Education Area by promoting availability of new modes of information and more evidence based policy making.
The main aim of the project is to identify students’ views on quality of higher education in a pan-European perspective. This aim is subdivided into four objectives:
– to identify what information students think is important that higher education institutions provide to them and compare this to existing modes of information provisions. Create student centred models of information provisions that are meaningful and based on the identified students’ needs;
– to compare and see how the students’ views on the already existing and implicit transparency tools, like quality assurance (with European Standards and Guidelines and UNESCO/OECD guidelines and EQAR and Qrossroads) as well as various information databases, complement the findings. To identify the strengths and weaknesses of those and identify how quality defined through students’ eyes could be reached and assured;
– to develop practical capacity building tools to strengthen and empower meaningful participation of students in quality enhancement and assurance processes;
– to provide ESU and student unions with the capacity to multiply the knowledge and support European cooperation in quality assurance at national levels and to strengthen ESU’s networks of student experts on quality assurance.
The main target groups of the QUEST project are students, in particular student representatives in national and local student unions (about 300 representatives), national associations of students and student leaderships, academics, especially quality assurance staff at higher education institutions, and stakeholders in higher education: organisations/associations working on quality assurance, higher education institutions (HEI), associations, experts on quality issues and policy-makers.
The QUEST project is carried out by ESIB (ESU) together with three other partners that you can read more information about below:
1. The Romanian Agency for Quality Assurance in Higher Education Aracis (Romania). Aracis is a quality assurance agency established in 2006, as the lawful successor of the National Countil for Academic Evaluation and Accreditation.
2. National Union of Students Scotland – student participation in quality Scotland – sparqs (UK). Sparqs is a national development agency that assists universities, colleges and students’ associations to define, share, improve and create practices and cultures that successfully embed partnerships between students and their institutions that will enhance the quality of the learning experience.
3. Freie Zusammenschluss von StudentInnenschaften – fzs (Germany). The free association of local student union bodies (fzs) is the non-partisan umbrella organisation of student representatives in Germany. With about 80 member student unions, fzs represents approximately one million students in Germany.