The Quality Assurance should remain a priority for improvements to be introduced at the policy level as well as thoroughly supported on the level of genuine application. The above highlighted lack of training and resources for implementation measures or resistance to the application of real tools for improvements harm the potential impact to be achieved with the QA mechanisms.
An improvement in study programmes still remains to be seen by students as the main purpose of quality assurance, but it is not the only important goal. Increased interest and demand for building trust and transparency through QA is also observed. At the same time recent developments in transforming the QA into something more than mere procedures and policies seems to be successful. Therefore our commitment should be to facilitate further and better fulfilment for the aims of QA and continue fostering cooperation between European countries and institutions that are built upon the trust.
The application of both institutional and programme-based approaches to external quality assurance remains the most common and more popular solution for external QA, meanwhile the single-based approach is decreasing in numbers. Nevertheless neither of the approaches should replace the other.
The stagnation of progress in the QA may be perceived as a disappointment. The vast majority of students’ unions reported the participation of students in both internal and external QA, but the essence should be sought in the quality of this involvement. For internal QA students seek empowerment, meaningful participation and real engagement, this kind of participation remains somewhat formal and tokenistic. Students are not involved as equal decision makers and they often struggle to make their role recognized in decision making. They remain a source of information but lack enough of training and support, all of which hinders their potential to be game changers. The situation does not seem to have improved in recent years. Students’ participation is recognised as an important policy goal, but has still not been fully achieved through the implementation process. The study reports that one of the main obstacles for students’ involvement is the lack of information, the absence of relevant training and a lack of transparency. These issues should be given particular attention. We should aim for tangible and impactful consequences of QA to restore the belief and trust of students in the quality assurance processes.
The overall perspective of the involvement of students in QA governance is of concern. A genuine inclusion of students as full and equal members has not been strengthened yet by the revised ESG and there is no positive progress within the last three years. Based on the data collected being included in decision making does not certainly mean being an equal partner. A relevantly low percentage of unions are being consulted by governments on QA matters, as highlighted in the study, and this means that policy-making should be improved to achieve the desired equal partnership and prevent situations where students are left-out or have limited access to information.
The revision of the ESG strived for facilitation of their application and making them a user-friendly tool to boost implementation, but as for now they are seen as a key policy goal for both the sector and national governments, but they have not been fully implemented yet. Furthermore, achievements at the policy level are not reflected in the practice of institutions. Genuine implementation especially at the institutional level has to be a key target, otherwise the use of ESG will remain on the mere level of policy goals and a tokenistic exercise.
Considering the progress in the development of trust and transparency as key functions of QA, the importance of the work of EQAR has to be emphasized. However its role still has to be better conveyed in order to raise awareness about its role amongst student communities. According to students, EQAR should remain a driving force for achieving increased transparency among stakeholders.