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Quality assurance refers to planned and systematic processes that provide outside stakeholders with confidence in the quality of a service or product. There are two core concepts at the centre of this volume:

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Quality assurance refers to planned and

systematic processes that provide outside

stakeholders with confidence in the quality

of a service or product.


There are two core concepts at the centre

of this volume:

quality assurance and internationalisation.

This chapter will outline these concepts and establish

the relationship between them.


Quality assurance is about giving trust to stakeholders or students about


Accreditation is a tool used to give this trust.

the concepts of quality and quality assurance
The concepts of quality and quality assurance.

Quality refers to both the process and the result

(product or outcome).

Quality can either be seen as part of a product or service,

which makes it an objective feature (quality of education),

or dependent on the customers\' perception (student satisfaction), which makes it a subjective feature.


These two perspectives are defined over time in the

box below.

Expected qualityand designed quality are measured before using the product, while perceived and supplied quality are measured after its delivery and use.


As the perceived quality of a product or service is in many cases not entirely equal to the expected quality, you could say there is a gap between expectedand perceived quality. This is on the customers’ side.

However, the suppliers’ side shows the same possible pitfall. Designed quality does not necessarily coincide with the supplied quality because of variations in the production process, for instance.


Finally, anyone working with students or other customers knows there is a gap between both students’ expectations of quality and the quality standards set by the institution, as well as between students’ perceptions of quality and the quality actually supplied.

Quality assurance is the result of several steps within a quality system, as is shown in the box below. A quality system can consist of:
  • quality policy (internally focused)
  • quality control (internally focused)
  • quality assurance (externally focused)
  • quality enhancement (internally focused)







  • Self-evaluation
  • Audit
  • Benchmark
  • Peer review
  • Accreditation



Quality policy explains which actions are necessary to reach the quality standards set. The quality standards specify the expectations of quality. A quality policy document includes:

  • main characteristics of a product/service
  • relevant quality characteristics
  • levels of criteria or performance indicators

Quality control is a systematic continuous effort to reach the set quality criteria or to meet the requirements of the client or customer. Quality control is meant to ensure that the service delivered or product developed is in line with the scope envisaged.

Quality assurance refers to planned and systematic processes that provide outside stakeholders with confidence in the quality of a service or product.


Quality enhancement means taking deliberate steps to bring about continuous improvement in the effectiveness of certain activities. Enhancement is about innovative improvement in which some risk is involved. This also makes quality enhancement relative, since what may be innovative today is the norm of tomorrow.

Several levels can be distinguished within higher education,each with a different view on quality assurance and internationalisation

Each of these levels may have different objectives. We will focus mainly on the institutional level.

At the institutional level, the quality of processes and accreditation are important focus points. Accreditation can be defined as a quality assessment, which results in a judgement.

Accreditation is a multi-step process,involving:

  • self-evaluation by the institution or programme undergoing accreditation;
  • External assessment by independent experts;
  • The accreditation decision made by the accreditation body;
example of an accreditation process
Example of an accreditationprocess




Internal evaluation




Quality assuranceagency

Quality assessment

by a panel

Quality assessment report


Accreditation agency

Accreditation decision

Accreditation report

Not public



The difference between quality assessment and accreditation can be established from the figure above.

Whereas assessment will answer the question of how good a programme or institution is, accreditation will answer the question of whether it is good enough.

quality assurance and internationalisation
Quality assurance and internationalisation.

Adding value to the quality of education itself , through international activities such as student and staff mobility or joint curriculum development, internationalisation is indeed a catalyst of quality. Many even say that internationalisation is a process of educational change aimed at improving the quality of education.


How the internationalisation process should be shaped to lead to quality improvement of education is subject to much debate, mainly because proof of the positive influence of internationalisation on the quality of education is still fragmented.

Considering a programme or institution to be of good quality will depend on the goal your institution is planning to achieve.


Quality assurance can secure funding, lead to improvement of processes or results and produce information for future students and employers. However, quality assurance is also a very complicated, never-ending process.

how do you establish quality assurance in internationalisation
How do you establish quality assurance in internationalisation

The first step is to determine your goals, preferably in a policy plan, and set a strategy on how to reach these goals.

Why was it again that an institution wants to set up a quality assurance system?

  • To find out if it (the institution)offers quality
  • To show other the quality it offers
  • To retain the level of quality offered
  • To achieve quality or excellence
  • To increase the volume of internationalisation activities
  • To keep risks of innovation acceptable

Professionalising the internationalisation activities within your institution requires a new habit: starting with planning rather than doing.


A policy plan including explicit goals is essential in quality assurance.

A policy plan includes the basic criteria by which you intend to assess the quality delivered by your institution. The plan should therefore include:

  • Goals of internationalisation
  • Measurable objectives which will lead to the reaching of the goals
  • Organised activities derived from the measurable objectives
  • Facilities available to support the activities
goals of internationalisation
Goals of Internationalisation

Goals on the institutional level could include:

  • Increasing the international and intercultural competences of students;
  • Improving the quality of education;
  • Supporting the continuity of the institution;
  • Increasing the institution’s service to society;
  • Improving the institution’s reputation;
  • Improving the quality of research;
measurable objectives
Measurable objectives

To set measurable objectives you can use the SMART checklist:

  • Specific: the objectives is well defined and clear to any stakeholder.
  • Measurable: in what form will this objective be reached and under what (observable)conditions?
  • Agreed upon: do the stakeholders and staff accept this objective?
  • Realistic: within the availability of resources, knowledge and time.
  • Time-bound:when should the objective be reached?
internationalisation activities
Internationalisation activities

The next step is to decide on which activities to undertake in order to reach these goals. These could for instance be:

  • Offering education in a non-native language;
  • Student mobility/credit mobility;
  • Recruitment of international students/degree mobility;
  • Internationalisation of the curriculum;
  • International knowledge sharing;
  • International research activities;
facilities services
Facilities & Services

Many internationalisation activities cannot be organised without support from certain facilities. These facilities could be grouped as:

  • Finances
  • (Internationalisation of) staff
  • Partner network
  • Academic services
  • Practical services
  • Social services
implementation doing
Implementation (Doing)

The more importance is attached to quality assurance of

Internationalisation, the more it seems to become

detached from the educational programmes.

  • Including international aspects into the learning objectives of a study programme;
  • Recruiting staff on the programme level with international experience;
  • Assigning an internationalisation staff member from a central office to each(cluster of) programme(s)

The central question that comes up now is: should we intergate quality assurance system or should we keep it separate? In Savonia University we use the integrated system.

for the quality assurance model savonia uas efqm excellence model
For the quality assurance model Savonia UAS EFQM Excellence Model






People Results




Policy & strategy

Customer Results


& Resources

Society Results

Innovation and Learning


The EFQM Excellence Model, a non-prescriptive framework based on nine criteria, can be used to assess an organisation’s progress towards excellence.

Excellent results with respect to Performance, Customers, People and Society are achieved through Leadership driving Policy and Strategy, that is delivered through People, Partnerships and Resourses and Processes.

evaluation checking
Evaluation (Checking)

Evaluation is one of the most important elements of quality assurance.

Evaluation of internationalisation activities is increasingly undertaken in higher education institutions because knowing where you are going requires knowing where you start from.

Key to setting up evaluations is determining beforehand what you want to measure. Additionally, a wide range of decisions need to be made on the way in which the assessment will be organised.


Some important decisions are:

  • The level of the evaluation:which quality will be assessed? That of an institution, programme or administrative unit,or rather the outcomes at student level?
  • The focus of the evaluation: will it be on input (staff,programmes,activities),output(graduates,publications) or outcome(learning outcomes,labor market entrance)?
  • Scope: what data do you need to improve your activities or policy. For each question you ask students, staff or stakeholders, think about what possible answer you could get and what the use of these answers would be.
  • The moment should be chosen carefully. Make sure you evaluate a goal after sufficient time has been invested to reach the goal.
  • Audience: to whom will the results of the quality assessment be made public? Is it for internal purpose only,for the government or will all stakeholders be informed?

The characteristics of the product delivered by the assessment will depend on the answer to the following questions: How are these stakeholders persuaded? Will the outcomes of the assessment be made available in the form of indicators and data, through reports or through ranking and league tables?And will these outcomes be made publicly available or to a selected group of readers only(ministry of education)?

  • The population could be any of the customer groups or stakeholders involved. Besides the obvious groups of students and staff (teachers,administrations and researchers),you could also consider alumni,employers,partners,peers and financers or government bodies.
  • The collection of data could take place through surveys (questionnaires or interviews),case studies,field research,observations,desk research, panel studies, tracer studies,etc.
  • The analysis could be quantitative , qualitative or both.
  • Authority: who will administer the quality assurance process? Is this a national,regional or local government agency, an independent body,a professional organisation or the institution?
  • The consequences of the assessment results can range from obtaining a license to award recognised degrees, to gaining access to certain resources.

Key to setting up evaluations is determining

beforehand what you want to measure.