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The European Standards and Guidelines: Why? What? and How?. Peter Williams Former Chief Executive, The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, Former President, ENQA . The Bologna Process: key quality-related instruments. Lisbon Recognition Convention.

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The european standards and guidelines why what and how

The European Standards and Guidelines: Why? What?and How?

Peter Williams

Former Chief Executive,

The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education,

Former President, ENQA

The bologna process key quality related instruments
The Bologna Process:key quality-related instruments

Lisbon Recognition Convention

European HE Qualifications frameworks

European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS)

European Register of Quality Assurance Agencies (EQAR)

European Standards and Guidelines for QA in HE

European Diploma Supplement (DS)

The origin of the european standards and guidelines
The origin of the European Standards and Guidelines

  • Commissioned at the Berlin ministerial meeting September 2003

  • From the Berlin communiqué:

    • Ministers call upon ENQA through its members, in co-operation with the EUA, EURASHE and ESIB, to develop an agreed set of standards, procedures and guidelines on quality assurance, to explore ways of ensuring an adequate peer review system for quality assurance and/or accreditation agencies or bodies, and to report back through the Follow-up Group to Ministers in 2005.

  • 16 month development process

  • Accepted and adopted at the Bergen meeting May 2005

The actors
The actors

  • ENQA )

  • EUA (European Universities Association) ) The ‘E4’

  • EURASHE (Association of non-university HEIs) ) Group

  • ESIB (now ESU) The European Students’ Union )

  • European Commission

Original plan for esg
Original plan for ESG

  • Two parts

    • set of standards, procedures and guidelines (SPG) on quality assurance

    • peer review system for quality assurance and/or accreditation agencies

  • Two working groups

    • SPG working group

    • Agency review working group

The quality and standards working group membership
The quality and standards working group membership

  • Six members from QA agencies in

    • Bulgaria

    • Denmark

    • France

    • Germany

    • Ireland

    • Sweden

    • UK (chair)

First draft and its response
First draft and its response

  • Consultant appointed Spring 2004

  • Brief to identify common features of quality assurance in Europe

  • Principles-based: not to be prescriptive or operational

  • Lukewarm response: more rules requested: ‘tell us what we should be doing!’

  • Back to the drawing board (Autumn 2004)


  • Deadline for finished ESG – end January 2005

  • Revised ESG redrafted over Christmas

  • Redraft discussed and approved by Working Group

  • Redraft shown to E4

  • E4 (with some new members) discusses and accepts redraft, January 2005

  • Ministers accept and adopt ESG, May 2005

European standards and guidelines esg
European Standards and Guidelines (ESG)

3 parts:

Internal quality assurance

External quality assurance

Peer review of quality assurance agencies

What are standards what are guidelines
What are ‘standards’?What are ‘guidelines’?

  • ‘Standards’ in this context are not meant to imply ‘standardisation’ or ‘requirements’

  • ‘Standards’ are statements of basic good practice; they are short and general

  • ‘Guidelines’ are meant as illustrations of the standards in action; they provide additional information and explain why the standards are important

Objectives of the esg
Objectives of the ESG

  • to encourage the development of higher education institutions which foster vibrant intellectual and educational achievement;

  • to provide a source of assistance and guidance to higher education institutions and other relevant agencies in developing their own culture of quality assurance;

  • to inform and raise the expectations of higher education institutions, students, employers and other stakeholders about the processes and outcomes of higher education;

  • to contribute to a common frame of reference for the provision of higher education and the assurance of quality within the EHEA.

What the esg are meant to be
What the ESG are meant to be

  • Generic, not specific, standards and guidelines

  • A view of what should be done, not how it should be done

  • A source of assistance and guidance

What the esg were not intended to be
What the ESG were NOT intended to be:

  • Prescriptive

  • A checklist

  • A compendium of detailed procedures

  • A European quality assurance system

Major challenges for the heis
Major challenges for the HEIs

  • Development of quality culture

  • The language of the ESG

  • Distrust of external control

  • Formalisation of quality assurance systems

  • Need to change, especially:

    • Student assessment (including comparability, consistency and fairness)

    • Information systems

    • QA of teachers

Major challenges for the qa agencies
Major challenges for the QA agencies

  • The language of the ESG

  • Clarity of purpose

  • Professionalism of expert panels

  • Resistance by HEIs to external ‘control’

  • Use of students

  • Reporting

  • Independence

Implementation questions
Implementation questions

  • Organic development or external imposition?

  • Support or hindrance for autonomy and ‘quality culture’?

  • Total compliance or acceptable variations?

  • Consequences of 47 local interpretations?

  • How to limit the burden on institutions?

  • Deadline 2010 –gone!

From the foreword
From the Foreword:

  • ‘It must be emphasised that the report is no more than a first step in what is likely to be a long and possibly arduous route to the establishment of a widely shared set of underpinning values, expectations and good practice in relation to quality and its assurance, by institutions and agencies across the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). What has been set in motion by the Berlin mandate will need to be developed further if it is to provide the fully functioning European dimension of quality assurance for the EHEA.’

The european standards and guidelines why what and how

  • ‘The possibility of rapid implementation of certain of the proposals of this report should not be taken to mean that the task of embedding the rest of them will be easy. It will take longer for the internal and external quality assurance standards to be widely adopted by institutions and agencies, because their acceptance will depend on a willingness to change and develop on the part of signatory states with long established and powerful higher education systems. …the standards for external quality assurance and for quality assurance agencies themselves will require all participants, and especially the agencies, to look very carefully at themselves and to measure their practices against the European expectation’.

The european standards and guidelines why what and how

How? proposals of this report

What has happened since 2005
What has happened since 2005? proposals of this report

  • Most countries now have quality assurance or accreditation agencies

  • Mixture of programme accreditation, institutional accreditation, and non-accrediting external quality assurance reviews

  • Some countries are moving/have moved from programme focus to institutional focus

  • Some moving the other way

  • ESG have become very influential in Europe and beyond

The european standards and guidelines why what and how

  • ESG have frequently been treated as ‘tablets of stone’, not consultation document

  • Some countries have enshrined ESG in law

  • Compliance is generally expected

  • Translations (13, including two in Albanian) make local interpretations inevitable

  • ENQA and EQAR (European Register of QA agencies) use ESG as membership criteria

  • Review process under way

  • Revision process hard to envisage

European quality assurance questions for the longer term
European quality assurance: not consultation documentquestions for the longer term

  • Common concepts?

  • Common language?

  • Shared understandings and values?

  • A European HE quality culture?

  • Qualifications recognition?

  • Comparable academic standards?

  • Useful information for stakeholders?

  • Improved academic professionalism?

  • Better higher education??

Why quality assurance
Why quality assurance? not consultation document

  • because higher education is a complex business

  • because universities and their staff need help to face an uncertain and ever-demanding working environment

  • because universities are not likely to survive much longer as ‘secret gardens’ or ‘seminaries’ to train novices for the academic ‘priesthood’

  • because universities are becoming large service organisations

The european standards and guidelines why what and how

  • because the ‘culture of deference’ is in decline not consultation document

  • because demand for higher education is expanding world-wide

  • because higher education is becoming a competitive business

  • because higher education is an expensive claim on public and/or private purses

  • because professional and institutional reputations will depend upon it

Before you start six quality assurance questions
Before you start… not consultation documentsix quality assurance questions

  • what are you trying to do?

  • why are you doing it?

  • how are you going to do it?

  • why will that be the best way to do it?

  • how will you know it works?

  • how will you be able to improve it?

The european standards and guidelines why what and how

Quality not consultation document

Quality... It’s a long, hard climb...