UKÄ joins working group for quality assurance of European Universities

It has been confirmed that the Swedish Higher Education Authority (UKÄ) will be part of a European working group for the transnational quality assurance of European Universities. The project is expected to last for two years.

The purpose of the project is to explore how the joint European framework for the comprehensive quality assurance of European Universities (EUniQ) can be implemented. Published in January 2022, the European Strategy for Universities calls on Member States to take transnational cooperation to a new level.

- UKÄ is looking forward to working with 15 other countries on the quality assurance project for European Universities. This is an extremely important issue for both Swedish higher education institutions that are in an alliance and for the higher education sector as a whole. It is a priority issue for UKÄ; we are keen to exert influence when major changes in our area of responsibility are made at European level, says Anders Söderholm, director general of UKÄ.

The working group will be part of the umbrella project Implementation and Innovation in Quality Assurance through Peer Learning (IMINQA). IMINQA is run by the Bologna Thematic Peer Group C on Quality Assurance, which was formed to promote international exchange that can improve the conditions for member countries to comply with the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG). The working group’s final conclusions will be reported at the ministerial meeting on the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) in 2024.

UKÄ has prepared its own participation in the working group by carefully following developments in the EHEA and by actively contributing to discussions and working groups on transnational quality assurance. This has been achieved through UKÄ’s membership in the European Association for Quality Assurance of Higher Education (ENQA) and registration in the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR). National obstacles to transnational quality assurance need to be overcome in Sweden and indeed in most countries within the EHEA.

At national level, UKÄ has arranged meetings and entered into dialogue with stakeholders, representatives of networks and working groups involved in the European University Initiative (EUI), as well as with strategic networks promoting internationalisation.

“These dialogues and collaborations will only increase in importance once we join the working group for the quality assurance of European Universities,” notes Maria Wikse, who is representing UKÄ in the project.

Background

European Universities were initiated through two pilot calls in the Erasmus+ programme in 2019 and 2020, under the name the European University Initiative. The European Commission’s 2022 European Strategy for Universities underlines the importance of European Universities as flagships for the future EHEA and as environments in which to test other major initiatives within the education sector, such as a European degree. The initiative is part of a larger process within the European Union to increase European competitiveness in education, research, innovation and collaboration.

UKÄ previously participated in the EUniQ project to develop a European approach to the comprehensive quality assurance of European universities, together with some of the pilot alliances and European quality assurance organisations.

“It proved extremely valuable for UKÄ to take part in the EUniQ project to develop a common framework for European quality assurance; we are now looking forward to joining the quality assurance project for European Universities. We need to examine how the framework functions in a Swedish context,” says Karin Järplid, head of UKÄ’s Quality Assurance Department.

Facts: Flagship European Universities

European Universities were initiated through two pilot calls in the Erasmus+ programme in 2019 and 2020, under the name the European University Initiative. Funding was granted to 41 European alliances for a period of three years. Sweden is well-represented, with a total of 11 higher education institutions taking part.

The Erasmus+ 2021–2027 programme allocated €270 million to investments European Universities. A decision on funding to expand and extend existing and create new alliances is expected at the end of July 2022. The European Commission hopes that there will be 60 European Universities by mid-2024, with 10% of all EU higher education institutions in an alliance.

The European Commission’s 2022 European Strategy for Universities underlines the importance of European Universities as flagships for the future of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) and as testbeds for other major initiatives in the education sector. The initiative is part of a larger process within the European Union to increase European competitiveness in education, research, innovation and collaboration.

Read the European Strategy for Universities.

Facts: EUniQ and a joint European framework for quality assurance

UKÄ previously participated in the EUniQ project to develop a European approach to the comprehensive quality assurance of European universities, together with some of the pilot alliances and European quality assurance organisations. The project – which was coordinated by the Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders (NVAO) – involved four alliances, two of which included Swedish higher education institutions: the University of Gothenburg, a member of EUTOPIA; and KTH Royal Institute of Technology, a member of Unite!.

The project developed a well-received framework and roadmap for quality assurance of university alliances. EUniQ arranged a final digital conference on 28 September 2021 and it submitted its final report to the European Commission in December 2021.

The next stage in implementing the framework is to lobby policymakers, review national regulations, and identify obstacles and opportunities to implement the EUniQ model, which is the task of the new working group. The European Strategy for Universities calls on Member States to take transnational cooperation to a new level and this need also permeates other initiatives and recommendations from the European Commission.

Learn more about EUniQ.