International principles for quality assurance and ENQA

To build legitimacy for Swedish higher education, UKÄ has emphasised the importance of following international principles for quality assurance in our new quality assurance system.

This includes, first and foremost, the principles on which Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG) is based and that have been developed within the framework of the Bologna Process.

ESG was first adopted in 2005 by the ministers for higher education in the countries taking part in the collaboration. In May 2015, a new and revised version was adopted. ESG primarily strives to contribute to a common understanding of quality assurance related to learning and teaching, to contribute to developing mutual respect and to streamline the recognition of degrees and programmes across national borders. To this end, the standards and guidelines in ESG have been drawn up so that they can be applied in each country irrespective of its legal framework, educational system and other circumstances.

ENQA membership

It is also important that the quality assurance processes of both HEIs and UKÄ builds on ESG as it effects UKÄ’s membership in the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA).

ENQA is a member organisation for national quality assurance agencies in the European area for higher education. To join ENQA, a quality assurance agency must meet ENQA’s requirements. These requirements, in turn, are based on ESG’s principles for external quality assurance of HEIs’ operations and on the principles to which the quality assurance agencies are to adhere.

Membership in ENQA is thus evidence that national quality assurance of higher education adheres to ESG. The former Swedish National Agency for Higher Education (since 2013 the Swedish Higher Education Authority, UKÄ) was previously a member but became an affiliate member in 2012 when a review showed that the Agency did not meet ESG standards. UKÄ is in the process of applying for full membership in ENQA.

To meet ENQA’s requirements, the reviews of the quality assurance agency are to include monitoring and enhancement of quality work. ESG also requires that the quality assurance agency is autonomous and acts independently. Autonomy is important for ensuring that processes and decisions are only based on objective grounds. This refers to both organisational and operative autonomy and autonomy when taking formal decisions. The member quality assurance agencies in ENQA are subjected to an external review at least once every five years to ensure they adhere to ESG.