International cooperation on quality assurance in higher education

The Swedish Higher Education Authority (UKÄ) plays an active role in international cooperation on the evaluation of higher education, in particular in Europe.

Many students either study or work outside their native countries. The primary aim of the Bologna Process is to create greater mobility for students and graduates applying for jobs in Europe. For this reason it is important for higher education programmes in different countries to be comparable and to maintain stable standards.

Cooperation in several different organisations

Cooperation mainly takes place within the framework of ENQA (The European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education) and the Nordic NOQA network (Nordic Quality Assurance Network in Higher Education), but also in INQAAHE (International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education).

ENQA membership

UKÄ is an affiliate member of the European organisation ENQA. UKÄ is currently in the process of applying for full membership.

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 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.

The former Swedish National Agency for Higher Education (now 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 the standards of Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG).

To meet ENQA’s requirements, the reviews carried out by a quality assurance agency are to include monitoring and enhancement of the quality work of higher education institutions. ESG also require that the quality assurance agency is autonomous and acts independently. Autonomy is important for ensuring that processes and decisions are based on objective grounds. This refers to both organisational and operative autonomy and autonomy in taking formal decisions. Quality assurance agencies of ENQA are subject to an external review at least once every five years to ensure that they comply with ESG. It is UKÄ’s view that the national quality assurance system applied since 2016 complies with ESG standards and guidelines and thus fulfill the requirements for membership in ENQA.

Timetable for the application process

Time

Activity

February 2019

UKÄ notifies ENQA that it wishes to undergo an external review for membership in ENQA

September 2019

UKÄ and ENQA sign an agreement on the terms of reference

September 2019

UKÄ starts preparing the self-assessment report

January 2020

UKÄ submits its self-assessment report to ENQA

May 2020

ENQA's assessment panel conducts a site visit at UKÄ

October 2020

The ENQA Board decides on membership for UKÄ

March 2021

UKÄ submits an application for inclusion on the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR)

Mutual criteria

ENQA has been assigned, within the framework of the Bologna Process, the task of developing mutually acceptable criteria and methods for quality assurance.

At a Ministerial conference in Bergen, Norway, in May 2005 the participating countries agreed to adopt the standards and guidelines, drafted by ENQA, in consultation and co-operation with the EUA (European University Association), ESU (European Students Union) and EURASHE (European Association of Institutions in Higher Education).

Accreditation and evaluation agencies in the other Nordic countries