6.2 Quality assurance?

Sven Åke Bjørke
Revised January 2016

Is there any international standard for assuring quality of educational courses? The EU tries to develop and implement such a system. The European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) is an umbrella organisation which represents quality assurance organisations from the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) member states.

ENQA promotes European co-operation in the field of quality assurance in higher education and disseminates information and expertise among its members and towards stakeholders in order to develop and share good practice and to foster the European dimension of quality assurance (ENQA, 2014)

Fair enough with the EU, but is this sufficient if we want to attract students from other continents?  According to a recent report by the EU commission to the European Parliament, European higher education faces significant challenges, like a greatly expanding student population; how to raise quality and align teaching and learning more closely to wider societal and labour market needs; adapt to globalisation and the growth in the number of students and institutions across the world. These factors challenge Europe’s position as a world leader in education.

It is seen as important to improve and widen the delivery of higher education by harnessing new technologies such as MOOCs and virtual or blended learning all over the EU area. The EU commission apparently perceives blended learning or massive open online courses (MOOCs), as having the potential to change how education is delivered. Quality assurance “frameworks and institutions need flexibility to support institutions in adopting different modes of innovative course delivery, adapting their concepts of quality and developing new indicators to enable these changes” (EC, 2014).

If the EU actually implements a quality assurance control program, and checks that universities live up to their standards – what consequences might that have for the traditional academic liberty? Norwegian universities might perceive quality standards differently from French and Greek universities. Will these European standards be compatible and/or competitive with American or Chinese standards? Will there be different criteria for online, blended and on-campus course qualities?

There are plenty of issues to discuss. One thing is certain – life is not likely to become less complex for course developers in the coming years.



European  Commission (EC) (2014) Report on Progress in Quality Assurance in Higher Education, http://ec.europa.eu/education/policy/higher-education/doc/quality_en.pdf

European association for quality assurance in higher education (ENQA) (2014) Promoting the European dimension of quality assurance in higher education, in ENQA, http://www.enqa.eu/


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