Since the Bologna follow-up conference in Berlin (September 2003) Quality Assurance and Accreditation (QA) have become hot items in Europe. Since then a quadripartite group (E4 group) has endorsed an ENQA-report on Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). The report sets forward standards and guidelines both for internal QA within higher education institutions (HEIs) and for external quality assurance and accreditation, as well as for QA agencies. The most daring proposal concerning cyclical peer reviewing of QA agencies is the European Register. This report was welcomed by the ministers, who adopted the standards and guidelines, committed themselves to introducing the model of peer review of the agencies on a national basis and asked the E4 group to investigate the practicalities of implementation of a European Register.
In the meantime the ministers also adopted the Framework for Qualification of the EHEA based on learning outcomes. In this publication QA is also a most important item in order to check the learning outcomes and link with the EHEA Framework.
Out of the Copenhagen process and together with the European programme of LifeLong Learning the European Commission and experts worked out a consultation document on an overarching European Qualifications Framework (EQF). Out of this consultation the necessity of trust-building QA-principles has become clear.
The four processes mentioned above come together in the Lisbon Strategy, in which QA should play a central role in order to become the most dynamic and competitive knowledge-based economy in the world. One of the essential elements in this strategy should be the European belief in true and independent QA, taking into consideration also quality culture, sustainability and the social dimension, instead of marketing driven accreditation.
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