The communiqué from the Berlin meeting 21 September 2003 of the Ministers of the Bologna Process signatory states invited ENQA through its members, in cooperation with the European University Association (EUA), the European Association of Institutions in Higher Education (EURASHE), and the National Unions of Students in Europe (ESIB), to explore ways of ensuring an adequate peer review system for quality assurance and/or accreditation agencies or bodies, and to report back through the Bologna Follow-Up Group to Ministers in 2005. The Ministers also asked ENQA similarly to develop an agreed set of standards, procedures and guidelines on quality assurance.
ENQA fulfilled the mandate and submitted in February 2005 its report on standards and guidelines for quality assurance in the European Higher Education Area to the Bologna Follow-Up Group with the endorsement of EUA, EURASHE and ESIB.
The main results of the report are:
• There will be European standards for internal and external quality assurance, and for external quality assurance agencies.
• European quality assurance agencies will be expected to submit themselves to a cyclical review within five years;
• There will be an emphasis on subsidiarity, with reviews being undertaken nationally where possible;
• A European register of quality assurance agencies operating in Europe will be produced;
• A European Register Committee will act as a gatekeeper for the inclusion of agencies in the register;
• A European Consultative Forum on Quality Assurance will be established.
The report also makes it clear that its submission should not be viewed as the end of the project. What has been set in motion by the Berlin mandate will need continuing maintenance and coaxing if it is to provide the fully functioning European dimension of quality assurance for the European Higher Education Area. However, a European Higher Education Area with strong, autonomous and effective higher education institutions, a keen sense of the importance of quality and standards, good peer reviews, credible quality assurance agencies, an effective register and increased co-operation with other stakeholders, such as employers, is now possible and the proposals contained in the report will go a long way towards making that vision a reality.
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