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Update on the revision of the ESG

Tia Loukkola - Head of Unit Quality Management & Institutional Evaluation Programme (EUA)

Since 2005 the development of both institutional and national/regional QA systems has been underpinned by the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG). The ESG were prepared by the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) in cooperation with the European Students’ Union (ESU), the European University Association (EUA) and the European Association of Institutions in Higher Education (EURASHE),1 and adopted in the Ministerial Meeting in 2005.

Although this might over-simplify the situation, it can be argued that the European Commission’s Progress Report on QA published in 2009 acted as one of the catalysts for the discussions on whether the ESG fulfilled their purpose and were still useful in 2009. The report suggested, for example, adding more explicit links to the other "Bologna Tools" in the document. Since the publication of the report, a possible revision of the ESG was debated by the stakeholders as well as the governments. In response to this debate and in order to adopt a systematic approach to gathering evidence on the implementation of the ESG as well as on the views on revision, the E4 Group launched a project called MAP-ESG in which it carried out consultations among the members of each organisation. The feedback and the evidence collected during the project demonstrated that the ESG have been successful in promoting an understanding of what is good practice in QA, and have impacted on the development of QA in a major way both at system and institutional level. Nevertheless, the E4 Group decided to recommend to the Ministers that the ESG would benefit from a revision "in order to improve their clarity, applicability and usefulness." They also suggested that "this work would be carried out in the understanding that the current principles would be maintained."

The Bucharest Ministerial Meeting in April 2012 welcomed the results of the MAP-ESG project and decided that the ESG would, indeed, be revised. The Communiqué read that "the revision will be based upon an initial proposal to be prepared by the E4 in cooperation with Education International, BUSINESSEUROPE and the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR), which will be submitted to the Bologna Follow-Up Group."

As a follow-up to this decision the seven organisations mentioned in the Communiqué set up a Steering Group in which each of them is represented. The proposals for revising the ESG will be discussed and agreed upon in the Steering Group (SG) meetings. A smaller Drafting Group of four experts, involved previously in the MAP-ESG project, supports the SG in this work.

In line with the principle of transparency and open dialogue with the stakeholders and government, the SG asked for feedback on the draft introductory text in March 2013. The Steering Group (SG) is now analysing this feedback while it continues to draft the revised ESG. It is expected that the main features of the revised ESG would be presented to the Bologna Follow-up Group (BFUG) in November 2013 after which the Steering Group will finalise the initial proposal to be submitted to the BFUG early 2014. It is expected that the Ministers would adopt the revised ESG in their next meeting in spring 2015.

It is hard to say what the new revised ESG will look like. Nevertheless, it is clear that the SG is committed to clarifying and simplifying the document which, according to the MAP-ESG results, was considered somewhat ambiguous and repetitive. The document will also be updated to correspond to the recent developments in the EHEA.

What is clear is that the SG has a challenging task in its hands: striking a balance between looking ahead to the next decade and how European QA can be developed to better serve its purposes while making sure that the work and progress made in the last decade will not be undermined or jeopardised.

More information on the revision process is available on http://revisionesg.wordpress.com/.


1 Nowadays, often referred to also as the E4 Group.



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