November 2013


IMPALA: impact analysis of external quality assurance of higher education institutions

Anna Prades Nebot - Project manager
Project fiche
Framework programme: Lifelong Learning Erasmus Project
Anticipated duration: 36 months
Coordinating institution: EVALAG (
Participants: 11 (20 people)
Countries: 6
Budget: € 80.953

AQU Catalunya carries out all quality assurance and accreditation activities according to international standards and it promotes joint projects with higher education institutions (HEIs) and other national and international agencies and bodies. One of the objectives of the Agency's international activities is to avail itself of the latest methodologies for quality promotion and assurance, which are essential to the maintenance and enhancement of quality in higher education and the university system in general in Catalonia.

Within this context, AQU Catalunya participates in the IMPALA project (Impact Analysis of External Quality Assurance Processes of Higher Education Approach) coordinated by the German agency EVALAG (Evaluationsagentur Baden-Württemberg), the aim of which is the impact analysis of external quality assurance of higher education institutions.

The development of the external quality assurance (EQA) of the universities has been subject to fierce debate. Following the widespread implementation of accreditation in Europe, however, discussions now focus on the efficiency and effectiveness of external quality assurance, with the aim of simplifying these processes and, at the same time, broadening their impact.

 The IMPALA project will see the development and application of a flexible methodology to assess the impact of (different) EQA procedures on HEIs, the ultimate purpose being to increase the knowledge and understanding of both quality assurance agencies and the universities about the applicability and usefulness of EQA procedures. In applying the methodology, each IMPALA partner agency will carry out an EQA procedure with an HEI partner. In parallel, the agencies will implement simultaneous impact analyses based on before-and-after comparisons of situations in the institutions prior to, during and one-and-a-half years after the external review.

The anticipated duration of the project is three years (2013-2016) and it involves 11 participants from six European countries, organised as follows:

Quality assurance agencies Universities
EVALAG (Mannheim, Alemanya) University of Stuttgart (Stuttgart, Alemanya)
AQU Catalunya Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
ARACIS (Bucarest, Romania) Technical University of Civil Engineering Bucharest (Bucarest, Romania)
FINHEEC (Hèlsinki, Finlàndia) Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences (Jyväskylä, Finlàndia)

In addition to these four teams, each consisting of one QA agency and one university, the project also includes the following partners:

  • Prof. Dr. Bjørn Stensaker (Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Oslo, Norway) as an academic expert
  • ENQA (European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education, Brussels, Belgium)
  • European Students Union (Brussels, Belgium)

The project was launched in Mannheim on 5 and 6 November. The four groups of partners introduced themselves at the meeting and there were discussions on the approach to the project, the work plan, as well as the different documents, questionnaires and reports that will need to be produced. For each university, one academic coordinator, the head of the university's quality unit and one student took part. Representation in the project from the three key stakeholders in external quality assurance, namely, QA agencies, academics and students, has thus been ensured right from the very beginning.

The various stages of the project are as follows:

  1. Development and publication of the methodology to analyse the impact of external quality assurance on HEIs.
  2. Application of this methodology for carrying out four case studies in four European countries. Each agency participating in the project (AQU Catalunya, ARACIS, FINHEEC and EVALAG) will carry out the external quality assurance, together with a simultaneous impact analysis.
  3. The mining and analysis of the data collected, and their subsequent dissemination.

Particular mention is made of the active involvement of students in this project right from the start and throughout all of the project's stages as a stakeholder in the effectiveness of EQA. In this regard, the project will need to allow for greater integration and enhancement as regards the contributions made by students to quality assurance.


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