April 2015



Martí Casadesús Fa - Director

On 15 May the European Ministers for Education meeting in Yerevan (Armenia) endorsed the new ESG (Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area). To put it more colloquially, the ESG are the new guidelines for internal quality assurance systems in universities, for QA agencies in their role of checking whether these systems are effective or not, and for the auditing of the effectiveness of the role of the agencies within the system. In other words, the guidelines for "watching the watcher".

These standards will be analysed in greater detail later on, but for now I think it is important to underline two concepts that stand out in the new ESG: the need for management systems aimed at continuous improvement and the importance of constantly taking into consideration the needs and expectations of all stakeholders in higher education, in particular the students.

AQU Catalunya has been working along these two lines for some time now. As regards continuous improvement, for example, the Agency recently endorsed the guide to the certification of quality management systems in education institutions, ahead of a proposal for a ministerial ordinance that should have been issued months ago. The objective of the guide is clearly to give the universities, as the main agent responsible for the quality and quality assurance of degree courses, an additional tool for the continuous improvement of the study programmes they offer and deliver.

As for student participation in programme improvement, this has involved including student representatives in all of the site visits made by the Agency's external review panels in procedures involving programme accreditation, in addition to the expectation of students being represented on the Agency's Board of Management pending the passing of a legislative proposal (the AQU Catalunya Act) currently being discussed by the Catalan Parliament.

Each of these two aspects will impinge directly on the main tool available to AQU Catalunya for programme improvement, namely, accreditation. Accreditation of the first sixty-five study programmes in the Catalan university system has in fact just been completed and recently celebrated at a public event, and many more are in the process of being accredited. The design and implementation of the accreditation procedure has admittedly been a long, complex and difficult process, although I sincerely believe that it continues to serve its main objective, which is quite simply yet very complexly the betterment of study programmes. Stopping the clock for an instant in time, looking at how a degree course is running, coming up with appropriate enhancement proposals and, above all, getting feedback from an independent external panel, must as a procedure undoubtedly lead to programme improvement.

Nevertheless, it is important for there to be trust in the process so we can all reap the benefits: the universities end up with better degree programmes, students are able to put forward their ideas and proposals, the university system in general gains confidence and enhances its international standing, etc. In other words, that everybody feels that the inequation driving the world, i.e. WIIFM>WIWCM*, is fulfilled. It would all otherwise make no sense.


* What's in it for me > What it will cost me. 


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