A quarterly publication of AQU Catalunya


April 2019

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The foundations of a Quality Assurance Agency

The Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG) are a set of standards and guidelines used by institutions and higher education quality assurance (QA) agencies in Europe as a reference document for internal and external quality assurance systems in higher education. Part 3 of the ESG sets out the seven standards and guidelines for external QA agencies. If I personally had to choose what I consider to be the foundations of a QA agency from these seven standards, the main ones would be:

  • Independence. Agencies should be independent and act autonomously. They should have full responsibility for their operations and the outcomes of those operations without third party influence. Independence is important to ensure that procedures and decisions are solely based on expertise.
  • Professional conduct. High professional standards and integrity in the agency’s work are indispensable. For this reason, all persons involved in its activities must be competent and act professionally and ethically.
  • Activities, policy and processes for quality assurance. Agencies should have clear and explicit goals and objectives that are part of their publicly available mission statement.



  • AQU Catalunya Strategic Plan 2019-2022
    AQU Catalunya's Strategic Plan for 2015-2018 was developed in a participatory manner, with the experience gained from complying with and fulfilling the previous plan and the application of a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats). The plan sets out the Agency's six main strategic lines of action below, the details of which are specified in AQU Catalunya's annual Action Plan.
    Editorial Departmen
  • The new AQU Catalunya Code of Ethics
    The new Code of Ethics of the Catalan University Quality Assurance Agency (Agència per a la Qualitat del Sistema Universitari de Catalunya/AQU Catalunya) was endorsed by AQU Catalunya's Governing Board at its meeting on 2 May 2019.

    The working group commissioned with the drafting of the Code of Ethics consisted of Dr. Esther Giménez-Salinas, Professor Emeritus of Criminal Law and Criminology at the Ramon Llull University, Dr. Begoña Román, Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Barcelona, and Dr. Marina Garcés, Associate Professor of Studies in Arts and Humanities at the Open University of Catalonia. The secretary to the working group was Jordi Escolar, legal adviser to AQU Catalunya and secretary of the Appeals Committee.

    Jordi Escolar - Legal advisor
  • The fourth graduate Satisfaction survey
    The latest figures on the satisfaction of graduates from universities in Catalonia, which include the 2016, 2017 and 2018 cohorts, have recently been released. The fieldwork was carried out this winter (2018/2019) and, for the first time, all twelve universities in the higher education system in Catalonia participated in the survey. Another important development was that 34 affiliated schools and institutes (out of a total of 50) also took part, with the satisfaction survey becoming increasingly consolidated as a comparable and useful instrument that is common to the higher education system as a whole. 88% of the graduate population from these cohorts were covered by the study.
    Dani Torrents - Senior advisor, Internationalisation and Knowledge Generation Department


  • AQU Catalunya's new Code of Ethics: an opportunity

    Esther Giménez-Salinas
    Director, Chair of Social and Restorative Justice, Pere Tarrés Foundation, Ramon Llull University (URL)

    As a lawyer and an expert in criminal law, I have been trained in the principles that regulate certain types of behaviour and protect what are considered to be certain fundamental legal assets that, if they are not respected, result in the punishment of whoever infringes the rules and/or regulations. When the first codes of ethics appeared they proved to be overly similar to laws and regulations in that they attempted to regulate certain types of behaviour to the point of case-based reasoning, or casuistry. This was in part due to the fact that applied ethics as a discipline was still underdeveloped in Spain.

    In the 1970s a new discipline in the field of ethics, known as applied ethics, appeared in the US. As the name indicates, it was a movement linked to specific situations that arose as a result of the need to deal with real-world actions (and their moral considerations) in professional practice that are not necessarily governed by law.

    Bioethics is probably one of the more well-known fields in this discipline as it is directly linked to specific situations in the field of health in which many people have found themselves faced either directly or indirectly with ethical dilemmas. By now, however, it has spread to all professional sectors, ranging from private enterprise to public service.




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