November 2013


Reminiscences of the INQAAHE Secretariat in The Hague

Guido Langouche - Outgoing secretary, INQAAHE and emeritus professor at the University of Leuven – KULeuven

The time has come for us at NVAO to say goodbye to the INQAAHE Secretariat, which we hosted for almost 6 years. As outgoing secretary I was invited to write down a few reminiscences. The first thing that comes to my mind is the many daily INQAAHE e-mails that arrived in my mailbox. By this I mean the non-standard e-mails. They came on top of the daily mails that arrived in the mailbox "secretariat@inqaahe.org" and were handled skilfully by Carolien Hennekam, and before her by Esther van den Heuvel. They were really "THE" secretariat, busy full-time with INQAAHE matters. They were responsible for the planning and preparations of upcoming network meetings and had to put pressure on programme committee chairs and members to suggest session topics, speakers and panel compositions, whilst assisting local organizers in order to achieve a smooth conference programme. There were the daily e-mails concerning membership issues, such as new ones and renewals. There were the candidates for GGP-alignment verification. There were the different grant programmes that INQAAHE offers to its members. There was the daily work to keep track of the network’s files and minutes, the annual reports and newsletters. And lest we forget keeping track of the network’s finances and providing regular financial reports to the treasurer and the Board.

As secretary I received the most unusual e-mails, and indeed they were certainly no lesser interesting as a result. In the first place there were the contacts with the INQAAHE president. Every few days there was something to consult each other about, mainly on issues somehow connected with the strategic plan of INQAAHE, especially on how to get initiatives agreed upon in the INQAAHE General Assembly and Board underway. Mails from Board members arrived at all possible times of day and night, illustrating the worldwide span of our network.

This worldwide span is what I have learned to appreciate about INQAAHE. It is the place to share experiences about what is going on in terms of quality assurance in higher education in all corners of the world. The place, to quote the INQAAHE constitution, "to create, collect and disseminate information on current and developing theory and practice in the assessment, improvement and maintenance of quality in higher education". Europe, Asia and the Americas have their own regional networks with strong local activities but it is through INQAAHE that we learn about each others’ major issues. Internationalisation of the curricula and mobility of students is a hot topic in Europe, but much less so among the different countries of Latin America which share the same language and the same culture and where the added value of a period of study in a neighbouring country is much less obvious. And while in some countries of the world the evaluation of quality at a higher education institution is carried out by compiling detailed data on 350 indicators, other countries have steered away from such an overload of bureaucracy and instead ask the institution to fairly, freely reply to only 4 basic questions: What is your vision regarding the quality of your programmes? Can you demonstrate that you have adequate policies to implement this vision? Can you demonstrate that you have insight into the extent to which this vision is realised? Can you demonstrate that you systematically improve the quality of your programmes whenever required? Quite a contrast in procedure! These are just two examples, and INQAAHE is the place where such practices are compared and the pros and cons are discussed.

If INQAAHE did not exist, it would need to be created. It meets a basic need to develop worldwide theory and practice in higher education quality assurance.

We at NVAO are glad that AQU Catalunya came forward as a candidate to host the Secretariat in the years to come. We are sure the INQAAHE secretariat is in good hands and we wish AQU all the best!


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