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BOLOGNA SEMINAR Powered By Docstoc
					                        BOLOGNA SEMINAR
                        SANTANDER, SPAIN


              Background paper for UK participants

                          28-30 July 2004
           Menendez Pelayo International University Campus

Jessica Olley: EU/Bologna Process Officer, Europe Unit (00 44) 207 419 5423


Introduction to the European quality assurance debate

1. This crucial seminar will be attended by representatives from quality assurance and
       accreditation agencies from across Europe. It will play a vital role in shaping the debate
       on assessment and accreditation in the lead-up to the next Bologna ministerial summit in
       Bergen, Norway, in May 2005.

2. The ministerial Communiqué resulting from the Bologna summit in Berlin in September
   2003 stressed, “the need to develop mutually shared criteria and methodologies on
       quality assurance”. At European level Ministers called upon, “ENQA through its members,
       in co-operation with the EUA, EURASHE and ESIB, to develop an agreed set of
       standards, procedures and guidelines on quality assurance, to explore ways of ensuring
       an adequate peer review system for quality assurance and/or accreditation agencies or
       bodies, and to report back through the Follow-up Group to Ministers in 2005”. The
       seminar will focus on these action lines with a view to drawing up recommendations for
       the Bergen summit.

3. Recognition of radically different current usages of, and development towards, a common
   understanding of key quality assurance terminology, such as „accreditation‟, „assessment‟
       and „audit‟, will be crucial for a constructive European debate on these issues.

4. There are important differences between the UK and continental approaches to
   professional formation and to quality assurance that have significant implications for the
       debate at European level on quality assurance and accreditation. These differences are
       outlined below and will underpin debate at this seminar.

Approaches to professional formation
5. In the UK, as in the United States and Australia, a relevant degree only plays a partial
       role in professional formation. The degree is followed by a supervised subsequent
       experience of training aimed at membership of a professional body with license to
       practice where this is required under UK law . Professional bodies (for example, the
       Institute for Electrical Engineers) accredit the practical component of professional
       formation. As a result, the UK distinguishes between academic and professional
       accreditation perhaps more sharply than many continental countries. Quality assurance of
       professional formation relies on a system of standards (known as the „Academic
       Infrastructure‟) and institutional audit to underpin the academic component, followed by a
       separate certification of the subsequent practical training component.

    In engineering, science, law (college of law course also needed) etc. further study and practical supervised
experience post-graduation is required for membership of what is usually a voluntary association.

6. This approach contrasts significantly with the situation in many continental countries
       where the degree also carries concurrently licence to practise (as in a much smaller
       number of areas in the UK it does also – e.g. health; architecture; veterinary medicine).
       Practical training and experience of the profession is included within the degree itself.
       This integrated approach to professional formation has led to the development of quality
       assurance systems based on programme accreditation elsewhere in Europe.

7. Programme accreditation in this sense is achieved when threshold levels are attained or
       exceeded. Accreditation at the programme level can be an overly homogenising process
       that stifles innovation and could destroy one of the UK‟s most distinctive and valuable
       traditions – diversity of programme and location to match students‟ interests and
       motivations. This could result in higher drop-out rates and inflated costs as we would
       have to deliver less flexibly and possibly include material which our employers generally
       expect students to acquire on the job or informally.

8. There are moves at European level towards Europe-wide programme accreditation in the
   interests of converging course content and delivery and bypassing the complex
       machinery of recognition as it is currently set up. In the view of some influential European
       decision-makers European-wide accreditation could make a market in high level skills
       much easier to operate and could stimulate mobility.

9. In 2003 accreditation bodies from eight Bologna signatory countries formed the
       European Consortium for Accreditation in Higher Education (ECA). The aim of the
       Consortium is the achievement of mutual recognition of accreditation decisions among its
       Members before the end of 2007. The ECA approach is based on a narrow accreditation
       model and the creation of zones of mutual trust. It does not sit easily with UK
       developments in professional formation.

10. There is an urgent need to explain and promote the UK approach to professional
       formation and accreditation across Europe. This will help the UK to avoid recognition
       difficulties in future and will ensure that European discussions develop in a flexible way
       that incorporate the variety of approaches to professional formation operating in Europe.

Approaches to quality assurance
11. The second area in which the UK‟s approach differs to that of many other European
       countries is in the objectives of its quality assurance arrangements. Quality assurance in
       the UK aims to enhance quality in higher education institutions. UK experience has
       identified improvement and development in systems and in actual provision of education
       as crucial objectives underpinning its quality assurance arrangements.

12. The maintenance and assessment of quality in the UK is delegated to higher education
    institutions themselves. The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) ensures academic
       standards by reviewing the institution‟s internal procedures to ensure that quality and

    ECA‟s members come from Austria, Germany, The Netherlands, Flanders, Ireland, Switzerland, Norway and Spain.
Further information on ECA can be found at:

       standards are maintained across the institution and failures are identified and corrected
       speedily. UK quality assurance focuses on enhancing institutional quality rather than
       providing a stamp of quality at subject level. A minority of Bologna signatory countries
       share this approach to quality assurance, including Denmark and Ireland.

13. In Scotland, an „enhancement-led‟ institutional review (ELIR) is being accompanied by
    „enhancement engagements‟ with the sector on a development project basis, looking
       initially at Assessment and at Responding to Student Needs, particularly at student
       evaluation of their programmes and feedback systems. England, Wales and Northern
       Ireland are likely to move towards an „enhancement‟ approach. Ailsa Crum from QAA
       Scotland will speak on ELIR on day one of the seminar.

14. The QAA defines clear and explicit standards for public information and as reference
    points to support institutions‟ internal quality procedures – the „Academic Infrastructure‟.
       These „points of reference‟ take the form of Frameworks for HE qualifications, subject
       benchmark statements and the QAA‟s Code of Practice that guides the institution‟s
       internal quality assurance arrangements. Programme specifications, setting out the
       knowledge and understanding that a student will be expected to have upon completion,
       by reference to the Academic Infrastructure, are also used as a tool for communicating
       with students and employers.

15. Quality assurance systems elsewhere in Europe are based on programme accreditation.
       Their main objective is achieving, often retrospectively, threshold standards. Experience
       in the UK has demonstrated the limitations of quality assurance with an emphasis on
       accreditation. As noted above, accreditation at programme level can lead to the
       homogenisation of higher education and stifle innovation, as well as being costly to
       implement. Accreditation systems fail to foster a culture of improvement and development
       in the actual provision of education.

16. The European University Association‟s (EUA) „Quality Culture Project‟ focuses on
    embedding a systematic and coherent quality culture in universities in line with Bologna
       Process objectives to increase the transparency and attractiveness of European higher
       education. The project‟s 2002-2003 report contains useful recommendations for
       European institutions similar to UK quality assurance developments. It is hoped that the
       findings of the Quality Culture Project will inform the debate on European quality

17. The European Network for Quality Assurance (ENQA) is looking at developing standards,
       procedures and guidelines on quality assurance at European level in line with the Berlin
       mandate. In parallel to this the EUA is setting up a Quality Committee to act as a policy
       forum for European quality assurance. It is hoped that the European debate on quality
       assurance, in particular within ENQA discussions, will improve quality across the

    Further information on the EUA‟s Quality Culture Project, including the 2002-2003 project report, can be found at: UK HEIs Leeds Metropolitan University, London Metropolitan
University and Brunel University participated in Round I of the project. Napier University and University of Bristol are
participating in Round II of the project.

       European Higher Education Area (EHEA). A single intrusive or bureaucratic quality
       assurance agency at European level is not desirable. The UK‟s institution-led approach to
       quality assurance has value for discussions on European quality assurance.

European Commission activity
18. The European Commission appears to be seeking more nearly automatic recognition
    than has been achieved so far – hence the recent Directive on Mutual Recognition of
       Professional Qualifications, its support for the Lisbon Recognition Convention and its
       great interest in the Bologna Process. Automatic recognition would facilitate the
       development of a pan-European labour market, one of the European Union‟s fundamental
       objectives. The Commission‟s report on the implementation of the 1998 Council
       Recommendation on European Co-operation in quality assurance in HE is still awaited.

19. Early intelligence indicates that the European Commission is keen to further promote a
       pan-European accreditation system for engineering. Indeed, the Commission recently
       held a meeting of European engineering organisations in Brussels prior to issuing a „Call‟
       to fund a pilot project for „Developing European Cooperation in Accreditation in certain
       disciplines/professional fields of study‟. Two proposals, with quite different starting
       assumptions, were submitted to the „Call‟, one from „Accreditation Engineering Education‟
       (ESOEPE) to set up a European system for accreditation of engineering education and a
       second proposal from „Certified Engineering Education for Industry‟ (ENQHEEI) on
       labelling industry-oriented engineering studies. It is feared that European Commission
       activity in engineering accreditation is part of an attempt to set up a broader pan-
       European accreditation system in all disciplines.

UK views
20. The UK doubts the value of a quality assurance system which focuses, often
    retrospectively, on achieving thresholds. The key need is for improvement and
       development in systems and in actual provision of education.

21. The UK would prefer an approach to European quality assurance based on existing
       instruments. The Directives on Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications in the
       EU are Treaty matters and make reference to minimum periods of academic study, with a
       mechanism for topping up or doing compensatory training or study where there is serious
       misalignment. The Lisbon Convention for the recognition of academic qualifications is set
       up on a similar basis. The UK is also party to the Washington Accord which recognises
       the substantial equivalency of accreditation systems of organizations holding signatory
       status, and the engineering education programs accredited by them. The Washington
       Accord covers professional engineering undergraduate degrees. The Accord signed in
       1989, is an agreement between the bodies responsible for accrediting professional
       engineering degree programs in each of the signatory countries. The Accord
       recommends that graduates of accredited programs in any of the signatory countries be
       recognized by the other countries as having met the academic requirements for entry to
       the practice of engineering.

    Engineering technology and postgraduate-level programs are not covered by the Accord. For further information
please see:

22. There is an urgent need to explain and promote the UK approach to accreditation across
    Europe to avoid recognition difficulties in future and ensure that European discussions
    develop in a flexible way in line with existing Conventions and Directives. In particular
    there is a need for greater information exchange on:
                the diversity of academic and professional systems;
                the different legal status of professional qualifications; and
                costs of alternative approaches compared to existing methods.

23. There is a need for UK stakeholders – such as the QAA, the UK European Commission
    Office and the Engineering Professors‟ Council (EPC) – to discuss this issue further.

UK points to make:
   There is a need for recognition of very different uses of, and preferably a common
    understanding of, key quality assurance terminology, such as ‘accreditation’,
    ‘assessment’ and ‘audit’. This will be crucial for a constructive European debate on
    these issues.

   The EUA’s Quality Culture Project’s 2002-2003 report contains useful
    recommendations on quality assurance for European institutions and has a
    commendable emphasis on improvement and development.

   Pan-European accreditation could stifle innovation and diminish diversity of
    programme and location to match students’ interests and motivations.

   A system narrowly focussed on programme accreditation could result in higher
    drop-out rates and inflated costs in the UK as we would have to deliver less flexibly
    and possibly include material which our employers generally expect students to
    acquire on the job or informally.

   A single intrusive or bureaucratic quality assurance agency at European level is
    not desirable.

   The UK favours a cross-institutional approach to European quality assurance with
    subject accreditation by professional bodies in as light a form as possible where

   Existing recognition instruments, such as EU Directives, the Lisbon Convention
    and the Washington Accord, are useful for the European quality assurance debate.

   There is a need to exchange information with other Bologna signatory countries
    and to promote the UK approach to accreditation.