Quality Board for Higher Education in Iceland

Quarterly Update on QA in Europe

The Quality Board gathers information quarterly on publications and upcoming events that are disseminated by international organisations in the Higher Education Sector. These may be of interest to those working in Higher Education, especially those working in Quality Assurance. Below, please find descriptions of these publications and events, as well as links to the relevant resources.

QA issues

A group of QA agencies have carried out a survey on stakeholders’ involvement in quality assurance. The report confirms that “quality assurance agencies involve various stakeholders in various ways. The most well-known stakeholders – students, teaching staff, employers and other staff at higher education institutions – are the ones involved the most across all the surveyed agencies, whereas civil society and local authorities are involved only by a small part of the agencies.” These stakeholder groups are largely involved in evaluations but not as extensively represented in the agencies’ different bodies (e.g. decision-making and governing structures).

Impact of Covid on university funding

A new EUA report provides a detailed picture of the immediate impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on university funding and offers insights into the implications expected in the future. One of the important findings in this report is the fact that the rapid shift to online learning and teaching has revealed gaps in relation to IT infrastructure and the digital competences of students and staff: To foster efficiencies and funding synergies, some countries share digital resources and infrastructure (e.g. online platforms) among universities and students. In Austria, universities are creating vice-rector positions with responsibilities for digitalisation and infrastructure.

Research and academic careers

The Netherlands is at cusp of major changes in managing academic careers based on a paper, developed by VSNU (the association of Dutch universities), interested academics, research funding organisations and medical research institutes. The Dutch proposal is looking at individual careers over time. The model is flexible to allow academics to emphasise teaching and research differently over the span of their careers. DORASparc Europe and EUA are collecting institutional case studies that will be stored in a repository on the DORA website to show how institutions are implementing this new approach to academic career management.

 The European ministers for higher education and research have adopted the Bonn Declaration on Freedom of Scientific Research on 20 October 2020. The Declaration acknowledges the essential nature of scientific freedom for the progress of societies and highlights the role of governments in safeguarding it. The text also notes the importance of deploying “more effective” instruments to ensure that scientific freedom is upheld.

European Research Area (ERA): A new Communication identifies four strategic objectives for the ERA, including prioritising investments and reforms in research and innovation towards the green and digital transition; improving access to facilities and infrastructure for researchers across the EU; supporting the transfer of results to the economy; and strengthening the mobility of researchers and the free flow of knowledge and technology. 

Higher education policies

A report by EUA on micro-credentials is available here. It examines the status of micro-credentials, explores how they are perceived by different actors, and how the existing European Higher Education Area tools can be used for or adapted to accommodate them.

European Education Area (EEA): The European Commission has set out its vision for achieving the EEA, its flagship initiative, by 2025. Improving quality and inclusiveness along with a greater focus on digital and green dimensions in European member state education systems are central to the proposals.

The EC adopted a Digital Education Action Plan to adapt education and training systems to the digital age. The plan stresses two aspects. “Firstly, the deployment of the vast and growing array of digital technologies (apps, platforms, software) to improve and extend education and training… A second key aspect of digital education is the need to equip all learners with digital competences (knowledge, skills and attitudes) to live, work, learn and thrive in a world increasingly mediated by digital technologies.”

The European Commission published its vision on the future of universities in Europe – Towards  a 2030 Vision on the Future of Universities in Europe.  Other organisations are coming up with their own vision. The first example comes from The Guild:  Looking to the Future: The Guild’s Vision for Europe’s Universities.

Posted on 4 Dec 2020.

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