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The first survey within the DEQAR (Database of External Quality Assurance Reports) project was published. Through an analysis of accreditation reports, its goal was to establish how quality assurance agencies translate the Standards and guidelines for quality assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG), especially standards 1.2 and 1.9, in different national contexts.

The analysis focuses on institutional external quality assurance reports available in the DEQAR base, from Croatia, Estonia, Finland and Portugal – countries with very different higher education systems. In every country, one report per type of higher education institution was chosen. A total of 17 reports were analysed (6 in Croatia, 4 in Estonia, 3 in Finland and 4 in Portugal).

The aim of the survey was to establish whether ESG were in line with the design, approval and the follow-up of programmes in institutional external evaluation reports, and whether quality assurance agencies translate ESG in different ways while evaluating higher education institutions.

Survey Conclusions

The survey showed that the impact of ESG on institutional external quality assurance reports is unquestionable and that all agencies lay great emphasis on their “commitment to compliance” with ESG. Nevertheless, agencies interpret and translate the ESG in different ways and the reports differ with regard to length and focus.

In Portugal and Finland, institutional external quality assurance is focused on internal quality assurance systems at higher education institutions while in Estonia and Croatia the reports evaluate the higher education institutions as a whole.

All countries have two report models – the first was used in the evaluation cycles till 2017 or 2018, and the new one, developed for the recent and currently ongoing evaluation cycles.

The revised and supplemented model of reporting in Croatia represents what can be defined as a direct translation of ESG, while the new model in Finland diverges from the linear translation of ESG.

In Croatia, the participation of stakeholders in the design and follow-up of programmes is evaluated on different levels and areas; in Estonia the reports assesses whether external stakeholders are included in the development of study programmes, while in Finland the emphasis is put on the involvement of external and internal stakeholders in the quality assurance system.

The concept of learning outcomes is visible mostly in Estonia, Finland and Croatia.

The notion of student progress is used more often in Finnish and Estonian reports.

The concept of qualification framework does not appear often in reports, nor does the concept of student workload.

The Agency for Science and Higher Education is a partner in the DEQAR project, financed by the EU programme Erasmus+ and coordinated by the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR). DEQAR is a two-year programme that enabled the development of a European database for easier access to reports and decisions resulting from the evaluation of higher education institutions carried out by EQAR-registered agencies.