Higher Education and Research

Quality Assurance and Accreditation

In 1999, the Bologna Declaration called for the promotion of cooperation in the field of quality assurance “with a view to developing comparable criteria and methodologies”.

Two years later, in Prague, the Ministers recognised:

“… the vital role that quality assurance systems play in ensuring high quality standards and in facilitating the comparability of qualifications throughout Europe. They also encouraged closer cooperation between recognition and quality assurance networks. They emphasized the necessity of close European cooperation and mutual trust in and acceptance of national quality assurance systems. Further they encouraged universities and other higher education institutions to disseminate examples of best practice and to design scenarios for mutual acceptance of evaluation and accreditation/certification mechanisms. Ministers called upon the universities and other higher educations institutions, national agencies and the European Network of Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA), in cooperation with corresponding bodies from countries which are not members of ENQA, to collaborate in establishing a common framework of reference and to disseminate best practice. … “

The European Network of Quality Assurance in Higher Education - ENQA conducted a survey on quality assurance procedures prior to the Berlin Ministerial Conference in 2003 and also steered the Trans European Evaluation Project, which included several universities from different countries and focused on three study fields (physics, history and veterinary medicine).

European University Association launched its Quality Culture Project whose first part finished in 2003 (see final report) and is now entering its next phase.

In 2002, the education authorities of the Netherlands and Flanders organised a seminar on quality assurance in Amsterdam and the European Union published the report on quality indicators in life long learning.

For the purposes of the project on Governance and Management in Higher Education in South East Europe, UNESCO CEPES published a manual on Quality Assurance and the Development of Course programmes (by Carolyn Campbell and Christina Rozsnayi).

ESIB also published the European student quality assurance handbook in 2002 and revised its policy paper on quality assurance and accreditation in 2003.

On the specific issue of quality assurance of private higher education institutions, it is important to stress that the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers adopted a Recommendation on recognition and quality assurance of private higher education institutions in 1997.

In 2003 in Berlin, Ministers concluded:

“ … The quality of higher education has proven to be at the heart of the setting up of a European Higher Education Area. Ministers commit themselves to supporting further development of quality assurance at institutional, national and European level. They stress the need to develop mutually shared criteria and methodologies on quality assurance.
They also stress that consistent with the principle of institutional autonomy, the primary responsibility for quality assurance in higher education lies with each institution itself and this provides the basis for real accountability of the academic system within the national quality framework.
Therefore, they agree that by 2005 national quality assurance systems should include:

  • - A definition of the responsibilities of the bodies and institutions involved.
  • - Evaluation of programmes or institutions, including internal assessment, external review, participation of students and the publication of results.
  • - A system of accreditation, certification or comparable procedures.
  • - International participation, co-operation and networking.

At the European level, Ministers call 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. Due account will be taken of the expertise of other quality assurance associations and networks. … “

For additional information on quality assurance issues you can also visit the following websites:

or other related sections of our web site: recognition issues, academic mobility, higher education governance and student participation, lifelong learning.