European Quality Audit
The German Accreditation Council announced the experimental clause with the aim of decisively developing program- and system accreditation in Germany as an instrument for quality assurance of teaching and studies and thus establishing new forms of external assessment. A total of four projects were approved by the Accreditation Council, including the "European Quality Audit (EQA)" project of the universities of Siegen, Graz, Lucerne and Riga. The "European Quality Audit" (EQA) experiment started in 2017 and is based on two principles: On the one hand, quality assurance and development in the EQA should be holistic, i.e. include all central performance areas of a higher education institution (study and teaching, research infrastructure, service/administration and governance/leadership) as well as their interlinking. On the other hand, with a view to the European Higher Education Area, the "European Standards and Guidelines" (ESG) should be expanded using international expertise in order to implement European standards of quality assurance and development for all service areas. In this way, the EQA could be developed in the longer term into an instrument of a quality assurance system for the European Higher Education Area.
The EQA Consortium
Together with the universities of Graz, Lucerne and Riga, the University of Siegen founded the EQA consortium. As a first step, the quality assurance systems implemented at the partner universities were analysed and further developments were made at the partner institutions in the sense of "bench learning". The University of Siegen in particular benefited from this in the design of its QA system. The members give each other feedback in the sense of an iterative dialogue. The consortium functions as an advisory, development and assessment body.
The consortium currently consists of:
- Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz
- Universität Luzern
- Latvijas Universitate Riga
- Universität Siegen
- Zurich Law School
Other project participants:
- German Accreditation Council
- European University Association (EUA)
Swiss Agency for Accreditation and Quality Assurance (AAQ)
The EQA Standards
The consortium has developed EQA standards & guidelines for the other performance areas, which are based on and complement the "European Standards and Guidelines" (ESG) in their basic structure and composition.The formulated EQA standards guide the development on two levels: Guidelines on the criteria "Strategy for quality assurance", "Scope of quality management and the interdependence of different areas", "Information management", "Public information", "Continuous monitoring and regular review of own activities", "Teachers, employees, qualification of staff", "Learning environment, working environment, resources", "Regular external quality assurance" and "Framework of reference and legal basis" were agreed as cross-sectoral standards. These standards serve as a basis for mutual consultation in the (further) development of the QA systems of the universities in the consortium and have been or are currently being applied in the quality assurance procedures of Karl Franzens University Graz (Quality Audit, from 2020), the University of Lucerne (Institutional Accreditation, 2019 to 2020), University of Siegen (Experimentation Clause, 2017 to 2020) and Latvijas Universitate (Bench Learning, 2022).
In addition, area-specific standards were formulated for the performance areas:
- Teaching: with the criteria "Design and approval of study programmes", "Student-centred learning, teaching and examination" and "Admission, study progression, recognition and graduation".
- Research support and infrastructure: with the criteria "Good scientific practice", "Assessment of achievements", "Doctorates", "Framework conditions, research environment (research infrastructure)",
- Governance and leadership: with the criteria "Adequate governance structures", "Responsibility and decision-making", "Participation", "Conflict resolution and error culture", "Transparency of decisions".
- Service/administration: with the criteria "Transparent action and process orientation"; "Efficiency and effectiveness", "Sustainability in data collection and data protection".
In the area of teaching, the standards are adequate to individual criteria of the "Studienakkreditierungsverordnung" and are thus completely part of the QA system of the University of Siegen, which is the central object of the system accreditation. At the University of Siegen, the other standards are currently implemented to varying degrees in the QA procedures of the other service areas, whereby the service area already has extensively designed and established processes. In the area of research, the University of Siegen has set itself guidelines to implement the EQA quality standards for research. These have already been applied in the evaluation of the Siegen Centre for Sensor Systems.
The EQA standards are continuously discussed and further developed.
In its meeting on 8/9 December 2020, the German Accreditation Council "determined the requirements for system accreditation to be fulfilled". "For the University's innovative and challenging European Quality Audit (EQA) project for quality assurance and development, it encouraged the University to continue its quality-developing cooperation with the partners from Graz, Riga and Lucerne".
From the perspective of the University of Siegen, the work carried out so far within the EQA was essentially aimed at establishing a QA system, which led to the system accreditation of the University of Siegen in the course of the experiment. The realisation of the overall goals of the EQA can only succeed in the long term and beyond a defined project period. In a short- and medium-term perspective, two lines of development will be further advanced in the EQA consortium and within the University of Siegen:
1. internal perspective: holism of the system
In order to do justice to the claim of the holistic nature of the QA system at the University of Siegen, the existing processes in the service areas of "research support and infrastructure", "governance and management" and "service" are to be expanded and consolidated into coordinated subsystems, as has already been done in the area of "teaching", and applied across the board. There are challenges here, particularly in the dovetailing of the subsystems, in order to ensure efficient mutual systemic coordination. This also requires an expansion of the role and tasks of the "Siegen Quality Centre" (QZS).
2. external perspective: expansion and deepening of the network
So far, the lingua franca in the EQA consortium is German. In order to enable an expansion of the consortium and to include European organisations (EQAR and the EUA Institutional Evaluation Programme), the next step should be to change the lingua franca to English and in particular to make all documents available in English as well. In a further step, the consortium should seek additional European member universities. Here, the critical size of a consortium - both minimum and maximum - plays a role, which aims at self-responsible quality assurance and development. For the expansion of the consortium, already existing cooperation relationships of the EQA partners within the framework of European university alliances can be used (e.g. ATHENA, arQus European University Alliance).
In this way, an expanded consortium could then take on a reciprocal auditing role, so that a closed procedure of holistic quality assessment would emerge, in which the consortium of higher education institutions could ensure quality development completely and from within itself. In the longer term, this could then achieve the goal that the Accreditation Council has pursued with the experimentation clause, namely to develop alternative procedures beyond system accreditation.
Aim: Mutual consultation within a European university network
The focus is on collegial advice and development, which should increase the individual responsibility and autonomy of the higher education institutions in the accreditation process. EQA serves to build up and develop structures, processes and instruments within a HEI that promote quality and ensure quality (QA system) in a self-responsible manner.
|11/12.01.2018 ||Kick-off EQA, University of Siegen|
|30./31.08.2018 ||1st working meeting, topics: 1. quality management of study programmes, 2. QM in the field of diversity, Latvijas Unversitate Riga|
|11./12.02.2019 ||2nd working meeting, topic: QM in the field of research and promotion of young researchers, Karl Franzens University Graz |
|29/30.08.2019 ||3rd working meeting, topic: 1. governance, 2. publication strategies (Open Access), University of Lucerne |
|11.09.2019 ||1st walk-through at EQA, University of Siegen |
|30/31.01.2020 ||4th working meeting, topic: Conducting audits University of Siegen |
|10-12.03.2020||2nd walk-through in EQA, University of Siegen |
|2019 - 2021 ||Institutional accreditation, University of Lucerne |
|until 2021||Quality Audit, Karl-Franzens-University Graz |
|2022 ||Audit Riga, Latvijas Universitate Riga|
The consortium partners have defined common EQA-standards (german version) for central performance areas, which are available in a first draft
Link to the data cloud of the consortium partners: Sciebo
For questions concerning the project: