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Approaches to quality assurance and accreditation of LIS programmes: Experiences from Estonia and United Kingdom

Hartley, Richard J. and Virkus, Sirje (2003) Approaches to quality assurance and accreditation of LIS programmes: Experiences from Estonia and United Kingdom. ISSN 0167-8329

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Abstract

Twenty nine European ministers have signed the Bologna declaration in June 1999 and committed their governments and their countries to create the European Higher Education Area by 2010. The European Commission is actively supporting the Bologna Process and has set out their own Action plan `From Prague to Berlin - the European contribution'. Quality assurance is one of the Bologna action lines. Accreditation could be seen as an important contribution to the completion of the European Higher Education Area. Whilst interest in accreditation has been accelerated in Europe in recent years, it is interesting to note that the concept of accreditation can be traced back to 1347 and the creation of the University of Prague. However, it should be stated that accreditation started in the US in an attempt to self-regulate a higher education sector characterized by a mix of institutional types in a competitive context. In Europe interest in accreditation is a direct consequence of the increased interest in accountability of those of us who are employed in the public sector. Globalization and the increased internationalization of the higher education market has led to attempts to compare the systems in place in different countries. The Bologna process and the internationalization of higher education are inter-connected in so far as the ultimate goal is to reach more readability, comparability, compatibility and transparency in European higher education, while preserving institutional diversity and autonomy. So, internationalization of quality assurance was seen as a necessary and logical response of European higher education to current globalization trends as well as to the challenges of building a European higher education area. However, progress has been made in quality assurance field since the Commission began supporting pilot schemes through Socrates in the last decade of the last century. On the basis of the Council recommendation on cooperation in quality assurance in higher education of December 1998, many countries have set up their own quality assurance agencies and a European Network of Quality Assurance Agencies has been established to promote exchange of information, ideas and experiences, contents and methods in the field of evaluation within the EU by organizing forums, workshops etc. Different initiatives have been taken to explore the context and the feasibility of accreditation across national borders, to clarify the key concepts and issues as well as to discuss possible collaborative accreditation schemes at the European level. For example, in 2000 CRE (Confederation of European Union Rectors' Conferences) launched a project with the support of the European Commission to explore issues related to this topic and to define criteria or reference points used in evaluations (Tuning project). However, Mrs. Viviane Reding concludes: We still have a lot to do to make the European Higher Education Area a reality by 2010. We are still far away from a situation in which transparency, quality and recognition are common features in Europe. We now need to go a step further and make quality assurance and evaluation more widely spread, more common and more coherent. This means we need to progress both on quality assurance inside universities, and on external mechanisms to support this'. The Commission will also stimulate the debate on the future organisation of quality assurance and accreditation in Europe in the run up to the higher education convention in Graz, May 2003 and to the Ministerial Meeting in Berlin, September 2003. Conclusions will be set out in a Report on the Council Recommendation on Quality.

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