One of the last posts explained the role of external experts in quality assurance processes. All external quality assurance processes, however, rely on the principle that first and foremost higher education institutions themselves are responsible for the quality of their educational delivery. This principle is in line with and stipulated by the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG, 2015).
Accordingly, before the step of external quality assurance lies comes that of internal quality assurance. Therefore, some form of internal quality management is in place in most institutions today ensuring the continuous delivery of programmes (in all their forms) according to standards. Part I of the ESG provides standards and guidelines for internal quality assurance.
In preparing for external quality assurance, institution will normally carry out a self-evaluation or self-assessment, resulting in a report. While this report should make reference to the standards set out by the relevant external quality assurance agency, the self-evaluation process should also be used for a self-critical internal consideration about the state of play of the quality management system and its results, for example the quality of its programmes. Institutions are encouraged to effectively reflect upon what works well and what could be improved in their internal quality management. Ideally, all relevant stakeholders are involved in the self-evaluation process. The self-evaluation report is then provided to the external experts who carry out the external assessment.
Once the external process is finished, the outcomes are submitted to the institution in the form of the assessment report. This report should again be fed into the internal quality assurance system to make sure that the external feedback is taken into account in the quality management and that the quality cycle can begin anew.
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