Quality in higher education encompasses various definitions such as “fitness for purpose” and “value for money”.
Quality of higher education is a dynamic category that involves a need for constant improvement of all the processes and their outcomes. It is a guiding force of the overall social development, a force that instigates national economic development and functions as a base for successful individual careers.
Term “quality” is closely related to the term “quality culture” and consequent “quality culture improvement”.
Quality culture is associated with the distribution of the examples of good practice on national and international levels. This specially applies to giving incentives for adopting and improving standards, criteria, principle of transparency and close relationship between the government, economy and higher education.
European Dimension of Quality
European dimension of quality includes the Bologna process, European Standards and Guidelines, Forum and Register.
Leuven Communique was adopted at the conference of ministers for higher education in the 46 countries of the Bologna Process, which was held in Leuven on 28 and 29 April 2009. The ministers underlined the need for excellence in all aspects of higher education and established the list of priorities for the next decade.
Special emphasis was placed on social dimension of education, on allowing equal access to quality education and learning outcomes for all, for the purpose of improving mobility.
Budapest-Vienna Declaration on the European Higher Education Area was adopted at the conference of ministers held on 11 and 12 March 2010 in Budapest and Vienna. All the countries of the Bologna Process presented their results in the implementation of Bologna reforms in the last decade.
Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European higher education area
Following the Lisbon Strategy and its vision of Europe as the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, a series of reforms has been carried out in the area of higher education with the purpose of creating a common European Higher Education Area. To facilitate the process, ministers of the Bologna Process signatories invited the E4 group (ENQA, EUA, EURASHE and ESIB/ESU) to develop an agreed set of standards, procedures and guidelines on quality assurance in higher education.
This cooperation resulted in a document called “Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area” (ESG), which was adopted in Bergen in 2005. The document was drafted in such a way as to enable implementation on national level, regardless of differences in tradition between the countries. ESG is to be used for the improvement of the adopted models of quality assurance in higher education.
The European Quality Assurance Forum
The European Quality Assurance Forum was founded by E4 with the idea of creating a place for discussion, and exchange of experiences and good practice in higher education quality assurance in the EHEA.
The Forum, held once a year, is a place where useful information on different approaches and practices in various systems of higher education are exchanged, and where participants gain an insight into all the advantages changes and improvements bring, as opposed to keeping things as they are.
All the stakeholders in higher education are welcomed to actively participate in the work of Forum.
The European Quality Assurance Register for higher education (EQAR)
The European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR) is a non-profit organization formed by E4 on March 4, 2008, with the purpose of improving transparency in higher education quality assurance.
EQAR published a list of all the registered quality assurance agencies in Europe (7) that are responsible for quality assurance on national level and in the EHEA, and whose work is in accordance with the ESG.
National dimension of quality
In the Republic of Croatia, areas of higher education and science are closely related. The responsibility for the quality of higher education and science lies with HEIs and scientific organisations, whereas external quality assurance of higher education and science is the concern of National Council for Science, National Council for Higher Education, Rectors’ Conference, student unions, Council of Polytechnics and Colleges and Agency for Higher Education and Science.
Taking responsibility for quality and its constant improvement should be a concern of all the stakeholders in higher education. The primary responsibility, however, lies with higher education institutions and scientific organisations.
In order to promote ethical values, principles and standards in the area of higher education and science in the Republic of Croatia – on national, institutional and individual level – the academic community acknowledges “The Bucharest Declaration on Ethical Values and Principples of Higher Education in the Europe Region” that was adopted at International Conference on Ethical and Moral Dimensions for Higher Education and Science in Europe, held on 2-5 September 2004 in Bucharest.