EQAR and the Bologna Process
Since 1999, European governments have been working closely together to allow Europe’s diverse education systems to articulate better with each other and thus to establish a European Higher Education Area.
The Bologna Process – named after the city of Bologna, where 29 countries signed a declaration marking the beginning of this reform process– nowadays gathers all 47 signatory countries to the Council of Europe’s European Cultural Convention. The E4 organisations are consultative members of the Bologna Process.
The concept of a European register of quality assurance agencies was initially welcomed by the ministers of the Bologna signatory countries in 2005 at their Bergen summit.
After the Bergen summit, a first proposal for a register was presented to the ministers in the report Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area prepared by the E4 organisations. Back then minister adopted the Standards and Guidelines as common European reference point for internal and external quality assurance of higher education.
In 2006 the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union also expressed their support of the idea to establish a European register of quality assurance agencies in a joint recommendation.
At their summit in London in May 2007 ministers “welcome[d] the establishment of a register by the E4 group, working in partnership, based on their proposed operational model”
in their Communiqué. The E4 Group presented the operational model to ministers in the Report to the London Conference of Ministers on a European Register of Quality Assurance Agencies.
Following the ministers’ mandate that model was implemented in practice and the EQAR Association was founded on 4 March 2008 as an independent organisation in charge of establishing and managing a register of quality assurance agencies.
Ministers committed to “allow EQAR-registered agencies to perform their activities across the EHEA, while complying with national requirements” and in particular “to recognise quality assurance decisions of EQAR-registered agencies on joint and double degree programmes”.
Ministers also welcomed the external evaluation of EQAR, and encourage quality assurance agencies to apply for registration.
Furthermore, the revision of the ESG was initiated based on the Bucharest Ministerial Communiqué and the automatic recognition of comparable academic degrees – “building on the tools of the Bologna framework” – was defined as the EHEA’s long-term goal.
At their meeting in Yerevan Ministers adopted the revised Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG) and the European Approach for Quality Assurance of Joint Programmes. Ministers further committed to enable “higher education institutions to use a suitable EQAR registered agency for their external quality assurance process, respecting the national arrangements for the decision making on QA outcomes”.