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European quality audits in comparison: Different approaches to institutional diversity


Academic year: 2021

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European quality audits

in comparison:

Different approaches to

institutional diversity

Sirpa Moitus

Project Manager


Alexander Kohler

Managing Director



Quality Audit Network

Network established and started functioning in 2008

Network aim

„ An informal forum for exchanging experiences on audit methods „ Network meetings: Vienna 2008, Madrid 2009, Helsinki 2010

Participation criteria

„ European quality assurance agencies implementing or having

implemented audits

Participating countries and agencies

„ Austria: AQA „ Denmark: EVA

„ England, Northern Ireland and Scotland: QAA „ Finland: FINHEEC

„ Germany: GAC „ Norway: NOKUT

„ Spain: ANECA and AQU Catalunya „ Switzerland: OAQ


Report on European audit models


Trends of Quality Assurance and Quality

Management in Higher Education Systems.

AQA 2009.

Available at:



Overview of countries with audits


1. HEIs are in the different stages of development of QA/QM systems 2. Countries are in different stages in implementing the ESG

3. The lenght of audit experiences varies between agencies

Audits conducted from before 2003


Audits since 2003 „Experienced“

Audit introduced after 2007 „Youngsters“

England and Northern Ireland

Finland Spain

Scotland Switzerland Austria

Norway Germany

(Denmark 2003-07)


Institutional diversity and autonomy

reflected in audit models

1. Voluntary vs. mandatory audits

ƒ Voluntary: Austria, Denmark (voluntary since 2007, earlier mandatory) ƒ Voluntary, but most of HEIs participate: Finland and Spain

ƒ Voluntary, but HEIs must choose between audit and programme accreditation: Germany

ƒ Mandatory: Switzerland, Norway

ƒ Mandatory and a condition of funding: UK, Northern Ireland, Scotland

2. Institutional autonomy in design of its own QA system

ƒ Areas of internal QA/QM systems to be evaluated are defined in the national audit guidelines

ƒ HEIs are expected to make use of a wide variety of reference points

ƒ Especially ESG

ƒ Additionally professional and statutory guidelines

ƒ ANECA provides guidelines and training for HEIs on how to build an internal QA system


Institutional diversity and autonomy

reflected in design and implementation of


3. Input from HEIs in design of national audit models

ƒ In many countries, HEIs have participated in the design of national audit models

ƒ Many agencies have organised hearings, consultations and seminars ƒ Some agencies utilize systematically institutional and auditor

feedback in the development of audit model

4. Implementation of an audit

ƒ Some audit models evaluate if the QA systems are in place

ƒ Some other models also look for evidence of the effectiveness of the QA/QM system

ƒ For instance Germany: Samples of study programmes ƒ UK and Northern Ireland: Audit trails


Institutional diversity and autonomy

reflected in audit topics and scope

5. The scope of audits varies

ƒ In every country: Teaching and learning

ƒ Additionally, in Austria, Finland and Denmark: Quality Assurance of

Research/R&D, Innovation, Support services, Staff, Internationalisation... ƒ Some audit models consist only of mandatory themes

ƒ In other audit models there are both common and optional themes for HEIs

6. General requirements to QM systems are similar

ƒ Focus on internal QM processes and systems that guarantee a standard of quality (mission, excellence, minimum standard)

ƒ Institutional ability to ensure and improve its own quality

ƒ QM as a leadership task and as a basis for steering decisions

ƒ Use of monitoring systems

ƒ Documentation of QA, including QA responsibilities


Institutional diversity and autonomy

reflected in audit reports and outcomes

7. Publication of audit results differ between agencies

ƒ FINHEEC: Emphasis on transparency of audit outcomes and publicity of reports

ƒ OAQ: Emphasis on the institutional privacy and data protection

8. Audit reports include both enhancement and

accountability aspects

ƒ Most reports include recommendations

ƒ Some of reports also highlight the strengths and good practices of QA ƒ QAA reports include confidence judgements


Institutional diversity and autonomy

reflected in audit consequences

9. Audit consequences

ƒ Positive input to development of the internal QA system ƒ Usually no direct consequence on funding, except..

ƒ QAA audit outcomes are used as a condition of funding

ƒ In Switzerland, if the HEI does not pass the re-audit, there is a theoretical possibility to a cut in federal funding (up to 25 %) ƒ Usually audits do not lead to closing down an institution, however..

ƒ In Norway HEI may loose the right to course provision until accredited ƒ In one case in Scotland, a limited confidence judgement was used one


Institutional diversity and autonomy

reflected in follow-up procedures

10. Follow-up procedures

ƒ For those HEIs which passed the audit

ƒ Usually, development of the internal quality assurance system is being evaluated

in the next audit cycle

ƒ QAA: One year after, formal response of HEI and series of meetings with the agency

ƒ FINHEEC: After three years, a voluntary mid-term follow-up and benchmark


ƒ GAQ: After four years, a sample of study programmes are reviewed

ƒ For those HEIs which received a re-audit/limited or no confidence decision ƒ NOKUT: After half an year, a re-audit is being organised

ƒ QAA: Within 18 months, HEI must produce an action plan

ƒ FINHEEC: After two years, a re-audit is being organised

ƒ EVA, OAQ, AQA: There is a voluntary follow-up procedure available ƒ ANECA: Follow-up procedure is under discussion


Diversity of European audit models

Barriers to a European dimension

„ Audit/accreditation is a national competence „ Audit criteria are similar, but not the same „ As a result, audit reports are not comparable

Forms of audit co-operation already on way

„ AQA has used international observers

„ Audit Network as a means to increase transparency of QA

Challenges from a HEI point of view

„ A need for international quality labels to support institutional

co-operation and mobility

„ A need to understand the status and scope of national

audit/accreditation models in partnerships between HEIs

Challenges from the agencies' point of view


Suggestions for discussion themes

– each group may choose 1-2 of

the following themes


Meaning of creativity and institutional autonomy in the

design of internal QA systems ?


Support provided by the agency (before, during and after

the audit) ?


Expectations towards audit reports?


Audit consequences at their best and at their worst?


Diversity of European audit approaches – advantages and



Instructions for the group work


Background of the participants


Division into 3-4 subgroups with 5-7 members in each


Please agree on the chair and the secretary


Start the group work with introducing yourselves and

telling which discussion themes you prefer


25 minutes for discussion, then a 15 minute break


Presentation and discussion of results from the


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