Work programme of the Bologna Follow-Up Group 2001-2003
Conference on Working on the European Dimension of Quality
The international conference on Working on the European Dimension of Quality took place in Amsterdam, March 12 and 13, 2002.
The conference was part of the official Bologna-work programme as approved by the Bologna follow-up group in September 2001.
In 1999, 29 ministers of Education in Europe signed the Bologna Declaration. It aimed at promoting a structure of higher education based on two cycles, in order to create transparency for mobility and employability. Since then, throughout Europe, countries with various traditions of higher education have been transforming their system actively into a transparent two-cycle (‘bachelor-master’) structure.
In each country, the transformation is laid down in laws and regulations. On the one hand, legislation is very much a national process, connected with national education systems and legal and political environments. On the other hand, transparency concerning the quality of the various bachelor and master programmes requires international co- operation regarding criteria for quality.
At the Prague Ministerial Conference in 2001, the ministers of Flanders and the Netherlands announced to organise a conference on the issue of quality assurance. In September 2001 the outcomes of the consultation of various countries was studied in a joint meeting in Maastricht.
Representatives of quality assurance agencies and of governments agreed that common problems were faced; that cross border activities in perspective of quality assurance should be promoted and that an action programme was welcomed. It was considered important to be open about the actions to all parties involved in the Bologna process. That was the onset of the Joint Quality Initiative. Actions undertaken were:
- Comparison of concepts of accreditation as operating or proposed in Europe.
- Review of examples of cross border quality assessment of programmes.
- Comparison of existing and proposed descriptors, which resulted in a statement of shared descriptors for bachelor and master programmes.
By focusing on what is shared there appeared to be room for a common approach of the countries and agencies represented in the Joint Quality Initiative, with potential to grow into a European approach.
Brief overview of the conference
The conference started with the introductory keynote of minister Vanderpoorten followed by a general overview of developments and a reflection from the USA. Then the shared descriptors for bachelor and masters as originating from the joint quality initiative were presented and an overview of how similar descriptors could be generated at the programme level in various fields of knowledge by higher education institutions co- operating internationally in the so-called “Tuning project”.
Next to the presentation of descriptors there was room for reflection on the possibilities of quality assurance at the programme level and at the institutional level. The lively discussion on this is also reported in the form of results and theses.
The conference was closed with the final keynote of Minister Hermans.
In his closing address Minister Hermans underlined the importance of quality assurance with the perspective of a transparent system of higher education of high quality throughout Europe, in which students can be mobile. He marked that the conference had shown that various stakeholders are working hard to internationalise quality assurance. He urged participants in the Bologna process to continue “working on the European dimension of quality”, to intensify co-operation on standards and joint testing, with the aim to bring quality assurance throughout Europe into line, and to present the results in Berlin in 2003.
The conference was attended by over a hundred participants from most of the countries involved in the Bologna process, representing ministries of education, quality assessment and accreditation agencies, buffer bodies, higher education institutions and students.
Source: Report of the international conference on Working on the European Dimension of Quality, Amsterdam, March 12 and 13, 2002.
by Marlies Leegwater (Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Netherlands) & Noël Vercruysse (Ministry of Education and Training, Flanders)
- Working on the European Dimension of Quality - Marlies Leegwater & Noël Vercruysse Working on the European Dimension of Quality - report
- The European Dimension of Quality Assurance - Marijk van der Wende & Don Westerheijden Joint Quality Initiative - report at the Amsterdam conference
- Towards shared descriptors for Bachelors and Masters - Joint Quality Initiative Towards shared descriptors for Bachelors and Masters