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Member States urged to improve quality checks in universities and vocational colleges
Member States must shift from a box-ticking approach and upgrade their quality systems if they want to improve the performance of universities and vocational colleges, according to two reports published by the European Commission on quality assurance in higher education and vocational training. The reports highlight that, although progress has been achieved, further reforms are needed to ensure a 'quality culture' so that teaching is more closely aligned with labour market realities and societal needs. They also call for more emphasis to be given to international cooperation and for students to have a greater say in decision-making.
“Quality assurance is the basis for building trust in our education systems and we need to make greater use of its potential as a catalyst to modernise our universities and vocational education colleges. Our aim is to drive up standards in a way that encourages diversity and employability rather than uniformity,” said Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth.
The report on higher education sets out how quality assurance is helping to establish quality goals and address challenges such as the expanding student population in Europe, which has grown by more than 25% to 20 million since 2000. It underlines the importance of making the most of ICT-based technologies. Transparency is also vital: quality assurance results should be publicly available and feed into strategic decision-making.
The report on the European quality assurance reference framework for vocational education (EQAVET) shows that it has also helped develop a quality culture, through support such as an online tool to build and monitor quality assurance systems, and by encouraging the sharing of experience and best practice through the EQAVET network. But, here too, further action is needed to make quality assurance more transparent and increase mutual trust in qualifications awarded in different countries.
This would help vocational students and workers to get their skills, competences and qualifications recognised abroad. Priority areas for further cooperation include improving the quality assurance of work-based learning, including apprenticeships, and in defining and assessing learning outcomes.
Erasmus+, the new EU programme for education, training, youth and sport, will provide funding for Member States to develop their quality assurance systems in higher and vocational education, identify successful practices and support European cooperation in this field. Member States can use money from the European Structural and Investment Funds to improve quality assurance.
The Commission's report on quality assurance in higher education is part of the follow-up to its Agenda for the Modernisation of Higher Education, as well as to a 2006 European Parliament and CouncilRecommendation. It builds on a previous report published in 2009.
Vocational education and training
The EQAVET network brings together representatives of Member States, the European Commission, employers and trade unions to promote cooperation in developing and improving quality assurance. The report published today is based on the results of the first evaluation of EQAVET.
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Follow Androulla Vassiliou on Twitter @VassiliouEU