Flexible higher education: implications for QA

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020 European Quality Assurance Forum will be organised in the form of online sessions. This decision was taken with the health and safety of all participants in mind. The EQAF organisers express their gratitude to the host, Aalto University, for all of the work and effort put into the preparations for the 2020 event and look forward to holding the next event there in person in 2021.

The 2020 EQAF online event, entitled “Flexible higher education: implications for QA”, will combine online sessions about European policies and trends, research, and practical case examples related to the Forum theme and more generally about current developments in quality assurance.

Responding to current societal changes, higher education institutions are increasingly inclusive and accommodate diverse student populations. In addition, as part of the move towards student-centred learning, institutions are expected to allow students to choose the pace, place and mode of delivery. These developments are leading to the emergence of more flexible learning paths and educational offers beyond traditional qualifications. The 15th edition of EQAF will explore if QA is fit for this dynamic and flexible environment and how it could better support higher education institutions in this transition and encourage them make the most of it. 

The European Quality Assurance Forum (EQAF) provides a platform for discussion, professional development and exchange of experiences among the main stakeholders in quality assurance. Specifically, the Forum will be of interest to rectors and vice-rectors responsible for quality assurance, quality assurance officers in higher education institutions, students, quality assurance agency staff and researchers working on higher education or the quality assurance field.

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 14.00-15.00 CET    Introduction to the European quality assurance framework
This pre-Forum session will provide an introduction to the quality assurance framework of the European Higher Education Area. 

  • Tia Loukkola, Director, Institutional Development, EUA
  • Maria Kelo, Director, ENQA

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16.00-19.00 CET    Meeting for student experts in quality assurance
This session is organised by ESU and separate registration information is available here.  


2020 European Quality Assurance Forum


During both days of the event, Tia Loukkola, the chair, and Ronny Heintze, member of the EQAF Programme Committee, will guide participants through the event.

10.00-11.00 CET     Opening Session I: Flexible higher education is here
This session will host three speakers in a discussion on the state of play and future perspectives regarding flexible higher education. How do higher education systems respond to the rapid transformation? And how should higher education institutions best prepare to face and implement the changes? 

Drawing on the work of a project on flexible learning paths from the Finnish Institute for Educational Research (FIER) at the University of Jyväskylä
  • Leasa Weimer, PhD researcher, University of Jyväskylä, Finland
Supporting flexible learning pathways in higher education through National qualification frameworks and QA – findings from a UNESCO international survey
  • Michaela Martin, Programme specialist, IIEP-UNESCO
Purposefully-different approaches to flexible learning at scale: A Dublin City University case study (DCU)
  • Conchúr Mac Lochlainn, Research Officer/PhD candidate, Dublin City University, Ireland 
    Chair: Jens Jungblut, EQAF Programme Committee


11.00-11.30 CET   Break


11.30-13.00 CET    Session II: Internal quality assurance in emergency situations
During this session, speakers will present examples of how the internal quality assurance community across Europe reacted during the Covid-19 crisis.

Adaptations to internal quality assurance in Irish higher education institutions in response to Covid-19
  • Mairéad Boland, Senior Quality Officer, Quality and Qualifications Ireland
    Chair: Joaquim Mourato, EQAF Programme Committee
Exceptional times: Main challenges to higher education internal quality assurance systems
  • Rodrigo Teixeira Lourenço, Pro-President for Quality Management and Assurance and Promotion of Academic Success, Polytechnic Institute of Setúbal, Portugal
    Chair: Maria Kelo, Director, ENQA 
Unintended consequences – an exploration of how conducting internal quality reviews online has actually increased student engagement
  • Stef Black, Senior Development Consultant, sparqs - Student Partnerships in Quality Scotland, United Kingdom
    Chair: Marieke Janssen, EQAF Programme Committee
Quality assessment of distance teaching and learning at the University of Geneva
  • Ahidoba de Franchi Mandscheff, Head of Quality, University of Geneva, Switzerland
    Chair: Gohar Hovhannisyan, Vice President, ESU


13.00-14.00 CET    Networking lunch break
Several breakout rooms will be available for networking during lunchtime. The attendees will be able to enable their cameras and microphones, as well as communicate via chat.


14.00-15.00 CET   Session III:  External quality assurance in emergency situations
In this session, three quality assurance agencies will present their approaches to the crisis and the lessons learnt. 

Quality assurance in times of emergency remote teaching
  • Esther Huertas, Head of Quality Assurance Department, AQU Catalunya, Spain
Maintaining the efficacy of external QA in a virtual world
  • Marie Gould, Head of Tertiary Education Monitoring and Review, Quality and Qualifications Ireland
Extending the role of QA agencies in response to pandemic challenges
  • Nataliia Stukalo, Vice Head, National Agency for Higher Education Quality Assurance, Ukraine
    Chair: Rikke Warming, EQAF Programme Committee



10.00-11.00 CET    Session IV: Micro-credentials paving the way to flexible higher education
This session will discuss micro-credentials and open education resources: What is the present status? How can higher education institutions make use of them? And how is their recognition and quality assurance organised?

State of play: Micro-credentials in Europe
  • Elena Cirlan, Policy & Project Officer, Institutional Development, EUA
Recognition, credentialisation and instructional design principles: How can we co-create academic QA standards in open and smart learning environments?
  • Florian Rampelt, Project Lead (AI Campus), Stifterverband, Germany
  • TBC
    Chair: Jakub Grodecki, EQAF Programme Committee


11.00-11.30 CET    Break


11.30-12.30 CET    Session V: Student engagement contributing to the development of quality culture
This session explores the role of student engagement in developing quality culture and how to ensure that students have the appropriate competences to take part in this work.

Quality assurance supporting the delivery of social competences – towards a quality culture. Based on the results of the DASCHE project.
  • Jakub Brdulak, Quality Assurance Advisor of the Rector, SGH Warsaw School of Economics, Poland
Quality assurance and virtual programs. How to reach quality assurance without hampering student engagement?
  • Agnieszka Pechcińska, Vice-President of the Students’ Union, SGH Warsaw School of Economics, Poland
Diversity of student reviewers: Characteristics, experiences, and implications for quality assurance
  • Liv Teresa Muth, Student reviewer, German QA Student Experts’ Pool
    Chair: Geneviève Le Fort, EQAF Programme Committee


12.30-13.30  CET    Networking  lunch break

Several breakout rooms will be available for networking during lunchtime. The attendees will be able to enable their cameras and microphones, as well as communicate via chat.


13.30-14.30 CET    Closing Session VI: Quality assurance shaping change
This session will focus on how flexible and adaptable quality assurance is to the needs of higher education.

  • TBC
Promising change while yearning for stability: QA’s complicated relationship with time
  • Oliver Vettori, Dean, Accreditations and Quality Management/Director Program Management & Teaching and Learning Affairs, WU Vienna, Austria
    Chair: Aleksandar Šušnjar, EQAF Programme Committee

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