In 2006, the European Parliament and the Council adopted the recommendation on quality assurance in higher education. In this recommendation, the Council and the European Parliament invite the Commission to present triennial reports on progress in the development of quality assurance systems.
In 2009, the first progress report on quality assurance in higher education in Europe was published. In it the European Commission pointed to significant developments towards more transparency and credibility. Progress had been made in the way universities and other institutions deal internally with this, but also on external evaluation of institutions and programmes.
On 28 January 2014, the second progress report was published. In this report, the Commission sets out how quality assurance is helping to establish quality goals and address challenges such as the expanding student population in Europe. 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 Commission subtly criticises authorities that use quality assurance to check national (regulatory) requirements. But, rather contradictorily, the report also suggests widening the scope of quality assurance to include broader higher education objectives such as widening access and improving employability.
In addition, the Commission pushes forward the concept of a more open market for QA agencies (and less stressed, but probably more important: more choice for HE institutions). But it does this with the brakes on. The development of more “European” QA methodologies would facilitate reaching this goal. Within the Bologna Process, a QA methodology to assess joint programmes is being developed. Why stop there?