Progress report

On 28 April 2014, we presented our progress report to the Executive Agency, our co-funding body. We were happy to report that our project is on schedule and well advancing.

Executive Summary

The Certificate for Quality in Internationalisation or CeQuInt-project aims to assess, reward and enhance the internationalisation of higher education. It intends to do this first and foremost by developing a robust framework to assess the quality of internationalisation of higher education. The draft of this framework is currently tested in pilot procedures at programme, school and institutional level all across Europe. A Certificate will be awarded to programmes and institutions that have successfully incorporated an international and intercultural dimensions into the purpose, function and delivery of its education. Secondly, the project provides an online internationalisation platform to enhance the transparency of internationalisation practices of higher education. Here, good practices in internationalisation and the awarded Certificates, including assessment reports, will be published. In addition, the project contributes to the further convergence of quality assurance methodologies. The joint development of a methodology puts forward a consensus model to assess quality, in this case of internationalisation, and, in addition, fosters cross-border cooperation among quality assurance agencies

The project partnership includes quality assurance agencies and internationalisation organisations from all the geographic regions of Europe operating in different higher education settings and using different methodologies to assess quality. The project’s Stakeholders Group is composed of representatives of different European higher education institutions and internationalisation organisations. The direct involvement of the stakeholders has been beneficial in amending the project’s approach to system-level peculiarities, cultural sensitivities and terminology.
The main target audiences of the project are higher education institutions and their programmes, quality assurance agencies, academics, internationalisation professionals, graduates and students.

The project is composed of three phases with distinct approaches. The first phase, the development of an assessment methodology is now finalised. In consultation with the stakeholders, the project partners turned ideas and concepts into methodological and supporting documents necessary for the assessment of quality in internationalisation. The main methodological documents are Frameworks for the Assessment of Quality in Internationalisation and A Guide to Assessing the Quality of Internationalisation. The developed (draft) methodology is currently tested in pilot procedures; this is the second phase of the project. This phase kicked off with the selection and training of experts and will end with the delivery of reports outlining the assessment of the quality in internationalisation at twelve programmes, schools and institutions. The last phase will use the results of the first two phases to finalise the methodology and to disseminate the project outcomes. Identified good practices in internationalisation will be shared among those involved in the pilot procedures and the stakeholders in a good practices workshop. Further dissemination is implemented through the project website, the partners’ websites, the CeQuInt newsletter, publications and partner’s contributions. This will culminate at the dissemination conference with the actual award of Certificates and the unveiling of the internationalisation platform. The consortium will then start offering its service to assess and reward the quality of internationalisation in the rest of higher education.

Project website: http://ecahe.eu/cequint/

 

1.          Project Objectives

The overall aim of the project is to assess, reward and enhance the internationalisation of higher education. To achieve this aim, the project has three project objectives:

  1. To develop a robust assessment framework (“methodology”) for the assessment of the quality of internationalisation of higher education and the award of a certificate,
  2. To qualitatively enhance the transparency of internationalisation practices of higher education programmes and institutions by providing an internationalisation platform, and
  3. To contribute to the convergence of quality assurance methodologies in Europe and beyond.

The first objective of the project is the development of a robust assessment framework (i.e. methodology) that can be used to assess the quality of internationalisation of higher education and the award of a certificate. The assessment can focus on either a programme or an institution. A successful assessment leads to the award of a Certificate for Quality in Internationalisation.
The Certificate is a mark of distinction. It is only awarded to those programmes or institutions that have successfully incorporated an international and intercultural dimension into the purpose, function and delivery of education. The Certificate thus provides evidence of successful internationalisation.
The assessment framework includes both an enhancement and an excellence perspective. To facilitate the assessment procedure, the project produces a guide and templates for institutions, programmes and peers/experts.

The second objective of the project is to enhance the transparency of internationalisation practices of higher education programmes and institutions by providing an internationalisation platform. Transparency provides higher education with useful and essential information to learn from existing practices and to improve their own established practices. Transparency provides higher education with support to strengthen their attractiveness and effectiveness in an increasingly international higher education world.
To develop this transparency, the project will establish a platform to publicise good practices in internationalisation, to publish all awarded Certificates and underlying assessment reports and to bring together all relevant information regarding the internationalisation of higher education.

The third objective is to contribute to the convergence of quality assurance methodologies in Europe and beyond. This objective accompanies the two other objectives and is in itself not linked to tangible deliverables. The project develops an effective external quality assurance methodology and fosters cross-border cooperation among quality assurance agencies. The project partners agree on a commonly approved framework for the assessment of internationalisation. They bring their own perspectives into the discussion and build a consensus model to assess quality, in this case of internationalisation. Converging methodologies facilitates cross-border recognition of qualifications and thereby promotes mobility of students and staff in the European Higher Education Area and beyond.
Moreover the project aims to introduce an excellence-oriented assessment procedure. This not only tests assessing beyond threshold standards.

The Certificate for Quality in Internationalisation has a voluntary character and does not substitute national quality assurance or accreditation requirements. Assessments for the Certificate can be combined with regular programme or institutional assessments. It should therefore be regarded as supplementary and improvement-oriented, which strengthens the constructive dialogue between higher education institutions and quality assurance agencies.

Various stakeholder groups in higher education benefit from the project. The main beneficiary are of course the higher education programmes and institutions. But also quality assurance agencies, academics, graduates and students benefit directly from the project’s activities and outcomes.
The proposed Certificate allows for benchmarking by programmes and institutions against good internationalisation practices. Participation in the project brings internationalisation of curricula to a new quality level as it focuses on international and intercultural learning outcomes. Furthermore the visiting expert panels provide higher education with recommendations for enhancement. Institutional and programme mobility policies, partnerships with foreign institutions, policies on admitting international students, facilities for foreign students, the implementation of joint programmes to name just some elements of internationalisation may all receive an impetus for improvement. The project website, the newsletter and, more importantly, the good practices in internationalisation platform target higher education directly.

The project strengthens coherence and credibility of quality assurance and supports cross-border cooperation between quality assurance agencies. The project opens communication channels between agencies and institutions outside the formal accountability pathway. The progress and results of the project are distributed widely to other quality assurance agencies and networks.

The project targets a limited group of students directly through their inclusion in stakeholder consultations and in the expert panels of the pilot procedures. Students are represented through their European umbrella organisation: European Students Union (ESU), a member of the Stakeholders Group of the project.

To conclude, the Certificate for Quality in Internationalisation is not only supposed to enhance the competitiveness of individual programmes and institutions but also to strengthen the credibility of the European Higher Education Area. The project makes performances of higher education in internationalisation visible and adds a transparency tool to the European Higher Education Area that is beneficial for student, employers, governments and society.

At the same time the project aims to improve the internationalisation practices of higher education. In assessment procedure, experts of course make specific recommendations for improvement to a particular institution or programme. The platform to publish good practices and the awarded Certificates will enable other institutions and programmes to learn from existing practices and to improve their own established practices.

 

2.          Project Approach

The project is composed by three well-defined phases with distinct outcomes. The project partners approach each of these phases differently

2.1. Development of an assessment methodology

This phase of the project has been completed. This phase of the project mainly dealt with developing ideas and concepts to be turned into methodological documents as deliverables of the project. The main activities in this phase were built around the project partnership and the stakeholders.

The assessment framework is the to be developed methodology that allows quality assurance agencies to assess the quality of internationalisation at the level of programmes, schools and institutions. The framework itself includes the standards and criteria, the expert panel requirements, the procedural rules and the instructions for decision-making. The framework is complemented with a guide and templates.

The project overviewed existing instruments to measure or evaluate internationalisation and then produced a first outline of issues that define quality in internationalisation. After discussions among quality assurance agencies, internationalisation organisations and internationalisation experts, this version was further refined into a complete iteration of the framework. This was the version that was put up for stakeholder consultation. The input from the stakeholders via a widely distributed e-form and via the Stakeholders Group, led –via several draft versions– to an iteration of the framework that was presented to quality assurance agencies and experts. Their input further fine-tuned the assessment framework into the current version: Frameworks for the Assessment of Quality in Internationalisation. The full name is in plural (“Frameworks”) since the document includes a framework for the assessment of programmes and a framework for the assessment of institutions.

The Frameworks are complemented with templates for self-evaluation reports (by programmes or institutions) and templates for assessment reports (by expert panels). These templates were developed after the consultation of the stakeholders and were published together with the Frameworks.

All of the documents above are complemented with A Guide to Assessing the Quality of Internationalisation. This guide intends to guide the (self-)assessment of the quality of internationalisation. It presents how the elements that make up the Frameworks for the Assessment of Quality in Internationalisation are to be interpreted. These are the elements that can be used to substantiate realisations in the field of internationalisation.

2.2.    Pilot procedures

This phase of the project is currently in progress. This phase of the project mainly deals with testing the methodological documents produced in the previous phase. The main activities in this phase are built around each individual project partner and the institution or programme they will assess.

The developed Frameworks for the Assessment of Quality in internationalisation are put to the test in actual assessment procedures. This phase kicked off with the selection of experts that become members of the expert panels. It is the expert panel that in reality assesses a programme or institution and writes an assessment report. Suggestions for experts were received via the partners, the stakeholders and via an open form on our project website. From all these suggestions, a pool of experts consisting of four chairs, four experts and four student was composed. Each of these would take part in three procedures. The whole group, including procedure coordinators of partners, was trained during a Panel Member Day. Both the training and the use of a pool of experts should contribute to the overall consistency in the assessments (judgements).

The project partners either invited institutions or programmes to volunteer or approached institutions or programmes to take part in the pilot procedure. Each of the volunteers would fill in a form to give an idea of their vision on internationalisation and their potential contribution to testing the methodology. The Steering Group selected the programmes and institutions that would take part in a pilot procedure. The aim of the selection was that various types (institutions) and disciplines (programmes) would be included in the sample.

2.3.    Evaluation of the methodology, good practices workshop and promotion

This phase of the project will start in September 2014. This phase of the project deals with evaluating the application of the methodology in the pilot procedures and by sharing the good practices uncovered. The corresponding activities in this phase are built around the assessment reports of the pilot procedures and the organisation of a good practices workshop.

After the completion of the twelve assessment reports the Good Practices in Internationalisation Workshop will be organised. During this workshop a selection of the good practices, as proposed by the experts in their assessment reports, will be presented and shared among stakeholders.
The methodology will be evaluated on a case by case basis and the overall results will be analysed and published. A survey will be set up to receive feedback on the pilots from the assessed programmes and institutions, from the experts and from the procedure coordinators.
A specific research question will deal with the (potential) impact of the assessment on the institutions and on the programmes.
As an accompanying measure, the project has integrated dissemination activities throughout the project activities. The knowledge gathered is disseminated through a variety of communication tools: the project website[1], the partners’ websites, a newsletter[2], the publications and partner’s contributions to national and international workshops, seminars and conferences. In this phase of the project, dissemination will further promote the Certificate as a future-proof tool for internationalisation. Promotion culminates at the final conference and the unveiling of the internationalisation platform where good practices in internationalisation will be published.
The overall aim in this phase of the project is to raise interest in the Certificate itself. That interest should result in actual applications for the assessment of quality in internationalisation once the project is finished.

 

3.          Project Outcomes & Results

All the current project outcomes can be linked to the first objective of the project, namely to develop a robust assessment framework (“methodology”) for the assessment of the quality of internationalisation of higher education and the award of a Certificate. The second part of the project will focus on outcomes and results linked to the second objective: to qualitatively enhance the transparency of internationalisation practices of higher education.

The most relevant and necessary documents outlining the methodology to be used for the pilot procedures have been finalised and are presented on the project website: http://ecahe.eu/home/about/projects/cequint/current-methodology/. These results are listed and explained further below:

  • Frameworks for the Assessment of Quality in Internationalisation

This document includes the overarching methodology. It consists of two distinct frameworks to assess the quality in internationalisation either at programme level or at institutional level. The standards and criteria form the most substantive part of the assessment frameworks.

  • A Guide to Assessing the Quality of Internationalisation

This document is targeted at the wider higher education community. The goal of this guide is mainly to complement the Frameworks for the Assessment of Quality in Internationalisation. By showing how the elements that make up the standards and criteria are to be interpreted and by presenting elements that can be used to substantiate realisations, this guide intends to guide the (self-)assessment of the quality of internationalisation.
In addition, the guide acts as bait for the wider higher education (internationalisation) community. The provocative title and its well substantiated content have drawn additional attention to the Certificate.[3]

  • Templates for self-evaluation reports

These templates are targeted at higher education institutions and programmes. They aim to facilitate the presentation of the outcomes of the self-evaluation procedure and to make this information easily accessible for the members of the assessment panel. There are separate templates: Template Self-Evaluation Report Programme and Template Self-Evaluation Report Institution.

  • Templates for assessment reports

These templates are targeted at the experts in the assessment panels. They aim to consolidate the presentation of findings, considerations and conclusions of assessment panels. By using templates, panels will be able to increase transparency in and consistency of reporting. These templates are provided to panel members. The document Guidelines for applicants and their self-evaluation reports aims to facilitate the presentation of the outcomes of the programme’s or institution’s self-evaluation procedure. This document also includes important guidance for the interpretation of the standards included in the Frameworks for Assessment.

  • Appeals Procedure

This document is targeted at future applicants for the Certificate. It includes details on how programmes, schools and institutions can lodge an appeal against any decision in the framework of an assessment, in all probability the decision to not award the Certificate. An appeal is a process for requesting a formal change to an official decision.

Another result of the project are the now ongoing pilot procedures. These pilot procedures provide the testing ground for the overall methodology as presented above. Each quality assurance agency in the consortium undertakes one procedure. The overview of the results below can be found on the project website: http://ecahe.eu/home/about/projects/cequint/pilot-procedures/.

  • Selection of pilot procedures

Each of the quality assurance agencies was responsible for the enlisting candidates in their respective countries. To apply institutions and programmes sent filled-in candidate forms to the quality assurance agency operating in their system. For each of these procedures a deadline for the submission of the self-evaluation reports was fixed, an assessment panel has been composed and a date for the site visit has been scheduled. The selected programmes and institutions have acted as multipliers in our dissemination activities.[4]

  • Composition of a pool of experts

It is very important that the assessment of internationalisation is implemented by experts that have the right expertise and experience. Experts were proposed by partners, by stakeholders and via an online suggestion form on our website. The persons with the most appropriate expertise and experience were selected. With these persons a pool of experts was composed consisting of four chairs, four (international) experts and four students.

  • Panel member day

In order to increase the consistency of judgements, the selected experts together with the procedure coordinators (staff of a partner agency) took part in a panel members day. This training was provided on 3 May 2013 in Vienna, Austria. It provides both the experts and the coordinators with the necessary background regarding the project, the pilot procedures and the assessment frameworks.
In order to further increase consistency, each of the selected experts will take part in three pilot procedures.

 

4.          Partnerships

Assessments of internationalisation have been tested before on a national level or in national circumstances and were on the whole quantitatively oriented. This has made it clear that such assessments should be situated on an international, here European, level. The development of a robust assessment framework for internationalisation that satisfies the expectations of the various European higher education systems is the first objective of this project. While this goal is now close to being achieved, the organisation of the procedure and the composition of the expert panel needs to ensure that the particularities of all countries, including language issues and national differences in terminology, is taken into account. Here the multi-country partnership plays an essential role.

The partnership includes quality assurance agencies and internationalisation organisations. The quality assurance agencies involved operate in different higher education settings and use different methodologies to assess quality. They also cover all the geographic regions of Europe: Nordic countries, Central Europe, Western Europe, South-East Europe and Southern Europe. Some focus on the institutional level, some on the programme level and some even focus on both levels. Each of these agencies operates in a different quality assurance system which each has its own balance of focus accountability and enhancement.
The internationalisation organisations on the other hand bring in essential information regarding the current developments in national internationalisation policies. This enables the partnership to tweak activities and to better disseminate results.

The project includes a Stakeholders Group which is composed of representatives of different higher education institutions from all the regions of Europe and a group of internationalisation organisations. This group has been beneficial in amending the project’s approach to system-level peculiarities, cultural sensitivities and terminology. The documents already produced can now be regarded as easily understood in the different higher education settings.

The project promotes European cooperation in the domain of quality assurance. It has profited from the experiences gathered in the European Consortium for Accreditation over the past eleven years. The development of both a joint definition of quality in internationalisation and also a shared assessment methodology is expected to build further mutual trust and facilitate cross-border cooperation in the future.

 

5.          Plans for the Future

The project has developed a methodology to assess the quality of internationalisation. This methodology is currently being tested in pilot procedures. In these procedures, all the elements that make up the methodology will be applied and analysed. The partnership now plans to start the overall evaluation of the methodology and the preparation of the good practices workshop. The project will end with the presentation of the final methodology and the good practices platform at the dissemination conference.

The last phase of the project will start after the pilot procedures have come to an end. It really starts in September 2014 with the evaluation of the applied methodology in the pilot procedures and the identification of good practices as proposed by the experts in their assessment reports. This then feeds into the Good Practices in Internationalisation Workshop which will be organised in Autumn 2014. During this workshop a selection of the good practices will be presented and discussed among stakeholders.

Building on the internal evaluation of the applied methodology, an external evaluation will be coordinated. The external evaluation will include everyone that was involved in the testing of the methodology. To do this, a survey will be organised to receive feedback on the pilots from the assessed programmes and institutions, from the experts and from the procedure coordinators.
A specific research question will deal with the (potential) impact of the assessment on the institutions and on the programmes. A dedicated questionnaire will be send to them to see whether the assessment had or will have a direct impact on their internationalisation practices.
The overall evaluation results and the impact assessment will be presented to the stakeholders. They will then provide the project partners with an appraisal of the tested methodology including, if necessary, proposals for revising the methodology.
All these elements, the internal and external evaluation, the impact assessment and the stakeholders appraisal, will lead to an improved version of the methodology.

The last phase of the project will culminate in the presentation of the final methodology and the presentation of the good practices platform. Both will be presented at the dissemination conference in February 2015.

During the last phase of the project, the dissemination activities will continue alongside the project activities: via the project website , the partners’ websites, the CeQuInt newsletter and the partner’s contributions to national and international meetings. As the end of the project comes close, the dissemination activities are now used to inform the stakeholders of the Certificate for Quality in Internationalisation. More focused communication should result in actual applications for the assessment of quality in internationalisation once the project is finished.

 

6.          Contribution to EU policies

This project addresses LLP objective “To promote co-operation in quality assurance in all sectors of education and training in Europe” (LLP-Obj-j)

By offering a European Certificate for Quality in Internationalisation, the quality assurance agencies are working together on a European scale to promote quality assurance with regard to internationalisation. The commonly developed methodology and share publication platform is the best indication of a high level of quality assurance cooperation. Whilst the methodology is in itself a form of external quality assurance, the availability of this Certificate to programmes and institutions will also stimulate internal quality assurance regarding internationalisation. The certificate will acts as both a stimulus to further cooperate on quality assurance in other areas and raise the quality of higher education overall.

This project addresses the specific objectives “to support the achievement of a European Area of Higher Education” (ERA-SpObj-a)

The Certificate for Quality in Internationalisation and the resulting public reports make achievements on internationalisation transparent. It encourages institutions to take measures to increase for example the mobility of students and staff. The cooperation of QA agencies and the possibility to combine the certificate with national QA procedures also adds a European dimension to national QA procedures. Transparency, mobility and a European dimension in QA are all important for achieving the European Higher Education Area.

The project is also aligned to the 2009 Leuven communiqué of the European higher education ministers, stressing the need for international openness and mobility and to respond to changing needs of the fast evolving society. The project also mirrors the report from the EU commission on progress in quality assurance in higher education (2009), asking for a stronger European dimension in quality assurance and for new transparency tools and quality seals designed to signal high quality or excellence.

 



[1] www.ecahe.eu/cequint

[2] Archived here: http://ecahe.eu/home/about/projects/cequint/cequint-newsletter/.

[3] This document, for example, tops the Assessment and Evaluation category of the resource library of NAFSA: Association of International Educators, a North-American-based organisation: http://www.nafsa.org/resourcelibrary/default.aspx?catId=656041

[4] Example: http://www.unizg.hr/nc/vijest/article/deseta-obljetnica-sveucilisnog-integriranog-studija-medicine-na-engleskom-jeziku/