posted by Raúl Casado
on 01 April 2016

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Sweden agrees on new QA system

The Swedish Parliament approved a new external QA system for Swedish higher education. The new national quality assurance system should focus on both monitoring outcomes (which is the sessence of the current system) and quality development. The Swedish Higher Education Authority (UKÄ), a member of ECA,  has received the mandate for the implementation. The QA system will comprise four components:

  • Appraisal of applications for entitlements to award qualifications
  • Review of the HEIs’ own quality assurance system.  If the QA procedures of a HEI are judged to be inadequate then the Authority (UKÄ) will be responsible for continued external review of these procedures until the shortcomings have been remedied. In addition, the evaluation of a larger number of the HEI’s courses and programmes will be the result.
  • Evaluation of courses and programmes. The Authority (UKÄ) should make a selection of first, second and third-cycle courses and programmes for evaluations. The aim of these evaluations should be to monitor their outcomes, i.e. that they meet the demands laid down in the legislation and ordinances, but they should also contribute to the HEIs’ own quality development. The independent projects should continue to serve as an important basis for the appraisals made during evaluations of programme outcomes. But in order to provide as comprehensive a view as possible there should be a possibility to include other kinds of outcomes, as well as the prerequisites and processes that influence them. In case of a judgement of inadequate quality the HEI will be given 1 year to remedy the shortcomings. The Authority will then undertake a follow-up review. If this review concerns a programme offered by an independent higher education provider, after an opportunity has been given to resolve the problems, the Government will be notified and the Government will decide on the withdrawal of entitlement to award a qualification.
  • Thematic evaluations. The subjects of thematic evaluations should be determined by the Authority (UKÄ) on the basis of relevance and the effective use of resources but it should also be possible for it to undertake them at the Government’s behest. Themes that can provide the basis for evaluations may, for example, be widening participation, internationalisation and gender equality.

The allocation of quality-based funding on the basis of the programme evaluations will come to an end, which means that a three-point scale is no longer needed for this purpose. The Authority (UKÄ) should decide whether a two-point or three-point scale (including good practices) will be used in the institutional and programme reviews.

The Parliament requires that  the new system be followed-up properly to ensure that the objective of enhancing the quality of higher education is fulfilled. To this end a number of tasks have been mandated to UKÄ:

  • UKÄ shall yearly submit a report on how well the new evaluation system performs in consolidating the quality of higher education and to what extent the system has promoted the quality of higher education as well as of HEIs;
  • UKÄ shall  submit a proposal on how the quality of higher education can be compared among universities and university colleges;
  • UKÄ shall  investigate whether sanctions, in addition to those stipulated in the Government’s proposal, are needed in the case a HEI’s quality system is inadequate. UKÄ shall, in such a case, also propose appropriate sanctions;
  • UKÄ shall, three years after the introduction of the new evaluation system, make an external follow-up/evaluation to find out whether the system has promoted the quality of HEI as well as the quality of the HEIs. This follow-up/evaluation shall also include an analysis if, and how, the experience of students and of the labour market have been taken into consideration in the evaluations.

The new QA system will be launched in 2017.

See the full text of the Swedish Government Document-Assuring the quality of higher education

An article on the approval by the Swedish Parliament was also placed on University World News.