ECA Handbook for the Training of Panel Members - Foreword

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The trust building potential of external quality assurance (QA) procedures depends upon the quality and professionalism of the involved external experts. In an increasingly internationalized higher education area independent, highly competent and intercultural aware experts are urgently needed in order to guarantee fair decision making and to benefit higher education institutions in all types of external QA procedures. The European Consortium for accreditation in Higher education (ECA) has acknowledged the vital role of the expert panel members ever since its inception (Code of good practice, 2004 and Guidelines for the selection of external expert panel members, 2007). After careful review of the training practices of its members agencies, ECA in 2010 launched its EU funded “E-TRAIN” project with the goal to train and to share a community of knowledgeable and internationally experienced experts in the domain of external QA in higher education. Based on the collection of international good practices ECA successfully offered pilot trainings to experts and established a „train the trainer“-programme.

The training sessions strengthened the expert’s knowledge about the diversity of European higher education systems, raised awareness about the expert’s role in external QA procedures and provided them with opportunities to acquire the necessary audit and communication skills.

The E-TRAIN project is strictly output-oriented and offers guides to good practices, a training handbook, an electronic training portal for experts, standardised expert portfolios and a European Expert Exchange Platform which provides access to a searchable database of experts. This handbook gives practical guidelines on how to organize effective training sessions for panel members. All steps of the training process are covered in the handbook, from the planning phase up to the necessary evaluation of the delivered trainings. It is believed that both quality assurance agencies and higher education institutions, and also the individual experts, can profit from its reading.

Today all relevant higher education stakeholder groups of the European Higher Education Area acknowledge the need for well trained, professionally acting and internationally competent expert panellists. The E-TRAIN project has powerfully contributed to the establishment of such a community of experts and is clearly strengthening the European dimension in quality assurance. Based on the success of its operations ECA will – together with its partners – continue its efforts to organise regular trainings in order to assure the required capabilities and capacities of their external experts and to promote consistency of decisions in external quality assurance.

We hope you will find this handbook interesting and enjoyable. Additional information about this project is provided on our website ( Please feel free at any time to address your questions and comments also directly to our secretariat.

Rolf Heusser

Chairman of ECA The Hague, The Netherlands August 2012

Handbook chapters


King, G., 2012. Handbook for training panel members for quality assurance procedures, ECA Occassional Paper. The Hague.