JOQAR denotes 'Joint programmes: Quality Assurance and Recognition of degrees awarded'. The overall purpose of the project is to ensure that Erasmus Mundus programmes (and joint programmes in general) are facilitated in two specific areas: accreditation and recognition. The project partnership consequently includes quality assurance/accreditation agencies (QA/A agencies) and recognition bodies (ENIC-NARICs).
The external quality assurance and accreditation (QA/A) of joint programmes is a challenge for both joint programmes and QA/A agencies as it normally includes multiple national accreditation procedures. The project instead seeks to promote single accreditation procedures through;
- the development of a multilateral recognition agreement regarding QA and accreditation results and
- by the establishment of a European coordination point for external QA and accreditation of joint programmes.
There are currently also a lot of problems with the recognition of the degrees awarded by joint programmes which the project seeks to solve through the following specific objectives:
- Awareness-raising among higher education institutions and joint programmes about ENIC-NARICs’ expectations regarding joint programmes, the design of the degree they award and the content of the diploma supplement.
- The establishment of a common ground among ENIC-NARICs regarding the recognition of degrees awarded by joint programmes.
- Transparent information provision regarding Erasmus Mundus programmes through Qrossroads.
This projects was realised with the support of the Erasmus Mundus action 3 (Promotion of European higher education) of the European Union.
- 1 Background
- 2 Objectives
- 2.1 Cross-border quality assurance of joint programmes
- 2.2 Recognition of degrees awarded by joint programmes.
- 2.2.1 Awareness-raising about ENIC-NARICs’ expectations regarding joint programmes, the design of the degree they award and the content of the diploma supplement
- 2.2.2 Establishment of a common ground among ENIC-NARICs regarding the recognition of degrees awarded by joint programmes.
- 2.2.3 Transparent information provision regarding Erasmus Mundus programmes via Qrossroads
- 3 Partners
- 4 Achievements
- 4.1 Pilot procedures regarding joint programmes
- 4.2 Observation missions
- 4.3 Transferable methodology for including agencies in the multilateral mutual recognition agreement regarding joint programmes (MULTRA)
- 4.4 Feasibility study for the coordination point
- 4.5 ENIC-NARIC Workshops on the recognition of degrees awarded by joint programmes
- 4.6 Guidelines for Good Practice for Awarding Joint Degrees
- 4.7 Principles regarding the recognition of degrees awarded by joint programmes
- 4.8 Inclusion of Erasmus Mundus programmes into the Qrossroads database
- 4.9 Search function and dedicated Erasmus Mundus web page on Qrossroads
- 4.10 Joint programmes dissemination conference
- 4.11 Knowledge base
- 5 See also
The European Commission's report on progress in quality assurance in higher education (September 2009) states that "National quality assurance agencies should be encouraged to develop activities beyond their borders and to seek the recognition of their decisions in other countries, e.g. through conventions of mutual recognition. [...] There may be a need to clarify the portability of national accreditation within the EHEA and also the issue of quality assurance for cross-border higher education within the EHEA. Given the growing importance of joint and double degree courses in Europe, clear principles might be useful to avoid the need for multiple accreditations”.
The project partners see this project as a direct response to the Commission's report. JOQAR is meant to clarify the issues of quality assurance across borders, specifically relating to joint programmes. The project can build on the experiences that its partners who are members of the European Consortium of Accreditation in higher education (ECA) have gained with the accreditation and recognition of joint programmes through ECA’s project TEAM II.
The TEAM II project report on the recognition of qualifications awarded by joint programmes (March 2010) brought to light many issues and problems: “ENIC-NARICs indicate that the documents they receive, such as the degree, the transcript and/or the diploma supplement, do not provide the information they need about the institutions involved and their role, the programme and its details and the awarded degree(s)”. The workshop, organised as a follow-up to this report, revealed that there is a recognition discrepancy: some criteria are applied differently across Europe. A striking example is the fact that recognition of the joint programme in one or a few of the higher education systems involved might be sufficient for some ENIC-NARICs, while most ENIC-NARICs require the joint programme to be recognised in all the higher education systems concerned. If these issues already arise among European countries that have a relatively good knowledge of each other’s systems, there might be an even greater problem when European degrees and diploma supplements are presented for recognition in third countries. As Stephen Hunt (chair of the ENIC network) said during the workshop: “Based on this documentation (a degree and a supplement awarded by a joint programme, red.), a credential evaluator in Nebraska wouldn’t even make the effort to start a recognition procedure”.
The project consortium wants to elaborate on the issues mentioned above and deal with both the institutional and joint programmes perspective and the ENIC-NARIC perspective (and the perspective of credential evaluators in general).
The overall purpose of the project is to ensure that joint programmes are facilitated in two specific areas: accreditation and recognition. The project partners have thus decided to look into cross-border quality assurance of joint programmes and recognition of degrees awarded by these programmes.
Cross-border quality assurance of joint programmes
Development of multilateral mutual recognition agreements
The first objective of the project is to develop a multilateral recognition agreement regarding QA and accreditation results. So far only bilateral mutual recognition agreements between accreditation agencies have been signed. Since joint programmes have a wider scope and involve many different countries, multilateral mutual recognition agreements are necessary. Moreover, most of the project partners have not entered yet into mutual recognition agreements of whatever nature. This action line will establish observation missions, including comparisons, between agencies and build up a transferable methodology with the aim to include both the agencies participating in the project as other agencies into a multilateral agreement after the project has ended.
Establishment of a European Coordination point for external QA and accreditation of joint programmes
Previous projects (TEAM II ,TEEP II) have pointed out that the organisation of an external QA procedure regarding joint programmes can be quite complicated and expensive and that the agencies involved need very specialised information and expertise. The second objective of the project is to establish a Coordination point which will provide information on internal and external quality assurance of joint programmes and information on recognition of degrees awarded from joint programmes. The coordination point gives coordinators of joint programmes the opportunity to consult this specialised information centre when they need to undergo external quality assurance and/or accreditation of their joint programme. The coordination point additionally provides agencies with assistance and specialised expertise on accreditation of joint programmes. This action line will include a feasibility study, pilot procedures and the launch of a knowledge base..
The Coordination point will also coordinate the accreditation of joint programmes at the request of agencies or institutions providing joint programmes. The Coordination point will not carry out accreditation or QA procedures itself but will bring agencies and institutions together, facilitate in planning the procedure and provide a specific methodology for carrying out single accreditation procedures. The coordination point can also give advice to agencies and institutions on how single cross-border QA and accreditation procedures of joint programmes can lead to formal results in the different countries.
By the end of year 3 of the project the Coordination point will have been established.
Recognition of degrees awarded by joint programmes.
Awareness-raising about ENIC-NARICs’ expectations regarding joint programmes, the design of the degree they award and the content of the diploma supplement
The third objective relates to the objective of awareness-raising among higher education institutions and joint programmes about ENIC-NARICs’ expectations regarding joint programmes, the design of the degree they award and the content of the diploma supplement. During a workshop (March 2010), ENIC-NARICs discussed examples of actual degrees and Diploma Supplements awarded by joint programmes. This workshop concluded that acceptable practices are rare and best practices even rarer. This action line should consequently result in published guidelines and good practices for higher education institutions and their joint programmes.
Establishment of a common ground among ENIC-NARICs regarding the recognition of degrees awarded by joint programmes.
The fourth objective concerns the establishment of a common ground among ENIC-NARICs regarding the recognition of degrees awarded by joint programmes. A survey among ENIC-NARICs (November 2009) revealed that there is currently a recognition discrepancy: degrees awarded by joint programmes could be recognised in one country but not in another, creating uncertainty for graduates. This action line should therefore result in agreed principles regarding the recognition of degrees awarded by joint programmes.
Transparent information provision regarding Erasmus Mundus programmes via Qrossroads
The fifth objective concerns transparent information provision regarding these programmes. The survey mentioned above brought to light that ENIC-NARICs need a tremendous amount of information when recognising degrees awarded by joint programmes. This is of course the result of the fact that a degree awarded by, for example, an Erasmus Mundus master’s programme is not a simple foreign degree awarded in one specific higher education system. It is also not an entirely foreign degree either if a home institution is involved in the programme. This action line should therefore inform the ENIC-NARICs (and potential students) about all the Erasmus Mundus programmes via Qrossroads. The project will include all the programmes (incl. –where available– learning outcomes) and institutional details into the database, create a special search function to find Erasmus Mundus master’s programmes and to search through consortium web pages and link all this information to a dedicated Erasmus Mundus web page on Qrossroads.
The JOQAR partnership consists of 10 quality assurance agencies and 4 recognition bodies. 2 of the partners are located outside of Europe.
- Nederlands-Vlaamse Accreditatieorganisatie (NVAO)
English name: Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders
- Österreichischer Akkreditierungsrat (ÖAR)
English name: Austrian Accreditation Council
- Nacionalna agencija republieke Slovenije za kakovost v visokem solstvu (NAKVIS)
English name: Slovenian quality assurance agency for higher education (SQAA)
- Official name: Agentur für Qualitätssicherung durch Akkreditierung von Studiengängen e.V. (AQAS e.V.)
English name: Agency for Quality Assurance through Accreditation of Study Programmes
- Agencia Nacional de Evaluación de la Calidad y Acreditación (ANECA)
English name: National Agency for Quality Assessment and Accreditation
- Organ für Akkreditierung und Qualitätssicherung der Schweizerischen Hochschulen (OAQ)
English name: Swiss Center of Accreditation and Quality Assurance in Higher Education
- Agéncia per a la Qualitat del Sistema Universitari de Catalunya (AQU Catalunya)
English name: Catalun University Quality Assurance Agency
- Ministerstwo Nauki i Szkolnictwa Wyższego (MNiSW)
English name: Ministry of Science and Higher Education
- Nederlandse Organisatie voor Internationale Samenwerking in het Hoger Onderwijs (NUFFIC)
English name: Netherlands Organization for International Cooperation in Higher Education
- Styrelsen for International Uddannelse (IU)
English name: Danish Agency for International Education
- Consejo Nacional de Acreditacion (CNA)
English name: National Accreditation Council
Pilot procedures regarding joint programmes
Nature: Single accreditation procedure of joint programmes carried out by at least one of the partner agencies under the guidance of the coordination point, followed by an on-line pilots evaluation report.
Volume: 4 pilot procedures and an pilots evaluation report of approx. 20 pages
Structure: 4 joint programmes (Erasmus Mundus joint Master's programmes) have been selected for carrying out the pilot procedures. The aim of the pilot procedures is to test the approach taken by the coordination point in accordance with the work flow charts and the methodology for accrediting joint programmes.
Content: In each of the pilot procedures a joint programme has been accredited with the participation of other partner agencies. The pilots evaluation report is meant to refine the methodology and work flow charts of the coordination point.
- ECA Assessment framework for joint programmes in single accreditation procedures
- Single Accreditation of Joint Programmes: Pilots Evaluation Report
Nature: Observations of accreditation procedures of another agency participating in the project. The observations are the basis for decision-making of admitting new agencies to the multilateral mutual recognition agreement regardig joint programmes (MULTRA).
Volume: 16 observation missions (2 persons from different agencies observe 8 other agencies).
Structure: The observation missions are carried out by persons associated with agencies which have already signed the MULTRA. An observation format has been drafted which will be used for carrying out the observation. The format relates to standards for good practices in accreditation (the ECA Code of Good Practice) and includes a comparison of accreditation frameworks on some essential points, as well as information on how the achievement of learning outcomes is assessed.
Content: The observation missions consist of: the observation format, the observation of the procedure (site visit), and a short observation report based on the format which is finalised by the observers after comments from the observed agency. The observation reports are discussed by the ECA Management Group and after a positive recommendation forwarded to the MULTRA signatories for decision-making on admittance of the observed agency to the MULTRA.
Observation reports: The 8 observation reports which are funded by the JOQAR project can be downloaded below.
Read the observations reports
- AQAS observation report
- AQU observation report
- CNA observation report
- EVA observation report
- FIBAA observation report
- ZEvA observation report
- SQAA observation report
- SINAES observation report
Transferable methodology for including agencies in the multilateral mutual recognition agreement regarding joint programmes (MULTRA)
Nature: An on-line methodological report
Volume: approx. 20 pages
Structure: Introduction; Lessons learnt from the observation missions; The observation format; The content of the multilateral mutual recognition agreement regarding joint programmes (MULTRA); How to join the MULTRA?
Content: The methodological report will look at the experiences from the observation missions which form the basis for the trust needed to join the multilateral mutual recognition agreement on joint programmes (MULTRA). If needed improvements of the observation format or the conduction of the observations will be proposed. This will be followed, if needed, with a proposal for the amendment of the content of the MULTRA. The final chapter deals with the steps agencies should take in order to join the MULTRA.
Feasibility study for the coordination point
One of ECA’s proposed solutions to facilitate joint programmes is the establishment of a coordination point. This coordination point should be able to assist institutions and QA & accreditation agencies regarding external QA procedures of joint programmes. Additionally the coordination point could provide relevant information on internal & external QA of joint programmes and the recognition of their degrees.
In order to customise this coordination point as much as possible to the needs of the joint programmes and the quality assurance agencies, ECA investigated the current state of affairs among coordinators of joint programmes and QA & accreditation agencies.
The now published report intends to establish what kind of information and/or assistance on quality assurance, accreditation and recognition of degrees a coordination point regarding joint programmes should provide. The results of ECA’s study indicate a strong demand amongst both the joint programmes and the QA agencies for a more centralised, international approach and underpin the foundation of a coordination point regarding joint programmes. A large proportion of the programme coordinators find external QA of joint programmes challenging, and struggle to collect all the information required. The same goes for degree issues. Worrisome is the fact that almost all information and activities are national, which essentially contradicts the international nature of these joint programmes.
ENIC-NARIC Workshops on the recognition of degrees awarded by joint programmes
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Nature: Workshops with ENIC-NARICs
Volume: Two Workshops
Structure: Draft principles, guidelines and good practices to be discussed by ENIC-NARICs
Content: The recognition of degrees awarded by joint programmes
Guidelines for Good Practice for Awarding Joint Degrees
Volume: approximately 40 pages.
Structure: Guidelines for good practices regarding the consortium, the joint programme, the degree, de diploma supplement and other documentation.
Content: These guidelines for good practice have been discussed in a workshops with ENIC-NARIcs and have been circulated among them before publication.
Principles regarding the recognition of degrees awarded by joint programmes
Nature: An on-line report.
Volume: approx. 10 pages.
Structure: Introduction; Methodology applied for establishing the principles; The Principles.
Content: The draft principles will be discussed in two workshops with ENIC-NARIcs and the drafts will be circulated among recognition bodies world-wide, credential evaluators and the project groups.
Inclusion of Erasmus Mundus programmes into the Qrossroads database
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Nature: Database development
Content: All the Erasmus Mundus programmes with institutional details are accessible through Qrossroads. Link:
Search function and dedicated Erasmus Mundus web page on Qrossroads
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Nature: Database development
Content: Creation of a special search function on Qrossroads to find Erasmus Mundus master’s programmes and to search through consortium web pages and to link all this information to a dedicated Erasmus Mundus web page on Qrossroads. Link:
Joint programmes dissemination conference
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Volume: One conference
Structure: The results of the JOQAR project will be disseminated through this conference
Content: The target groups for which presentations and sessions will be schedules are QA and accreditation agencies, institutions providing joint programmes and coordinators of joint programmes, ENIC-NARICs, students and government representatives. Link:
Nature: Website design with electronic database containing literature and principles on internal and external quality assurance of joint programmes, and information on recognition of degrees awarded from joint programmes.
Structure: The Knowledge Base primarily functions as a point of reference for coordinators of joint programmes, quality assurance agencies and recognition authorities, but also contains information which is of value for other Stakeholders in HE. The Knowledge base is built up throughout the whole project and be officially launched by the end of the project.
Content: At the end of the project the Knowledge base will contain a rich collection on issues related to quality assurance, accreditation and recognition of degrees awarded from joint programmes.
Link: Joint programmes portal