European Commission

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QA initiatives by the European Commission started in the first half of the 1990s primarily because the Erasmus exchange programme showed the need to enable the recognition of credits study abroad based on assurance that the quality of those courses abroad was equivalent to those at home. The European Commission was interested in stimulating European mobility by introducing a European dimension to the then only handful of countries which had a national QA system in place. In 1991 the European Council of Ministers took the decision to start European pilots projects for evaluating quality in higher education which were funded by the Commission and carried out in 17 countries in 1994-1995. These pilot projects created an informal network which was formalised by the creation of the European Network for Quality Assurance (ENQA) , with funding by the Commission, after the adoption of a Recommendation of the European Parliament and Council in 1998. When the Bologna process concentrated on QA the Commission continued to use its influence and resources to steer important QA developments, most notably the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG) and the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR). The Commission also built on its legal powers for the regulated professions and used the power of its purse to foster the development of quality labels in disciplines such as engineering, chemistry, music, etc. Professional associations and accreditation agencies in these disciplines were encouraged to organise themselves on a European level and establish European quality labels and accreditation mechanisms for programmes in these disciplines. This development was supported by the second Recommendation of the European Parliament and Council in 2006 which called for Member States to enable institutions to seek accreditation from registered agencies outside their own country. The Recommendation also invited the Commission to continue its support for cooperation on QA and to present triennial progress reports regarding QA of which the first one was published in 2009.