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1 Page 1 The future of quality assurance in Europe - a comment to Peter Williams Bjørn Stensaker

2 Page 2 Future very much depends on current trends Strong focus on outcome, but where European Standard and Guidelines and ENQA is much more oriented towards process We see a number of new actors appearing in QA (newspapers, private thinkthanks, more research- oriented organisations (CHE), and in this picture, ENQA is very much the old school – and the ESG (although just a couple of years old) is in this perspective just a formalisation of existing tacit knowledge and procedures in the sector The third trend is a consequence of the former two: we see a broadening of definitions related to quality (social dimension, graduate earnings, etc.), while ESG (and ENQA) focuses on a rather traditional and academic understanding of quality

3 Page 3 Three radically different scenarios may develop as a result: Anarchy: meaning that neither the register or ENQA will be very important in the future Oligopoly: meaning that the register will have little impact, and with ENQA (and its members) as the dominant actor in European quality assurance Autocracy: meaning that the register will increase its power and control over European quality assurance, taking over ENQAs current role

4 Page 4 Anarchy scenario Register not seen as important because new definitions of quality and new actors are accepted by the general public. However, also ENQA is affected by new actors and definitions being accepted by the environment In this scenario, Register/ENQA are just two of many actors offering its services in an emerging market for quality assurance. They ended up as this because neither the register or ENQA managed to adapt to the new developments in the QA- market For HEIs, this scenario offers prospects, but also problems: One on side, they can choose their agency. On the other, they may feel increasing competition from other HEIs entering their own backyard, using alternative QA-agencies as their entrance ticket

5 Page 5 Oligopoly scenario In this scenario, the register will be a powerless institution due to the fact that ENQA membership is seen as the key to legitimacy This situation was a result of the fact that the Register was just a Register (stripped of power due to its complicated ownership) – while ENQA through an active agency were able to accomplish two objectives at the same time: 1. being seen as the legitimate QA-agency by national authorities, and 2. by adapting to new actors/definitions of quality by constantly expanding it portfolio/methods and instruments (as with the ISO systems, we will see a number of new standards emerging: for distance-education, for- profit education, for part-time education, etc)

6 Page 6 Autocracy scenario In this scenario, the Register is far more than just a Register, and is the new powerhouse of European QA while ENQA is stripped for influence and legitimacy This situation was caused by the fact that ENQA members, sometimes in coalision with new actors and embracing new understandings of quality, started to behave strategically and in a more individual fashion, enabling an ambitious Register to occupy a more central role both as a clearinghouse - and as a powerhouse Given its power, the Register will have a central role as a European reform tool, linking quality assurance much stronger to the new emerging reform agendas appearing after 2010

7 Page 7 Some reflections Future lies in between the scenarios Is regionalisation a step towards anarchy, oligopoly or paving the way for autocracy? Are qualification frameworks the next big thing, reducing the interest for QA, and the resources available to QA? The new register can be seen as an accountability mechanism for quality assurance agencies – but can the agencies develop alternative accountability mechanisms – and find alternative ways to prove their worth to society? One thing for sure: the future is up for grabs. As you all know, quality is not just technicalities, criterias and academic standards - Quality is also politics!

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