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Quality of higher education

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Quality of higher education

Europe is a world leader in education. To maintain its cutting edge, European Education ministers recommended the introduction of quality assessment and quality assurance mechanisms into higher education (HE) systems.


Council Recommendation 98/561/EC on European cooperation in quality assurance in higher education.


In 1998, European Union countries agreed to establish transparent quality assessment and quality assurance systems in the field of HE. To safeguard and improve HE quality while taking due account of national conditions, the European dimension and international requirements, these systems were to have the following features:

  • autonomy and independence of bodies responsible for quality assessment and quality assurance;
  • relating evaluation procedures to the way institutions see themselves;
  • internal and external assessment;
  • involvement of all the players (teachers, administrators, students, alumni, social partners, professional associations, foreign experts);
  • publication of evaluations.

In 2006, a joint European Parliament and Council recommendation called for the introduction of internal QA systems in line with standards and guidelines adopted in Bergen in the context of the Bologna Process, as well as for the creation of the European Register of Quality Assurance Agencies (EQAR).The recommendation called on Member States to enable their HE institutions to select a quality assurance or accreditation agency from the EQAR list that meets their needs and profile, provided that this is compatible with their national legislation or permitted by their national authorities.

Three-yearly reports

Reports are prepared to monitor progress on QA in HE. Although progress has been good, some shortcomings have been identified. In the 2014 report, gaps in how QA supports HE reforms are cited, such as widening access, improving employability and internationalisation or improving doctoral training and human resources strategies. To bridge these, QA has to become a means of support to creating an internal quality culture in HE institutions rather than a box-ticking procedure.

There is a need for a sector-based approach toQA and a need to find out if it is possible to identify some basic principles and guidelines that are valid across sectors and applicable to all qualifications.

Planned actions

Actions to improve European cooperation in QA for lifelong learning include:

  • consulting on the need for and feasibility of improving coherence between QA in different education subsectors;
  • reform of the European standards and guidelines (ESG), stressingtheraisingofquality standards rather than procedural approaches, as well as the widening of their scope;
  • synergies between existing tools - continuing to promote transparency tools that support quality assurance, such as EQF, ECTS, Eqavet and Europass;
  • working with Member States to encourage more QA agencies to apply for EQAR registration and to allow foreign EQAR-registered agencies to operate in their HE systems;
  • promoting cooperation on QA at international level, through policy dialogue with partners and as a basis for partnerships with HE institutions around the world (via Erasmus+).



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Recommendation 98/561/EC



OJ L 270 of 7.10.1998


Recommendation 2006/143/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on further European cooperation in quality assurance in higher education (Official Journal L 64 of 4 March 2006).

Report from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions - Report on progress in quality assurance in higher education (COM(2009) 487 final of 21 September 2009).

Report from the European Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: Report on progress in quality assurance in higher education (COM(2014) 29 final of 28 January 2014 - not published in the Official Journal).

Council conclusions of 20 May 2014 on quality assurance supporting education and training (Official Journal C 183 of 14 June 2014).

Last updated: 06.07.2014