Members of HERE teams from Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan gathered in Batumi State University, Batumi, Georgia for a very interesting and unique cross-regional TAM seminar on ”Enhancing Quality Assurance Impact”. First of its kind to bring these countries together, the event was organised by the National Erasmus+ Office in Georgia on 18-19 September 2019. It was proposed to share experiences and learn from best practices and challenges on QA impact across distinct QA systems. As the seminar was cross-regional and included four post-soviet countries, obvious differences were not seen in geographical regards, however levels of experience in terms of the development of external and internal quality assurance varied.
The broad learning outcomes for the event entailed comparing missions and visions of QA agencies; identifying impact of Quality Assurance; contributing to problem solving; reviewing ideas for regional co-operation; and outlining and refining plans for the future. The facilitator of the seminar, Mr. Andy Gibbs, is a European Higher Education Expert and former UK Bologna Expert, who apart from his notable experience in QA reviews in Europe, has participated in institutional and programme evaluations in Georgia and chaired expert groups from Georgia.
During the meetings HEREs shared the missions of their national QA agencies: They are all evaluated by the peers and value independence, transparency, integrity and continuous improvement. Best practices from each agency were shared, especially in terms of improving higher education quality in their countries at the institunational and policy level.
The HERE also shared the challenges they have faced and are facing at the moment. Participants provided valuable advice and the experience they had in solving similar problems, which should help to improve performance in the future. Several problems stated by participants were: resistance of change, cultural shifts (such as in involving students in reviews), the challenge of training experts and communicating with universities regarding enhancing the quality culture. Participants were asked to formulate ways in which these problems could be tackled and how their co-operation could be improved. They noted the potential for cooperation within the EHEA framework and the common interest to more effectively involve external stakeholders in QA.
The most interesting and important aspect of this cross-regional TAM seminar was sharing the ideas on more cross-regional cooperation could be generated in quality assurance. There were several suggestions: Erasmus + Capacity Building projects on QA, exchange of experts by national agencies, and further international forums/conferences/round tables.
The seminar proved to be very fruitful not for only participants individually but also for their national agencies. Some important reflections from participants were:
Ukraine: “Given that Ukraine's Quality Assurance Agency (NAQA) is currently in its start-up phase, launching programme accreditation processes according to ESG-2015 and sharing experiences as to how this process was accomplished by other agencies in our region was invaluable. Particularly useful was the contrast between the approaches of Armenia (largely "inspection paradigm") and Georgia (largely "consultative paradigm"). The experience of Kazakhstan was instructive because multiple agencies operate in this country. Thank you to the organizers for fruitful discussion.”
Kazakhstan: “The workshop allowed a comparative analysis of quality assurance models in four countries. Openness and transparency, a constructive atmosphere and the exchange of experience have contributed to the development of strategic decisions and measures to find answers to challenges. The uneven development of national quality assurance systems made it possible to examine real development processes, and potentially use this information to improve performance in the future.
Of particular note is the methodology for organizing the seminar, which provided for the active involvement of all experts in joint activities. A strong team of countries - people who clearly own the situation in their country, people who are immersed in the real process of accreditation, bright and charismatic personalities - made it unforgettable. Information about the seminar was interactively shared through social networks and gained resonance in Kazakhstan.”
Armenia: “The cross-regional TAM seminar in Batumi was useful for Armenian participants (especially for our National Center for Professional Education Quality Assurance - ANQA) as it helped to identify where Armenian QA stands in comparison with Georgia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. Our team had a chance to reassess the extent to which the mission statement of national QA body is up to date in terms of self concept, customer orientedness and enhancement themes in light of the global benchmarking trends. Finally, the event provided space to think about regional and cross regional cooperation around such opportunities as joint accreditation, research and application to Erasmus+ projects that would help to tackle QA gaps discussed during the TAM.”
In terms of concrete follow-up, HERE agreed to implement a “Jean Monnet Network” in the future and conduct informal external evaluations: peer-review of study programmes/institutional assessment. One of the main follow-up activities is that HERE Dr. Irine Darchia from Georgia has been invited by Ukrainian colleagues to participate in discussions regarding the quality in higher education.
Dr. Irma Grdzelidze,
HERE (Higher Education Reform Expert),
Head of Quality Assurance Service at Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University, Georgia,
EFQM Accredited Trainer