Regional Technical Assistance Missions: Qualifications Frameworks in Central Asia

Technical Assistance Missions (TAM) are intended to be flexible tools to support HERE countries to discuss and advance in specific higher education reform related topics. Several of the regions covered by the HERE activities have similar systems and interests, thus the possibility to propose regional TAM has been offered in 2017. As one example, a  regional TAM, in the form of a Seminar on 19-21 April in Almaty, gathered experts from Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and was devoted to “The Role of National Qualifications Frameworks (NQF) in Higher Education Policy Reform”.

The seminar was aimed at initiating discussions with national stakeholders and promoting further cooperation between the three Central Asian (CA) countries in development and implementation of NQF. Specific objectives of the seminar included familiarisation of the participants with the purpose, design principles and approaches to implementing a quality assurance system based on NQF in the EU; development of practical skills related to learning outcomes, their format, structure and evaluation; and defining practical steps in developing and applying NQF. 51 participants involving HEREs, representatives of the Ministries of Education, organisations and universities from all three countries took part in the event...

 

The event started with presentations on the current situation of NQF development in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. It demonstrated considerable differences in approaches and levels of NQF development between the countries. For instance, the Kazakhstani NQF was introduced in 2012 and currently is being revised, while Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are in the process of conceptualising NQF principles and approaches to adapt them to the national environment. The role of a TEMPUS project QUADRIGA (Qualification Frameworks in Central Asia: Bologna-Based Principles and Regional Coordination) in raising awareness and understanding of NQF in CA countries was noted.

The EU experts - Barbara Kelly, Qualifications Director, Quality and Qualifications Ireland, and Volker Gehmlich, University of Applied Sciences Osnabrück, Germany - shared their experiences of NQF development and implementation. The common thread that ran through all presentations was the idea that the qualification framework is a tool that should be used as part of a general methodological approach to QA which combines academic autonomy with responsibility (external benchmarks, internal/external quality assurance mechanisms, learning outcomes, etc.).

A strong feature of the Seminar was the group work. There were two working group sessions, one devoted to practical skills in defining learning outcomes, and the other one targeted at developing a Roadmap for designing and revising the National Qualifications Frameworks.

The second session used a country approach, which gave the participants an opportunity to discuss future steps within their national context. The European experts gave their recommendations on the improvement and further elaboration of the presented Roadmaps.

The main seminar takeaways formulated by the participants included that 1)  NQF are not a constant and require continuous development; 2) HEIs and employers should be jointly involved in the process of developing, implementation and maintenance of NQF; 3) The quality assurance system should embrace the NQF, and the relations between NQF and QA should be clearly defined.

 

Follow up activities are already underway

For example, in Kazakhstan, amendments to the draft Teacher Professional Standard were made based on the seminar recommendations on sectoral qualification frameworks, in cooperation with the National Chamber of Entrepreneurs ‘Atameken’. Results were also shared at the Senior Officials Meeting in Astana in the framework of the Central Asia Education Platform (CAEP) in June 2017. In addition, the Ministry of Education revised the NQF self-certification report in line with the recommendations given by Barbara Kelly during the Seminar. In particular, she recommended to describe in more detail the work actually carried out, in particular the joint work with stakeholders and the lessons learned on the NQF development within the Tempus and Erasmus+ projects.

 
Two more regional TAMs planned for 2017 

In order to strengthen the regional model and to promote knowledge exchange within the regions, two other regional TAMs have been scheduled for 2017 in HERE countries. A regional seminar took place on 23-24 May in Jordan with the participation of Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine Syria and Tunisia. The topic of the event was "Progress in Establishing National Qualification Frameworks and a Regional Qualification Framework based on Sharing European Countries’ Experiences with Qualification Frameworks". Experts Bryan Maguire, Quality and Qualifications Ireland and Kevin Guillaume, Academy for Research and Higher Education (Académie de Recherche et d'Enseignement supérieur, ARES) participated.

In addition, another regional TAM will be held in the Western Balkan in September 2017. This event, which aims to discuss “Funding Models, Research Capacity and Quality of PhD Studies” in the region, will be held in Montenegro with the participation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia.