Background information

HERE Study Visit

Quality culture in practice:

 Scotland and the University of Edinburgh

5-6 October 2016

Edinburgh, Scotland

Concept Note

The Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG) are the basis for quality assurance in the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). In Yerevan in 2015, Bologna ministers endorsed a revised version of the ESG (ESG 2015), which includes a number of updated and amended elements to which stakeholders will need to adapt in the near future. This includes a stronger focus on the role of institutions in taking charge of quality assurance.


In the Bologna countries covered by the SPHERE Initiative (Support for Higher Education Reform Experts), the ESG are of direct relevance, and many governments, HEIs and social actors are craving good practice and advice for how to best implement them. In other HERE countries, particularly in the Southern Mediterranean, European QA standards, guidelines and practices also have an impact; increasingly systems are looking towards Europe as they build and reform their own QA systems. The Annual European QA Forum (EQAF), for example, provides an increasingly international venue where institutions can share good practices in developing their quality culture, according to commonly shared principles. A number of collaborative projects, under the frame of the Tempus and the Erasmus+ programmes, have facilitated the development of QA systems in European neighbourhood countries. In the context of SPHERE, over 20 Technical Assistance Missions have brought European experts to neighbourhood countries to support quality enhancement in higher education in particular.

This HERE study visit provides a follow-up to the HERE seminar that took place in Lviv, Ukraine in October 2016, which was an occasion to discuss the impact of the ESG on systems and institutions. It looked at both internal and external quality assurance and how they relate. One direct outcome of the event was the expressed interest of HERE to examine in more depth internal QA dynamics, how universities build their QA systems and how they involve all stakeholders in this, in order to ensure ownership for quality culture.

The University of Edinburgh has been chosen to showcase for this particular event, given its extensive and relevant experience in professionalizing and institutionalizing quality assurance and in involving students in this process. The study visit will be supported by sparqs (Student Partnerships in Quality Scotland), an organization that supports student engagement in Scotland.

The study visit will target both HERE that are in leadership positions in their HEI, as well as those in charge of QA and HERE students interested to generate student involvement in building QA processes.

Learning outcomes:

  • Generate awareness for the ESG 2015 in practice in a particular institution, especially regarding internal quality assurance.
  • Discuss and debate in particular the institutional responsibility for QA and the need to build capacity for this: Understand the process that one institution has gone through to this effect and the role of leadership in creating structures and incentives for quality culture
  • Learn about the management of quality culture within institutions, and how students, staff and other stakeholders are engaged accordingly
  • Understand interesting practices for generating student feedback and data collection, and how this informs quality enhancement
  • Understand how one institution related its quality practices to the external QA framework of a country or region, on how external and internal QA interact.