HERE Study Visit

Quality culture in practice:

 Scotland and the University of Edinburgh

   5-6 October 2016

Edinburgh, Scotland

Concept Note and Programme


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.


Wednesday, 4 October

Participants arrive

Thursday, 5 October

Teviot Row House - Edinburgh University Students' Association

9:00.    Registration and Networking Coffee

9:30.    Opening Session

  • Welcome:
    • Professor Tina Harrison, Assistant Principal Academic Standards and Quality Assurance, University of Edinburgh
    • Eve Lewis, Director of sparqs
    • Piia Heinamaki, Executive Agency for Education, Audiovisual and Culture of the European Commission (EACEA)
  • Introduction to the programme – Professor Tina Harrison, University of Edinburgh
  • Results of the Lviv HERE seminar and pre-survey -  Nicole Font, SPHERE Team
  • Presentation of participants/interactive ice-breaker
    • Small group discussion at tables on what impacts or triggers the systematizing of QA processes in universities

10:45   Session 1: Context setting: The EHEA, Scotland and student engagement in QA

            State of play regarding quality culture in Europe

            Overview presentation by Anna Gover, Institutional Development Unit, EUA

Student engagement in QA in Scotland: Support though sparqs

Presentation and participative session in which delegates will learn about the integral role of student engagement in quality in the Scottish HE sector and how sparqs supports this.

  • Eve Lewis, Director of sparqs
  • Jack Delaney, Student trainer, sparqs


12:00   Coffee

12:15   Session 2: The QA&E Framework at University of Edinburgh

Presentation on University of Edinburgh’s QA&E framework: Tina Harrison, University of Edinburgh

Panel discussion with QA managers from the central QA unit.

  • Mrs Gillian Mackintosh – Academic Policy Officer, Academic Services
  • Ms Susan Hunter – Academic Policy Officer, Academic Services

              Chair: Eve Lewis, sparqs

13:15.  Lunch


14:15   Session 3: QA at the level of schools and colleges (departments and faculties)

Cases studies from different schools and colleges and small group discussion on staff engagement in quality at different levels of the institution

  • Dr Claire Phillips – Director of Quality, The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies
  • Dr Inger Seiferheld  - Director of Quality, The Business School
  • Ms Victoria Bennett – Quality Officer, College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
  • Miss Sarah McAllister – Head of Student Services, School of GeoSciences


Chair: Eve Lewis, sparqs

16.00   Walking tour of University of Edinburgh campus

17.00   Close

19:30   Official dinner offered by SPHERE - Hotel Apex Grasmmarket 31-35 Grassmarket, Edinburgh EH1 2HS


Friday, 6 October

9:00     Session 4: The role of the Institute for Academic Development in supporting staff to enhance learning and teaching

  • Dr Jon Turner – Director of Institute for Academic Development
  • Dr Catherine Bovill – Senior Lecturer in Student Enhancement, Institute for Academic Development

Chair: Anna Gover, EUA

10:30   Coffee

11:00   Session 5: Building a National QA&E Culture– Precedents, national/regional framework

  • Overview Presentation of Scotland’s Quality Enhancement Framework: QAA Scotland
  • Discussion on relationship to U. Edinburgh’s practice

Chair: Anna Gover, EUA

12:45   Lunch

13:45   Session 6: Edinburgh University Students’ Association: Case study of student Representation and Engagement in QA

  • Ms Megan Brown – Schools Engagement Officer
  • Mr Al Powell – Representation and Democracy Manager

Chair: Gillian Mackintosh, University of Edinburgh

15:00   Closing session: Lessons learned for HERE countries

Interactive discussion session in a ‘world café’ style

16:00   Closing words

Professor Tina Harrison, University of Edinburgh

Piia Heinamaki, Executive Agency for Education, Audiovisual and Culture of the European Commission (EACEA)


Free evening/departure