(Legislative alignment with the ESG: the path towards meeting the Bologna Process key commitment on quality assurance in the Western Balkans)
Ministerial and QA agency representatives’ meeting was held in Brussels on March 8-9, 2023, in which representatives of ministries and agencies for QA in higher education from the countries of the Western Balkans participated. The aim of the meeting was to promote the importance of harmonizing national higher education systems with the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG), with special reference to the role of each country’s legislative alignment in this regard. The hosts were the heads of the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) and the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR). Representatives from both NEAQA and the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Serbia actively participated in this meeting with colleagues from the countries of the Western Balkans. Since this event has been organized together with the kick-off meeting of the SEQA-ESG2 project, it was attended by representatives from Azerbaijan and Ukraine, as well as participants of the SEQA-ESG1 project.
At the meeting in Brussels, ENQA and EQAR pointed out that QA is a key feature in developing mutual trust and in increasing mobility and fair recognition of qualifications and study periods throughout Europe. As stated in the Paris Communiqué by the Ministers of Higher Education in the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) in 2018 (http://www.ehea.info/media.ehea.info/file/2018_Paris/77/1/EHEAParis2018_Communique_final_952771.pdf), quality assurance is and remains one of the pillars of the EHEA. Having a quality assurance system in compliance with the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the EHEA (the ESG2), with regular external quality assurance performed by EQAR-registered agencies, is therefore a key commitment of the Bologna Process. However, several countries in Western Balkans, including Serbia, do not yet have an independent quality assurance agency or the agency is not yet in compliance with all aspects of the ESG. The meeting of representatives of agencies and ministries entitled Legislative alignment with the ESG: the path towards meeting the Bologna Process key commitment on quality assurance in the Western Balkans was therefore organized precisely to encourage the implementation of the key commitment of the Bologna Process in the countries of the Western Balkans: the establishment of a QA system which is compliant with “ESG” standards.
Representatives of ministries and QA agencies from Slovenia and Croatia have also participated in the meeting considering the common characteristics of the QA system of higher education and their experience in supporting other national agencies to achieve compliance with “ESG”.
Representatives of national agencies had the opportunity to participate in workshops on the following topics: Stakeholder involvement in building a fit-for-purpose QA agency; Engagement of peer-review experts, including students, for the provision of External Quality Assurance; Addressing the effectiveness of the internal quality assurance Processes of Higher Education Institutions as described in Part 1 of the ESG. A special part of the meeting entitled Roundtable: key challenges in reaching compliance with the ESG in Western Balkans was devoted to the representatives of the ministries, where all delegates presented the main challenges faced by their national higher education systems.
On the second day of the meeting (March 9), delegates from Serbia, Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Azerbaijan and Ukraine attended the kick-off meeting of the SEQA-ESG2 project, the aim of which is for the aforementioned countries to harmonize their higher education systems with ESG (you can read more about it in the International Projects section on this website).