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«Occasional Papers Fiona Crozier, Bruno Curvale, Rachel Dearlove, Emmi Helle, Fabrice Hénard Terminology of quality assurance: towards shared ...»

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Fiona Crozier, Bruno Curvale, Rachel Dearlove, Emmi Helle, Fabrice Hénard

Terminology of quality assurance:

towards shared European values?

DG Education and Culture

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission

in the framework of the Socrates programme. This publication reflects the

views of the authors only and the Commission cannot be held responsible

for any use wich may be made of the information contained therein.

isbn 978-952-5539-21-9 (paperbound) isbn 978-952-5539-22-6 (pdf) issn 1458-1051 The present report can be downloaded from the ENQA website at http://www.enqa.eu/pubs.lasso © European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education 2006, Helsinki Quotation allowed only with source reference.

Cover design and page layout: Eija Vierimaa Edited by Rachel Dearlove, Emmi Helle and Nathalie Costes Helsinki, Finland, 2006 Table of contents Foreword



The Language of European Quality Assurance – report from the ENQA workshop of 29–30 June 2006

1. Introduction

2. Word clusters

2.1 Cluster A: quality, standards, quality assurance, quality control, accountability, enhancement, improvement

2.2 Cluster B: principles, values, independence, autonomy, academic freedom, compliance, conformity, adherence, convergence, harmonisation, standardisation

2.3 Cluster C: assessment, evaluation, inspection, accreditation, audit, review.....10

2.4 Cluster D: experts, peers, self-assessment/evaluation, visit, report, judgements, recommendation, follow-up

3. Taking the debate forward

Annex I: Programme of the Language Workshop

Annex II: List of participants of the workshop on the Language of European Quality Assurance

Annex III: Proposed new word clusters


Final report on the pilot Quality Convergence II project:

Promoting epistemological approaches to quality assurance

1. Introduction

2. Methodology and timescale

3. The responses to the questionnaire

3.1 Independence

3.2 Peer Review

3.3 Transparency

3.4 Results of evaluations

3.5 Conclusions from the outcomes of the questionnaire

4. Legitimacy: a central matter

5. Respect for the process is not enough

6. The political nature of evaluation

7. To take things further

Rapport final de l’étude pilote Quality convergence II « Pour des approches épistémologiques de l’assurance qualité »

1. Introduction

2. Méthodologie et calendrier

3. Les réponses au questionnaire

3.1 Indépendance

3.2 Évaluation par les pairs

3.3 Transparence

3.4 Résultats

3.5 Conclusion sur les résultats du questionnaire

4. La légitimité comme question centrale

5. Le respect des procédures et la recherche de transparence ne suffisent pas

6. La nature politique de l’évaluation

7. Pour aller plus loin

Annex A: List of agencies that responded to the questionnaire

Annex B: accompanying letter and the questionnaire used for the QCS II project

Foreword In this publication ENQA has taken the opportunity to bring together two distinct but related reports.

Part 1 examines the language of European quality assurance. It grew out of the debates and discussions at an ENQA workshop in Warwick in June 2006. The success of the workshop highlighted the support needed by all agencies as they deal with the linguistic challenges involved in creating a European Higher Education Area (EHEA).

Part 2 contains the findings of the second Quality Convergence Study (QCS II).

The first Quality Convergence Study (QCS) examined why national quality assurance systems operate in different, yet commonly identifiable, ways in particular national contexts. Building on this, QCSII has sought to go beyond the technical language of quality assurance and provide an opportunity for agencies to reflect on the values that underpin their quality assurance systems.

Both of these reports aim to contribute to promoting understanding of the multiple layers of meaning which become apparent when we attempt to understand quality assurance across borders, and across languages. They do not offer a conclusion, but a point of departure for further research and reflection. I hope that ENQA members and other stakeholders will find the points they raise both informative and thoughtprovoking.

Peter WilliamsPresident,ENQA

Introduction With the process of rapid change in the field of European quality assurance over the last decade, and in particular with the increase in speed since the start of the Bologna process, a great deal of research has been conducted on all areas of the field. Whilst useful in itself, much of this research has demonstrated the need for further work, especially in the field of communication.

A wide range of actors, from independent research agencies, to academics, to stakeholders large and small, have endeavoured to contribute to the discussion and add evidence to the debate. The breadth of the research conducted and the information now available to all players can only help further the goal of creating a European Higher Education Area (EHEA).

The majority of research has, however, taken an approach which, perhaps, has had to bypass some of the underlying issues present when dialogue is established across national, language and even individual agencies’ boundaries.

An acknowledgement of the existence of personal subjectivity and the social construction of ideas in our understanding of European quality assurance may, to some, be seen as a distraction from the concrete work of bringing about the EHEA. This would, however, be a counter-productive position to hold. Quality assurance is carried out by individuals and groups of individuals that are situated in cultural and linguistic systems which have an impact on everything they do. An understanding of these sub contexts is vital for the successful creation of the EHEA at a more profound level.

In 2006 ENQA began to address the challenges of communication and language in quality assurance in two ways. This publication brings together two separate reports that both, in their own particular ways, aim to contribute to deepening the discussion in European quality assurance.

The first, the report of an ENQA workshop, deals with the language and terminology that we use everyday in national quality assurance contexts, some of which has been incorporated into European level documents such as the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG). What do these terms ‘mean’ across different linguistic and national contexts? The majority of people working with the European quality assurance are not working in their native language, but in English. In addition, there is no guarantee that those who are native English speakers necessarily always mean the same things by the same terms.

The second, the report of the Quality Convergence Study II (QCS II), builds on this understanding to look at the terms in use which go beyond the “technical” language of quality assurance, and actually refer to deep rooted notions which are often taken for granted. The QCS II project sought to dig deeper and examine the values that underpin the terms we use, often implicitly, and what these say about the entire undertaking of the quality assurance of higher education.

In the context of this work on matters to do with intercultural communication, the QCS II report was designed, written and approved simultaneously in English and French. The publication of both versions allows the bilingual reader to experience in a concrete way the inherent difficulties of working in a multicultural context and of providing an accurate translation. It also highlights the richness that such a way of working can bring to a project of this type.

Part 1.

The Language of European Quality Assurance – report from the ENQA workshop of 29–30 June 2006 Rachel Dearlove, QAA Emmi Helle, ENQA

1. Introduction The ENQA workshop on the language of European quality assurance, hosted by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA, UK) in Warwick, revealed a wide range of points of interest, discussion and challenge for all those attempting to work across language boundaries to translate, understand and implement quality assurance ideas, processes and procedures.

The workshop brought together representatives from a wide range of agencies, representing 16 different countries and at least 12 different languages. The discussion focused predominantly on the use of English as a ‘mediating’ language for the European quality assurance community and the impact that this has on the clarity of communication. The intent of the workshop was not to produce a ‘glossary’ of quality assurance words but to open up the debate on language and raise awareness of the problems and pitfalls of working across language boundaries.

2. Word clusters The discussions were structured around four groups or ‘clusters’ of words.



The word ‘quality’ was universally felt to lie at the heart of the work of all the participants, and indeed featured heavily in the names of the agencies they represented.

By its very nature, however, it was felt to be very hard to pin down to a definition in any language. A distinction was made between the absolute definition of quality – which would allow ranking of outcomes on a scale – and the relative definition of quality which involves judgement against a set standard. In many cases it was not clear if this distinction was made within languages let alone between languages.

It emerged that the use of the word ‘standard’ was open to a wide range of interpretations across languages. In the UK the word refers to a level of achievement measured against a reference point. In France and Germany its translation is used to indicate an average or norm. The word ‘criterion’ was suggested as analogous to standard although it was clear that this was not universally accepted. In relation to the European Standards and Guidelines (ESG) the word had been interpreted by the authors as meaning ‘principles’ to adhere to rather than something to be measured against.

‘Quality assurance’ is a term imported into higher education from the world of business (and predominantly from the sector of manufacturing) as is the related term ‘quality control’. In France ‘quality management’ has been used often in place of ‘quality assurance’ in the translation of the ESG, with the intention of instilling a sense of responsibility to the academics to manage quality for themselves. An interesting point was raised by a Russian delegate indicating that in their system the term following ‘quality’ depended on the audience addressed i.e. quality assurance for broader society, quality control for regulators and quality enhancement for the higher education sector.

The discussion concerning ‘accountability’ showed that the definition of the word is dependent on the outcome of the question ‘accountable to whom?’ A higher education institution is accountable financially to its sources of funding, to students and the general public as ‘consumers’ of higher education and its products (graduates), the government who are often commissioners (and sponsors), and the academic community. The term has both economic and ethical interpretations. However, in Finland and Russia, for example, the economic connotation of ‘accountability’ is weaker, and it could be replaced by ‘responsibility’. UK participants also described the range of interpretations of the word in terms of the level of accountability, ranging from: ‘tell us what you do’ to ‘explain what you do’ to ‘justify what you do’ – showing the range of meaning that ‘accountability’ can have. The term also implies that there is an external party to whom one is accountable.

‘Enhancement’ and ‘improvement’ have very similar dictionary definitions in English as well as in other European languages and are often used interchangeably as synonyms. Among the participants, however, there was evidence of a definite preference for the use of the word ‘enhancement’ (and its translations) or ‘quality development’. ‘Improvement’ was felt to be more connected to advertisement and was perceived as more an aggressive term than that of ‘enhancement’.




Principles, values, independence, autonomy and academic freedom all arise from ethical discourse. In particular principles/values were felt to imply a general moral obligation or duty. From an English definition point of view, there are subtle differences between the understanding of ‘independence’ and ‘autonomy’ but these differences were not reflected clearly in the understanding of the words by participants. As with ‘accountability’, the word was felt to be defined by the relationship it implies between actors i.e. independence from what, autonomy in relation to whom? It was asked whether an agency was independent if it received funding from, or its staff members were appointed by, the governments or HEIs. It was felt, however, that the most important thing for the QA agencies was to be operationally independent, so that no external party could influence their decisions. It was questioned whether institutional autonomy, in any real sense, is compatible with external quality assurance.

Academic freedom is, of course, a term that exists almost exclusively in a higher education context and usually stands for freedom from external control and influence.

It is also understood as freedom of students and of the teaching staff to pursue their academic activities. Four pairs of concepts were suggested to help circumlocate its


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