Agree on a joint quality assurance scheme



The quality assurance for a joint micro-credential programme is a common responsibility of the partnership. In this respect decisions have to be taken about:
Connect with institutional quality assurance frameworks in the partnership;
Connect with the European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance and its guidelines for e-learning;
Connect with quality concepts and frameworks within your European University alliance (EUI) or network
Use evidence-based quality assurance instruments;
Prepare for accreditation.


Digital education and micro-credentials are a new challenge for quality assurance (Ubachs & Henderikx, 2022; Mathes, 2018). For joint micro-credentials, the following steps should be taken:

Connect with institutional quality assurance frameworks in the partnership

The programme team draws up an integral quality assurance plan for the joint programme, building on the internal quality assurance systems of the respective universities.

Teaching staff are responsible for the scientific content and the level of the education within the joint curriculum. As an institution, each partner university is responsible for the quality assurance of the courses taught by its teaching staff in the programme. The programme team can add quality criteria and procedures for the entire programme, for exam-
ple in relation to specific (joint) learning activities and for other aspects to be addressed at the curriculum level.
The joint programme team board bundles the reports on quality assurance and discusses
the results.

Quality assurance takes into account a variety of criteria and indicators, in particular:

  • study progress and success;
  • compliance of learning results with the pre-specified learning outcomes and competences;
  • the learning experience and satisfaction during the programme;
  • the content and level of the programme;
  • data from learning analytics.

Connect with the European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance (ESG) and its guidelines for e-learning

The institutional quality assurance procedures will comply with ENQA Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in Higher Education. For the aspects of online learning, it follows the guidelines of the ENQA working group on quality assurance and e-learning. (Huertas et al., 2018)
In a broader perspective, other criteria can be considered, for example with regard to the European Commission’s Proposal for a Recommendation on Micro-credentials (European Commission, 2021).

Connect with quality concepts and frameworks within your European University alliance (EUI) or network

The EUniQ project (2019-2021) develops a quality assurance approach for European universities (EUI). This approach is aimed at multi-campus education, of which joint micro-credential programmes are an important part (EUniQ, 2021).
The project will help alliances and networks to define and self-assess their quality.

These key questions were leading in the pilot phase:

  • What is the vision of the European University on the quality of its education and, where possible, research, innovation and service to society?
  • How will the European University realize its vision?
  • How does the European University monitor to what extent its vision is actually being realized?
  • How does the European University work on improvement?
  • How is the quality of the offer of the European University guaranteed in an
  • internationally accepted manner?

When developing a micro-credential programme, connect with quality assurance concepts and frameworks of your university alliance or network, especially related to the last question.

Use evidence-based quality assurance instruments

E-xcellence is a quality assurance instrument for online, open and flexible education. The self-assessment tool is accompanied by and extensive manual offering guidance for improvement, covering blended and online course and curriculum design, student and staff support and strategic management. E-xcellence offers also onsite reviews for the ex-post quality assurance of programmes (Ubachs et al., 2015).

Assess on a regular basis the maturity level of the programme

The European Maturity Model for Blended Education (EMBED) can be used to assess the maturity level of courses, programmes and institution-wide facilities for blended education. The concept of maturity refers to the degree of regular and deliberate optimization of a blended programme and on evidence-based decision-making on the optimization of the programme by the programme board. (van Valkenburg et al., 2020 Dijkstra & Goeman, 2021).

Prepare for accreditation

In most European countries, universities are accredited at the institutional level. As a result, university programmes are no longer systematically accredited at the individual programme level. The institutional accreditation assumes that internal quality assurance procedures are in place for the programmes organized.
Within an institutional accreditation framework, it is still possible that individual university programmes have to go through an accreditation procedure. Some micro-credential programmes will be assessed as part of a degree programme.
If a micro-credential programme had to undergo such accreditation, an ex-post procedure is preferable to an ex-ante procedure, which would take time and hinder the responsiveness of the programme to needs in the economy and society.

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