Quality Assurance in Microcredentials - European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA)

Overview

In December 2023, the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) issued Quality Assurance in Microcredentials, a report from its working group on quality assurance of microcredentials.

The audience for this information includes education providers and quality assurance agencies. The report:

  • Provides an overview that includes the various international initiatives on microcredentials, defining features of microcredentials, and key terms of microcredentialing.
  • Describes external quality assurance of microcredentials, looking at views of quality assurance agencies, arrangements for the quality assurance of microcredentials, and challenges facing external quality assurance.
  • Offers recommendations and considerations for the future including standards and guidelines for both internal and external quality assurance.
  • Provide case studies to exemplify external quality assurance practices from ENQA member agencies.

Findings

Five conclusions (see page 4 of report) are targeted at quality assurance bodies considering options for the quality assurance of microcredentials based on national, regional, and institutional factors. These conclusions are also highly relevant for institutions and education providers seeking guidance on how to design their own quality processes related to microcredentialing, and information on what to expect of external quality assurance requirements.

  1. Reassurance for the quality of micro-credentials is important and should be actively sought.
  2. Arrangements that can facilitate reassurance are generally context-dependent and will need to consider existing quality assurance approaches.
  3. Capturing micro-credentials in external quality assurance processes has benefits and how this is done will depend on a multiple factors.
  4. Transparency, recognition, stackability, and portability must be at the forefront of demonstrating the quality of micro-credentials.
  5. Different models for future collaboration between stakeholders must be explored with opportunities for quality assurance agencies to revisit their remit and roles.

Case Studies

Background Resources

  • The Catalan University Quality Assurance Agency, AQU Catalunya, is the main instrument for the promotion and assurance of quality in the Catalan higher education system. AQU Catalunya is entrusted with the assessment, accreditation, and certification of quality in the universities and higher education institutions in Catalonia. AQU Catalunya is a full member of the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA), and has been one of the first three agencies to be included in the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR). AQU is also member of the Spanish Network of Spanish Quality Assurance Agencies (REACU) and of the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE), of which the Agency hosts the Secretariat since 2013. AQU Catalunya was the first European quality agency to be ISO certified.
  • HAKA (former EKKA) – the Estonian Quality Agency for Education – was established in 2009 and performs independent functions within the Education and Youth Board. Its mission is to empower educational institutions and other stakeholders in advancing the quality of learning and teaching as well as supporting the development of learners. HAKA’s core activities in higher education are institutional accreditation; expert assessment, if an institution wishes to start providing instruction in a new study programme group; and thematic reviews.
  • Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) is the state agency responsible for promoting the quality, integrity, and reputation of Ireland’s further and higher education system; and ensuring that learners achieve qualifications that are valued nationally and internationally. QQI issues quality assurance guidelines to include approving providers’ quality assurance procedures; monitoring and reviewing providers; promoting awareness and maintenance of academic integrity; awarding the International Education Mark to higher education and English language education providers. Ireland describes the qualifications used in its education and training system through the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ). The NFQ classifies the level, class of award and type of qualifications from Level 1 literacy qualifications, through to Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate and Level 10 doctoral degrees. This 10-level Framework helps compare different qualifications, showing how learners can progress from one level to the next. The NFQ can also help compare a foreign qualification with its Irish equivalent and help with the recognition of Irish qualifications abroad.
  • British Accreditation Council for Independent Further and Higher Education (BAC) is a not-for-profit social enterprise dedicated to maintaining global educational standards by helping students to choose reputable sources that meet globally recognized quality standards. Organizations in 20 countries use BAC to demonstrate and prove that their academic services meet the gold standard. As a non-biased, independent body, BAC is responsible for setting standards within the independent further and higher education sector. Its accreditation is held by hundreds of colleges and training providers in the UK and overseas. BAC is used by students, parents, agencies and beyond as a guarantee of standards.

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