28 September 2023

Raising ASEAN Quality Assurance to Global Standards: The First Agenda of the AUN-QA International Conference

Patitin Lertnaikiat
AUN Programme Officer;

There is no going far alone, there is always room to improve ASEAN Quality Assurance to global standards. Regional contexts may not make it exactly viable to have a one to one copy of QA systems outside of ASEAN, but we can still learn from each other and take the best practices and ideas to apply to our own systems. This is what AUN-QA has set out to do with the first agenda in the International Conference of 2023, “Quality Assurance in the Globalized World of Higher Education”, where an international cast of speakers came to present their best practices and share their valuable knowledge obtained through real experiences.

With great facilitation from Prof. Dr. Wyona C. Patalinghug and Dr. Arnel Onesimo O. Uy, we had the following speakers share their latest breakthroughs in quality assurance practices from leading universities and university associations around the world with cases, good practices, and challenges reflecting their own local and regional contexts.

  1. Dr. Michael Gaebel, Representative from European University Association (EUA)
  2. Prof. Dr. Abdelrahim A. Hunaiti, Assistant Secretary General of Association of Arab Universities (AArU)
  3. Prof. Dunrong Bie, China Association of Higher Education (CAHE)
  4. Dr. (Mrs.) Pankaj Mittal, Secretary General, Association of Indian Universities, New Delhi (AIU)

1. Dr. Michael Gaebal: 

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The Robust Quality Assurance Systems of the European University Association (EUA)

Europe, home to some of the world’s most prestigious and top universities, leaving many ASEAN institutions to wonder: what does it take to be the best? Dr. Michael Gaebal, representative from EUA, was glad to share some insights from his experiences with countless European universities. 

First it has to start with the fundamentals, guidelines. Higher education institutions need external and internal QA systems, but it can be incredibly difficult to make one without guidelines. That is why Quality Assurance agencies exist to create such guidelines, for example the standards and guidelines for quality assurance in the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) which provides the internal and external QA framework for EU universities. The EHEA also works closely with government bodies, which in turn allows HEIs to work closer with the government, ensuring that policy makers are cooperating with universities, which is crucial to developing the appropriate policies for the right people. 

Speaking of the right people, we must not forget that ensuring great quality assurance systems is not only just for the benefit of university personnels, but for the people that are in need of the education being provided, the students! Therefore the learning and teaching experience is highly encouraged to be student centered. The student body has incredibly diverse needs, the appropriate mood of delivery and best teaching methods can vary among different fields.

To prepare HEIs well for the future, setting up a strong QA culture is key. It should provide room for QA to be community driven and allow community building. This developed community should be highly adaptable to the rapid changes of higher education, the needs of students, and the demands of the working world.

2. Prof. Dr. Abdelrahim A. Hunaiti

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How Arab Universities are Dealing with the Rising Demand for Higher Education

The Arab region has faced the issue of the rising demand for higher education before ASEAN. Back in 1964, the Association of Arab Universities (AArU) was established as an initiative to tackle this issue. Throughout this association, it has united about 450 universities and resulted in a healthy growth in Arab higher education that has led to diverse institutions from government to private and national or foreign. It has also greatly benefitted many of its member institutions through facilitation of quality improvement, research, and global cooperation.

When it comes to QA, the AArU established what is known as the AArU Quality Assurance and Accreditation Council, which serves to effectively enhance the quality and standards of higher education institutions in Arab countries. This council is responsible for organizing numerous workshops and seminars that provide necessary training and advice for various university QA departments. The efforts of the council have tremendously supported the process of QA and accreditation programmes throughout the Arab region, which helps to foster and spread the culture of QA.

This then leads to the AArU Programme Standards itself. It aims to be precise and clear standards with measurable indicators that are comprehensive, objective, and flexible, all while considering the Arab educational context. Their systems categorize different parts of the education system such as curriculum, students, or staff as what they call “domains”. Face to face learning consists of 11 domains while distanced learning has 5 domains. Within each domain includes indicators which are in line with the 11 standards established by the AArU Accreditation Standards.

The systems and standards set up by the AArU have been greatly effective towards reaching excellency with Arab higher education institutions.

3. Prof. Dunrong Bie

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The Massification and Popularization of Higher Education: Chinese Experience and Trends

Enrolment of higher education around the world has been increasing over the past 20 years, statistically enrolment around the world has increased by about 118% while China has seen an increase of 472%. At the conference, Prof. Dunrong Bie was there to discuss and share his experience throughout the process of the skyrocketing demand of higher education in China.

Developments in China’s economy and society have played a crucial role in the process of massification and popularization of HE in China. In short, the scale has been enormous, with the government playing an important role along with private colleges and universities developing rapidly throughout the years. Universities have also been gaining more autonomy from the government, allowing institutions to have more control. As a result, a sense of accountability has sprouted and there has been an awakening of quality awareness in the institutions.

From the mid-1980s to the turn of the century, the construction of China’s HE QA system was still in its exploratory phase. Evaluation was operated by the government and rankings conducted by other relevant social organizations. Systemization has been ongoing in the past 20 years, with future trends now looking towards strengthening IQA systems and utilization of information and technology for the benefit of QA. All of this will ensure regulations will be more sound and further promote the innovative development of QA in the context of China’s higher education.

4. Dr. Pankaj Mittal

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Managing Quality for Universities in one of the Most Populated Country in the World, India

India has one of the most populous and rapidly growing demographic in the world, and without a doubt this will come with a rising demand for all human needs, one of them being education. The Inter-University Board (IUB) founded the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) on 23 March 1925 to make sure the population of India gets the education in demand. Dr. Pankaj elaborated on the steps taken by the AIU to manage universities and ensure quality for what is the largest university association in the world, encompassing 961 Indian and Foreign Universities. 

The AIU has many functions, with some of the most important ones being a bridge between government and universities and being a think tank on higher education. In terms of working directly with universities, AIU provides consultation, coordination, and liaising between institutions, and facilitates research, publications, and information dissemination.

When it comes to QA in India, there is the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), National Board of Accreditation, and National Institute of Ranking Framework. The NAAC guarantees quality for India higher education through self and external quality evaluation, promotion and sustenance initiatives. The National Board of Accreditation is an independent and autonomous board that assures quality and relevance of the programmes in professional and technical disciplines. The National Institutional Ranking Framework is then the methodology to rank institutions across the country. The three organizations here all work together to build India higher education to be the best it can be and promote future development.

Participants at this first agenda were sure to soak in all the information that was shared throughout the dialogue. The following open discussion was met with participants showing great enthusiasm for advice and further clarification that will serve useful to apply in their own institutions.

Stay tuned, as we will bring to you soon the second agenda of the International Conference: “How then will universities stand?”, diving deeper into the intricacies of the AUN-QA Institutional Assessment Version 3.0.