An international review panel nominated by European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) conducted an external review of Finnish Education Evaluation Centre’s (FINEEC) higher education evaluation activities in 2021. In the review, FINEEC showed full compliance with all but one standard. FINEEC showed that its higher education evaluations are in line with European standards for quality assurance. As an outcome of the review, FINEEC will continue as a full member of ENQA and apply for renewal of its registration in the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR).
The international review panel complimented FINEEC’s improvement-oriented approach
The external review focused especially on FINEEC’s higher education evaluation activities, including audits and engineering programme accreditations (EUR-ACE). European standards applied to quality assurance agencies, such as the organisation’s objectives, official status, independence, internal quality assurance and resources, were also examined in the review.
The review panel noted in its report that FINEEC is a well-respected actor in the Finnish higher education system and enjoys strong trust among higher education institutions and stakeholders. FINEEC received praise for its self-reflective, open and improvement-oriented approach.
-I was happy and proud to receive the excellent result of the external review. FINEEC’s experts, evaluation team members and also the expert members of the Higher Education Evaluation Committee have done a great job. A strong result in an external review is an important recognition showing that the Finnish principle of enhancement-led evaluation works. Continuous improvement of activities is always needed, and the recommendations of the review panel give us good directions for future enhancement activities, says Pekka Auvinen, Chair of the Higher Education Evaluation Committee.
Increased interaction and dialogue with stakeholders create added value in FINEEC’s evaluations
The review panel found that FINEEC’s evaluations of higher education almost entirely meet Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG 2015). The standard for Complaints and Appeals (2.7.) was the only one not assessed as fully compliant but substantially compliant.
The panel focused special attention on the recommendations of the previous external review of 2017. The recommendations related, among others, to stakeholder cooperation and a complaints procedure. The panel found that FINEEC has succeeded in its improvement activities, and stakeholder cooperation can be regarded as a strength in the FINEEC’s activities. In the panel’s view, FINEEC has succeeded very well over the past years to establish and develop its role as a trusted partner in supporting the quality enhancement of the Finnish higher education institutions. One of the examples mentioned was integrating benchlearning as a method in third-cycle audits, which supports higher education institutions in improving their activities.
-The audited higher education institution is allowed to choose its benchlearning theme and partner. The audit also includes one evaluation area selected by the higher education institution which does not affect the outcome of the audit. Finnish higher education institutions have made great use of the possibilities offered by the third-cycle framework to tailor an external evaluation to serve their specific development needs. This is an indication of an advanced quality culture, says Helka Kekäläinen, Head of FINEEC’s higher education institutions and liberal adult education unit.
Review panel urges FINEEC to develop its complaints procedures
Based on a recommendation made in the previous ENQA external review, FINEEC has developed an appeals procedure for audits and EUR-ACE accreditations. This procedure enables higher education institutions to submit a request for review of the final outcome of an audit or engineering programme accreditation. In the review panel’s view, FINEEC should open up its appeals procedure to include all decisions and establish a clear procedure for complaints.
The panel also felt that including international stakeholder representatives in FINEEC’s bodies could bring an external perspective to FINEEC’s activities. In future higher education evaluation frameworks, FINEEC could also put more emphasis on higher education institutions’ practices for systematically monitoring and evaluating their degree programmes.
– FINEEC’s audits include a section for assessing how a higher education institution monitors and evaluates its degree programmes to ensure that they are up to date regarding the latest research evidence and the changing needs of society and working life. On the other hand, the feedback of the external review panel suggests that systematic evaluation of degree programmes is something that we need to pay more attention to in the future, says Mirella Nordblad, Counsellor of Evaluation, process manager of FINEEC audits.
The external review evaluated the extent to which FINEEC’s activities comply with Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the EHEA, ESG 2015. The common European standards and guidelines form the basis of trust, mobility and recognition of degrees between the higher education systems of different countries.
An international panel nominated by ENQA conducted the review
An international panel of experts appointed by ENQA conducted the evaluation. The members of the panel were:
- Bryan Maguire, Director of Quality Assurance, Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI), Ireland – Chair, quality assurance professional (ENQA nominee)
- Ronny Heintze, Commissioner for International Affairs, Agency for Quality Assurance through Accreditation of Study Programs (AQAS), Germany – Secretary, quality assurance professional (ENQA nominee)
- Terhi Nokkala, Senior Researcher, Finnish Institute for Educational research, University of Jyväskylä, Finland – Academic (EUA nominee)
- Alexandra-Simona Zamfir, PhD student in Medicine, “GRIGORE T. POPA”, University of Medicine and Pharmacy IASI, Romania – Student (ESU nominee)
Focus and process of the review
The review evaluated whether and how the agency met the expectations of the European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the EHEA (ESG).
FINEEC prepared a self-assessment for the review. The panel conducted an online visit to FINEEC in September 2021. During the visit, the panel interviewed FINEEC staff, higher education evaluation committee members, and representatives of evaluators, higher education institutions, Ministry of Education and Culture and other stakeholder groups.
In the review, FINEEC needed to show compliance with the ESG in order to pass the review and to renew its membership in ENQA and the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR).
FINEEC’s Unit for Higher Education and Liberal Adult Education prepared a self-assessment report based on the ENQA guidelines describing FINEEC’s activities in general and especially with respect to ESG.
Mirella Nordblad, Counsellor of Evaluation, +358 29 533 5541, firstname.lastname@example.org
Helka Kekäläinen, Head of the Higher education and liberal adult education unit, +358 29 533 5513, email@example.com
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