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New QA system for Swedish higher education

The Riksdagen’s (Swedish parliament) approval for a new quality assurance system in higher education has fallen. The Swedish Higher Education Authority (UKÄ) has been allocated the central task of developing and implementing the new framework that aims to crucially combine both an enhancement-led approach and accountability measures. Dating back to 2012, Sweden’s former system had failed to comply with European standards and guidelines (ESG) for Quality Assurance of Higher Education, whereas the new systems design is emphasised to align and consider international principles for quality assurance. External verification is still needed to confirm its alignment with the European framework.

A closer look at the Riksdagen’s decision for a new quality framework taken 2 march 2016, highlights four pillars of the system: Certificates/degree permit, Training evaluation, Review of the teaching institutions' quality assurance work and Thematic evaluations, of which the last two signify ‘new components’:

  • Reviewing institutions' quality assurance work, now appends universities’ responsibly for monitoring for high quality with a second component. UKÄ will now audit all quality assurance systems, to confirm measures purport high quality education and to help develop institutions’ work.
  • Thematic reviews, conducted by UKÄ, will contribute important insights and national comparisons on how various institutions work and the results achieved in central questions. Important themes to be evaluated could include: broadened recruitment, internationalization and equity.

Government places emphasis on the need for monitoring - evaluating the system after three years, with annual status reports from UKÄ. Concerns with the new system are its liability in successfully facilitating comparability in quality assurance between diverse institutions. Consideration should be given to the institutions nature and profiling. UKÄ’s chancellor Harriet Wallberg emphasized the use of experts as successful practice in carrying out quality assurance and the importance of co- developing the new system with higher education institutions, students and labour market representatives, grounding the new model among all stakeholders. Notably, the previous system for quality assurance, failing external review, was created in a rather ‘top-down’ fashion, whereas this time round the developmental approach for the new model centred on multiple stakeholder consultation. 

Frist effects will be felt during initial pilots this Autumn. Long term impact and success of the new system in balancing the delicate resource of Swedish university-autonomy, central to sustaining its critical, high quality education, remains to be seen.  

Swedish Parliament- decision protocol
The Swedish Higher Education Authority UKÄ
all documents in Swedish