The meeting was hosted by the QAA in Holiday Inn, London Heathrow, Sipson Rd and chaired by
Marlies Leegwater, driver of the joint quality initiative.
A list of those attending is attached.
Sean O Foghlú had prepared a paper on the relation between descriptors and framework, which
was at the basis of discussions.
The agenda consisted of the following items:
1. Elaboration of “Dublin” descriptors
2. Towards an overarching Framework of Qualifications for the European Higher Education
3. Programme descriptors, if and how to take forward.
4. Any other business
After discussion, also because of some misunderstandings of the Dublin descriptors that became
apparent from the discussion paper, there was a general understanding of various aspects:
Qualification descriptors in relation to quality assurance
Quality assurance can, and usually will, assess more than the learning outcomes described to
achieve the qualification of the Bachelor, that is to say: the end of the first main cycle of higher
education and the Master, the end of the second cycle (in terms of Bologna-Berlin vocabulary). This
is shown for instance in the Flamish decree, where the learning outcomes would be dealt with to
asess the aspect of the result of the programme. Next to the result of the programme, the criteria for
quality assurance are: the content of the programme, the educational process, material facilities and
the methods used in the self-evaluation process (see attached document: Elaboration of the
“Dublin” descriptors in the Flemish decree on higher education.)
Elaboration of the Dublin descriptors On one hand the Dublin descriptors are too general for quality assurance processes and need
elaboration, on the other hand the descriptors have gained impact just because they are so general.
In the Flamish decree the learning outcomes defined in the Dublin descriptors are elaborated in
general terms into a profile for a professional oriented Bachelor and an academically oriented
Bachelor. (This distinction is useful in countries where a distinction is made between professionally
oriented Bachelor qualifications and academically oriented Bachelor qualifications. Next to this the
general Bachelor descriptor will remain useful in countries in which such a destinction is not made.)
A domain specific elaboration is done in the Tuning project for the various domains, and by the
European Quality Link for a European MBA. On one hand it would be welcome to have those and
others which are developed in the Tuning project phase 2 mapped out on a website. On the other
hand the group is informed that the TEEP project showed that the domain specific descriptors are
too detailed for quality assurance. More elaborate results of the TEEP project will apper on the
ENQA website www.enqa.net shortly. From the discussion it is clear that quality assurance agencies or accrediting bodies that have to
judge on the quality of programmes, need criteria more specific than the general descriptors and
probably less detailed than the domain specific descriptors of tuning. It is very well understood and
welcomed that the accrediting agencies (joined in ECA) co-operate on this. It is also understood
that ECA exchanges personnel to “tune” criteria in practice.
Evaluation of learning outcomes How the learning outcomes are examined or tested, is a subject of interest for evaluators and could
be the topic of joint projects.
Use and function of the Dublin descriptors as general shared descriptors
The Dublin descriptors function as a means by which we can better understand qualifications outside our own country.
Quality assurance that assesses the achievement as described in the qualification descriptors provides quarantee to colleagues about the fullfillment of these criteria.
There is general agreement that the Dublin descriptors are valuable as general shared descriptors. For a fuller understanding of their meaning they need an additional explanatory note to explain that they are described as abilities of graduates at the end of the first cycle and at the end of the second cycle. In case there are several levels of Bachelor degrees awarded, the Dublin descriptor for the Bachelor is meant to correspond with the Bachelor award that gives access to the second cycle. The descriptor for the Masters award could use an additional explanatory note to clarify that it is written both for an academically oriented Master and for a professionally oriented Master. Both graduates should be able to persue research in a largely self-directed manner.
? Nick Harris will make the necessary additional explanations with the Dublin descriptors
There is general agreement that the general descriptors for the end of the first cycle and the end of the second cycle, the Dublin descriptors, should feed into the European qualification framework. There was agreement to consider them reference points, rather than minimum requirements. Reference point meaning that they reflect the typical expectations of the sorts of things that somebody is expected to achieve at the end of the cycle.
(It is also understood that certain quality assurance agencies may wish to consider them as minimum requirements and to provide guarantees about the achievements.)
Clarification appeared necessary on the use of the words qualification and level and the distinction between them: Next to the qualifications that go with the end of the first cycle and the end of the second cyle, and that give access to the next cycle, in some countries one speaks of levels, to indicate certain achievements at the level of a bachelor, but which may not give access to the second cycle.
Anyhow, it could all be fed into an overarching framework. Nothing should be proposed that sets up barriers to the framework or existing systems and a glossary of terms would be welcomed. As to the ownership of the European qualifications framework, there was general agreement that this is a matter for ministers of Education. The development of an overarching framework will be further discussed at a meeting the next day in London, called for by Mogens Berg, Denmark.
The format of ENESCO/CEPES/(EU/CoE) for the Diploma Supplements, which is widely used or referred to, consists of programme descriptors intertwined with personal marks gained for various subjects. At the previous meeting of the joint quality initiative in Schiphol on naming of degrees, it was felt useful to have a format for a programme descriptor which enables a programme to be summarized on one page and which is easily comparable with another programme because of the data being in a similar format. Such a one page description is more accessible than an elaborated Diploma Supplement. Compared to the programme data indicated in the UNESCO format for the Diploma Supplement, the principle addition is a line on the quality assurance applied to the programme.
Besides there are voices heard of institutions that use the Diploma Supplement that prefer to have the programme data disconnected from the personal data. It would be good to have the present format for the Diploma Supplement evaluated where it is used.
There were various questions on various aspects of the two formats for the programme descriptor which were made by Seamus Puirseil and Ton Vroeijenstijn. In the format it would be preferred to use the word cycle in stead of level. There is general agreement that a combination of the two (which is also comparable with the existing Diploma Supplement format) would make a perfect one and that terminology needs attention.
It is assumed that it is the higher education institutions that are to devise programme descriptors; that this information is probably available at institutions already and that extra bureaucracy should be avoided.
After debate on the need or usefulness of a format for a programme descriptor, it was generally
agreed that it might be useful to take such a not-personalised transparency document along, while
developing thoughts on the European qualifications framework. Because, it could be illustrative of
what a framework package might be.
? Jan Willem Meijer (VSNU) will make one format on the basis of the discussion of today.
? Marlies Leegwater will e-mail a glossary with an extra note on the word progression.
? Anna Murphy (NQAI) will provide an overview of their qualifications framework as it helps
understanding matters of levels and qualifications and qualifications descriptors.
Talking about “levels” the OECD/UNESCO uses ISCED levels. When considering if it would be
valuable to make a reference to ISCED levels, it was agreed not to do this, and concentrate on what
will be considered as first, second and third cycle higher education.
Transnational jurisdiction on quality
The question of the quality assurance of awards made by institutions in other jurisdictions was
raised. Can it be that programmes which fail the quality assurance criteria of one jurisdiction,
comply with criteria somewhere else? Reference was made to a recent European Court of Justice thruling of 13 November.
An exchange of information on quality assurance arrangements for such programmes was
deemed to be useful.
? Wolfgang Körner forwards the cases to those concerned.
Shared Doctorate descriptor
The question is raised if work on a shared doctorate descriptor would be appropriate. In several
countries work is done or in progress on a descriptor for a doctorate (Germany, Sweden, UK,
th? The joint quality initiative will have a meeting 12 March 2004, in Dublin, to formulate
shared doctoral descriptors.
Further processes towards possible formalization
Another discussion revealed that there is no intention to formalise the joint quality initiative.
However, for possible formalization of the descriptors a process including ENQA and the Bologna
Follow-Up Group is considered appropriate.
? Marlies Leegwater will report to the Bologna Follow-Up Group on the outcomes of this
meeting. (ENQA is already involved in this meeting and will also be informed of the
At all points it was clear that other stakeholders, institutions in particular will play an important role
in developing and implementing any future overarching framework of qualifications for the
European Higher Education Area. Therefore it was considered valuable to have a meeting with
other parties involved at the onset of a process towards it. It should be a working meeting, geared
to the topic, and it was considered appropriate if the joint quality initiative would invite various
parties to such a meeting. The parties to be invited are: EUA, CoE, Eurashe, ESIB, EU, ENQA,
ENIC/NARIC, ECA. As date is chosen preferably Friday February 6.
? Marlies Leegwater invites all parties to a working meeting: towards an overarching
? Nick Harris tries to find a venue in UK.
ML 26th December 2003
Holiday in Sipson Road, Heathrow
Nick Harris UK, QAA
David Bottomley Scotland, QAA
Seamus Puirseil Ireland, HETAC
Anna Murphy Ireland, NQA
Kurt Sohm Austria, Fachhochshulrat
Jan Willem Meijer Netherlands, VSNU part on quality assurance developed into…
Marlies Leegwater Netherlands, Ministry of Education Rudy Derdelinckx Flanders/Netherlands, NVAO Klara de Wilde Flanders, VLHORA
Christianne Vanvinckenroye Flanders, VLHORA Linda de Kock Flanders, Ministry of Education Annick Weizman Swiss, OAQ
Mogens Berg Denmark, Ministry of Education Wolfgang Koerner Germany, Lower Saxony, Kultus ministersconference
Hermann Reuke Germany, ZEvA, Hannover, Lower Saxony, Peter Dietz Germany, Akkreditierungsrat
Gemma Rauret Spain, AQU, Catalunia
Joseph Grisolf Spain, AQU, Catalunia,
Maria-Luz Penacoba Spain, ENECA
Tine Holm (replacing Christian Thune) Denmark, EVA, Albin Gaunt Sweden, Ministry of Education