The main objective of the project is to assess the quality of partnerships amongst Higher Education Institutions (HEI).

Started: 2017

Funding: Erasmus+ Key Action 2

Project budget: 237,745 €

Length: 2 years

Partners: 5

Since the beginning of the Erasmus programme, the number of bilateral agreements between higher education institutions has increased massively. In recent years however, the focus in setting up such agreements has shifted more and more from quantity to quality, from “partners” to “partnerships”. The question now is: how can we objectively monitor the quality of our partnerships? In Flanders this question recently led to the development of an Online Quality Assessment Tool for International Cooperation (eQuATIC). This tool measures and exposes the strengths and weaknesses in international cooperation and partnerships. The main principle of eQuATIC is the use of quantified indicators, derived from data that were already available and were taken from various data sources. By converting quantitative and descriptive data into figures, cooperation with partners at different levels can easily be analysed and improved.

The main objective of the project is to generalise the use of the eQuATIC prototype in order to apply it for assessing the quality of partnerships amongst Higher Education Institutions (HEI). Upscaling the use of eQuATIC on a European scale will lead to a better monitoring of the quality of international cooperation and will thus contribute to more successful partnerships and therefore a more efficient European Higher Education Area. When two partners use eQuATIC, they can generate reports about each other pointing towards weaknesses and problems in their cooperation. The project will provide guidance on the further steps to tackle these weaknesses and to improve the quality of the partnership as a whole on both sides.

The project is targeted towards a broad number of participants. The main target group is university staff members dealing with internationalisation and quality assurance. In the first place, it is meant for policy makers at the level of the central administration who are involved in these both services. However, at the same time the project is highly relevant for academic coordinators who are responsible for agreements and partnerships at the department/faculty level. Besides staff working in HEI, the project is also targeted towards policy and decision makers in the field of Quality Assurance and Internationalisation, both at the national and supra-national level.

The project activities are clustered around the five main intellectual outputs of the project: “Guidelines on data gathering and reusability”, “Research on inter-institutional partnerships and practices”, “Peer assessment toolbox”, “Self-assessment functionality” and a “Training Scheme”. To fulfil the envisaged results, a varied set of activities will take place in the course of the project. There are output-specific activities such as project meetings, desk research, surveys, virtual meetings, drafting of research papers, software development, formulating of policy recommendations... Besides the output-related activities, the consortium will put a lot of efforts in disseminating the results through events organised by National Agencies and internationalisation agencies, as well as through international conferences. The project will also organise a conference itself, targeted s a broad international public and will invest extensively in all means of on- and offline dissemination.

The project consists of a small and flexible but highly committed project consortium. Each partner is responsible for the realization of the main objectives of the intellectual output he/she takes the lead in. The leading organizations have been chosen on the basis of their proven expertise in the output they are responsible for. In setting up the project, the consortium partners have ensured the participation of several partners in each of the outputs, in such a way that all intellectual output leaders are assisted by partners who have expertise that is compatible and complementary to their own.

The overall envisaged impact of the project is to improve international cooperation amongst European institutions. All together the outputs will enable HEIs to measure the quality of its international partners and in return to improve their own operations within the partnership. Based on reports generated in the tool, improvement measures can be developed and strategic partnerships identified. Moreover using eQuATIC as a peer assessment mechanism results in reduced workload for teaching and administrative staff as  existing datasets are being reused to assure sustainability.

In the long run assessing quality of partnerships amongst HEIs has the potential to increase the cost-efficiency of cooperation and mobility within the European Higher Education Area and to create a better return on investment when it comes to the value and quality of mobility experiences. It is expected that increased quality will result in higher mobility numbers contributing to the European goal of 20% mobility by 2020.

Partners: Ghent University, European University Foundation, European Consortium for Accreditation in Higher Education, Vlaamse Gemeenschap, University of Warsaw