Quality Assurance is an all-embracing term referring to an ongoing, continuous process of evaluation (assessing, monitoring, guaranteeing, maintaining, and improving) the quality of a higher education system, institutions or programs. (Vlasceanu et al. 2004, 74)
As a regulatory mechanism, quality assurance focuses on both accountability and improvement, providing information and judgments (not ranking) through an agreed upon and consistent process and well-established criteria. Many systems make a distinction between internal quality assurance (i.e. intra-institutional practices in view of monitoring and improving the quality of higher education) and external quality assurance (i.e. inter- or supra-institutional schemes assuring the quality of higher education institutions and programmes). Quality assurance activities depend on the existence of the necessary institutional mechanisms preferably sustained by a solid quality culture. Quality management, quality enhancement, quality control, and quality assessment are means through which quality assurance is ensured. The scope of quality assurance is determined by the shape and size of the higher education system. Quality assurance varies from accreditation, in the sense that the former is only a prerequisite for the latter. In practice, the relationship between the two varies a great deal from one country to another. Both imply various consequences such as the capacity to operate and to provide educational services, the capacity to award officially recognized degrees, and the right to be funded by the state. Quality assurance is often considered as a part of the quality management of higher education, while sometimes the two terms are used synonymously. (Vlasceanu et al. 2004, 74-75)
Vlăsceanu, Lazăr, Laura Grünberg, and Dan Pârlea. Quality assurance and accreditation: A glossary of basic terms and definitions. Bucharest: UNESCO-CEPES, 2004.
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