Design of the Study and Conceptual Framework

A conceptual framework was designed to guide the case-study research questions on the institutional experience with a cross-border EQA (Fig. 2). The research questions focus on the rationale for a cross border review, the specificities of the

Fig. 2 Case-study conceptual framework

review process, the institution's experience and the impact of the review. The same general line of questioning was used in both national settings, to gather a comparative perspective.

Data Collection Methods and Instruments

Semi-structured interviews have been carried out with key representatives and stakeholders of each higher education institution (i.e. leadership, coordinator of the institutional/programme EQA, representative of the QA department, QA council, student representatives, management). Following the interview, a report summarising the main findings for each case study was prepared. The reports of the review were checked for factual inaccuracy or possible misinterpretation by each of the interviewed institutions.

The confidentiality of the specific information provided was ensured to interviewees so as to allow disclosure of possible critiques and to increase openness.

Case-Study Research Questions

In order to facilitate a systematic comparison of cases, a common set of research questions was developed. The interviews are nevertheless contextualised within their different national settings (NS1 & NS2). In addition, specific questions have been added according to the particularity of the review (e.g. double/joint degree programmes, joint QA review etc.).

The main research questions for the case studies are presented in Table 1. The questions are not intended to be a pre-set checklist but, rather, a set of thematic guidelines. To some extent the sections might overlap due to the similarities among the researched elements.

Overview of Case-Studies

The analysis of institutional experiences with a cross-border external quality assurance (EQA) (evaluation/accreditation/audit at institutional level or programme level) has been portrayed in the cross-case synthesis presented below. The contacted institutions have been asked whether they have carried out any additional cross-border EQA activities with an EQAR or non-EQAR registered agency. The additional cross-border reviews have been considered within the initial analysis as they complement the general findings and provide a more comprehensive overview

Table 1 Case-study research questions

Research dimension

General questions

Specific questions

Description of the institutional/programme review

When was the QA review carried out? What type of QA review was carried out?

The rationale for the review

Why has the HEI turned to a non-national QAA? Is this the first experience with a

cross-border EQA review? Was the institution responsible for selecting the QAA? If so, how was the selection process organised? If not, how was this decision made?

NS1: Has the institution also carried out an external review with a national QA?

Joint/double degree: Was a consultation process set up with the partnering institution

(s) for selecting the QAA?

The review process

What were the main criteria for the selection process for the QAA? (e.g. International profile, expertise in a specific field/discipline, affordability, reputation, better recognition of degrees abroad, methodology approach (best support in enhancing our QA), country of origin, working language, other)

NS1: Why didn't the HEI select a national QAA for the review?

Results: perception and impact

What did the HEI find noteworthy (and different from what it is used to) in terms of how the agency worked? (e.g. composition of panels, drafting/style of reports, conduct of interviews, sort of people to be interviewed) What were the main impressions regarding the external QA review?

What were the main challenges encountered? At what level? How were they overcome?

What were the main benefits of the evaluation?/Did the HEI get what it had hoped for from this process?/Would the institution be interested in contacting the QAA for another review?

NS2: Would the HEIs choose a cross-border QAA to fulfil the official requirements for external QA if the possibility existed?

of the cross-border experience within the institution. A Table 2 with the overview of all cross-border EQA activities reported upon by the 12 interviewed institutions are presented below.

Table 2 Overview of cross-border EQA activities within the selected case-studies


QAA & type of review

HEIs discharging the national requirements for EQA with a cross-border QAA

HEIs carrying out a 'voluntary' EQA with a cross-border QAA

Programme or faculty level


(programme accreditation) EUR-ACE®


Euro-Inf® seal

University of Zagreb (Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing & Faculty of Civil Engineering)


(programme accreditation)

University of Graz


(programme accreditation)

VTDK University Mykolas Romeris University Dimitrie Cantemir University

AQAS (joint degree accreditation)

University of Ghent (EMBC)


NVAO (joint review)

Royal Military Academy


(joint degree accreditation)

University of Ghent (IMRD-ATLANTIS)


(programme accreditation)

University of Ghent (Faculty of Veterinary Medicine)


(programme accreditation)

University of Bucharest


(Faculty accreditation Equis label)

University of Lund (LUSEM)

Evalag (programme accreditation)

VTDK University

University of Graz & Graz University of Technology (joint degree)

FIBAA (joint degree accreditation)


Business School


QAA & type of review

HEIs discharging the national requirements for EQA with a cross-border QAA

HEIs carrying out a 'voluntary' EQA with a cross-border QAA

At institutional level



University of Graz


(institutional evaluation)

University of Aveiro University of Bucharest

OAQ (audit)

University of Vienna (ongoing)

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