The European University Association (EUA) is celebrating twenty years of their Institutional Evaluation Programme (IEP). The main focus of the programme is to provide external evaluations to institutions, taking into account the specific profiles of the institutions. The programme was started in 1994 and the first evaluations were conducted in universities of Gothenburg, UTrecht and Porto. In these 20 years, about 380 evaluations in 45 countries have been conducted. The set of countries is well beyond Europe, and institutions from Africa, Japan, Latin America and the Middle East have gone through the evaluation.
EUA is celebrating this with a separate publication summarising the key results from these years and outlining some of the background developements. In the foreword, Lothar Zechlin also emphasizes the importance of IEP for the development of quality development practices in European universities. The primary approach to quality evaluation in the programme has followed the “fitness for purpose” approach, as Alicja Bochajczuk argues in the publication. She highlights that the core questions for the evaluations are focused on: What is the institution trying to do? How is the institution trying to do it? How does the institution know it works?
How does the institution change in order to improve?
Hans Van Ginkel outlines the initial inspiration for the IEP to the years 1987-1994 that was to a large extent a turning point in European history with major geopolitical changes that opened up the higher education systems in Europe. Part of the rationale for IEP was to facilitate more external quality evaluations, as the traditional modes in Europe had been rather inward oriented, Van Ginkel argues. At the time, only four countries in Europe had such processes of evaluation, as highlighted by Tia Loukkola and Andrée Sursock.
What was specifc about IEP was its clear orientation towards improvement rather than accountability alone, and evaluations are provided upon request. In recent years, the implementation of European Standards and Guidelines has some effect on the IEP processes, as well as inclusion of students in a much larger degree than before. However, Loukkola and Sursock argue that the basic philosophy underlying IEPs has remained, something that Hopbach argues is not surprising, considering the purpose and function of the IEPs in the wider quality assurance and evaluation landscape.