The Indo-European Conference on Quality Assurance in Higher Education, a two day affair took place at New Delhi, from May 6 -7, 2010. It was jointly organised by he University of Delhi, India-EU Study Centers Programme, and the Erasmus Mundus External Cooperation Window (EMECW) 13followup to the ‘Joint Declaration on Education’ signed by the European Commission
and the Government of India (Ministry of Human Resource Development) in 2008. The conference saw presence of eminent delegates and deliberations between the top European and the Indian experts on the established European practices and the Indian initiatives on quality assurance in Higher Education,
During the inauguration Prof. A.K. Bakshi, Director, ILLL, University of Delhi, gave a welcome note and invited Prof. Sukhdeo Thorat, Chairman, University Grants commission, as the session moderator; Prof. Deepak Pental, Vice- Chancellor, University of Delhi (DU); Dr. Sidsel Hansson, Project Coordinator, Erasmus Mundus External Cooperation Window 13; Ulrich Podewils, Team Leader
India-EU Study Centres Programme;and Guest of Honour, Danièle Smadja, Ambassador, Head of EU Delegation to India.
Prof S Thorat addressed the gathering and brought out pointers such as improvement in the budget allocation by the government from Xth to XIth Five Year Plan by 9-10%. He mentioned that 1462 institutions had been added with plans of adding more higher education institutions by end of XIth plan, explaining that it was historically a remarkable expansion. He expressed his happiness for introduction of semester system at DU and stated that motivation has to be there to encourage system with a base of caution. He mentioned that EU has been able to maintain quality amongst the local higher education institutions with higher allocation from GDP to higher education, therefore, European institutions should be studied. There was also a mention that National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) has voluntary assessment which is not regulatory, yet. He expressed that the meet will benefi t all from the deliberations that will be held during the conference. Tracing the history of the cooperation
between India and Europe, Danièle Smadja spoke about the time at which two fl agship programmes were introduced in India that is Erasmus Mundus and EU Study Centres Programme. She spoke about the student exchange programmes between the two countries
and the need to provide solutions related to issues of higher education and societal changes. She further expressed that quality in education required a balance between innovation and traditional teaching-learning methods, along with improvements in administrative functioning of the institutions. She mentioned that Indian higher education system is the largest in the world and also the most complex. Europeans, she explained, could bring something on table for India to bring about improved version of borderless delivery of higher
education. Later a keynote address was delivered by Prof Sukhdeo Thorat, Chairman, UGC
in which he discussed how collaborations can take place between Europe and India; issues of degree, credit transfers and other research processes; what constitutes quality and what describes excellence; what all within a system is assessable; creativity; social governance;
role of bodies such as All India Council for Technical Education, DU, UGC, NAAC; and fi nally he addressed the issue of why Indian universities are not listed in various rankings that are calculated every now and then, describing the methodologies used for the same as biased. This session was moderated by Ulrich Podewils. The panel discussion on the fi rst day of the conference started with a session on “Need for Quality Assurance in Higher Education: Opportunities and Challenges”. The session was moderated by Prof S K Tandon, Pro-Vice Chancellor, University of Delhi. The speakers included Prof Arun Nigavekar, Former Chairman, UGC; Prof Beena Shah, Secretary General, Association of Indian Universities; Prof Giancarlo Spinelli, Head of International Relations, Politecnico di Milano, Italy and Former President, European Association of International Education In order to maintain quality standards in higher education, Prof Arun Nigavekar named two approaches that need to
be followed. This included: Institutional Quality Assessment and Program Quality Assessment. The process would involve he use of instrument and methodology, self-study, peer review and accreditation. Seamless education, in today’s world, will have to go with the same approach and process. This means that there will be both institutional and programme assessment and accreditation. The second session on “Trends and Best Practices on Quality Assurance in Higher Education” was moderated by HA Ranganath, NAAC Director. Speakers in the session included Dr. Surendra Prasad, Director, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi; Prof Jan-Olov Höög, Karolinska Institute, Medical University , Stockholm; Dr Seyed E Hasnain, Vice Chancellor, University of Hyderabad;Hanne Smidt, Senior visor, European University Association; Roy Ferguson, Director (Quality), University College Dublin, Ireland.
Roy Ferguson elaborated on the framework for quality assurance followed in Irish Universities The key principles included: quality as strategy; quality review as a driver for change; quality as analysis and refl ection; and quality as shared responsibility. The quality review
process, in Irish Universities, consisted of four elements: a self-assessment report; peer review site visit; peer review group report; and follow-up i.e, implementing recommendations for improvement.The second day of the conference began with the session on “Accreditation and its Relevance to Quality Assurance in Higher Education”. The session was moderator by Dr Narendra Jadhav, Member, Planning Commission, Government of India. The speakers included Dr S S Mantha, Chairman, AICTE; Dr Robert Dowling, University of Nottingham; Dr Dev Swarup, Joint Secretary, University Grants Commission and Dr Axel Aerden, International Policy Advisor, NVAO. The session highlighted the ways through which higher education institutes can come together in collaborative ways for establishment of internal quality assurance cell. The session also put the spotlight on crucial measures required by QA agencies in order to promote confi dence and trust among the public. According to Dev Swarup, the relevance of accreditation in the context of quality assurance is very essential. Accreditation is one of the most powerful ools of quality in higher education. The ontributions made by UGC and NAAC in enhancing quality in higher education cannot be undermined. He added that there is a need to create self awareness amongst institutions to have their own mechanism by establishing Quality ssurance Cells and by having greater participation of all its stakeholders. The next session was on the “Role of Information, Communication and Technology in Quality Assurance in igher Education” which was moderator by Ashank Desai, Director, Mastek and PAN IIT. Speakers of the session included N K Sinha, Joint Secretary, Bureau of Technical Education, MHRD; Dr Ravi Gupta, Chief Executive Offi cer, Digital Learning ; S Regunathan, Advisor, National Knowledge Commission, Government of India; Vikas Sahni, CEO, Softedge Systems Ltd, Ireland; and D VasudevanIT Expert & Web Specialist India-EU Study Centre’s Programme. The session highlighted how technology has played a major role in changing the current practices and procedures for sharing information and improving communications for reducing the turn-around time for setting up effective quality control strategies. Speakers in the session on “Road Map to Future: Quality Assurance in Higher Education” included Prof Deepak Pental, Vice Chancellor, Delhi University; Prof Shyam B Menon, Vice- Chancellor, Dr B R Ambedkar University; Prof Pankaj Mittal, Vice Chancellor, BPS Women University; and Dr Doris Hillger, University of Heidelberg, South Asia Institute. The session was moderated by Hanne Smidt, Senior Advisor, European University Association. For Dr Dorris Hillger, ‘Quality culture’ isn essentially linked to functional autonomy in higher education institutes, aimed at enabling all stakeholders to collaborate towards providing quality education. The focus has to be on internal processesof review of achievement against goals/ mission With regard to a potential road map, it was emphasised that mandatory accreditation is required as a baseline for system assessment and creation of a higher education institute. Institutional autonomy should be established within
a common framework and internal QA units have to be placed at the right level. Competitive funding for excellence in research, teaching, and measures towards inclusion also have to be made available. The Valedictory Session brought the conference to an effective conclusion with speakers who included: Hans Schoof, First Counselor, Delegation of the European Union; Prof Piotr Klodkowski, Ambassador, Embassy of Poland; Prof Deepak Pental, Vice-Chancellor,
Delhi University; and Prof K Sreenivas, Dean, International Relations, University of Delhi