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3 March 2021

QAA in Ukraine: What our International Work means for UK Higher Education and our Members


Ian Welch
Quality Specialist, QAA

In January 2021, QAA Quality Specialist Ian Welch was elected Chair of the Advisory Panel at Ukraine’s National Agency for Higher Education Quality Assurance (NAQA). In this blog, Ian discusses the lead-up to his appointment, and shares his thoughts on what QAA’s international activity means for UK higher education, and for QAA Members.


Higher education quality assurance is in its infancy in Ukraine, and although many of the challenges faced by the university system - including increasing academic autonomy, reducing of corruption and improving academic integrity - have been tackled over the past six years (since the adoption of the 2014 Law on Higher Education), implementation of quality assurance at a programme level in universities remains sporadic.


To address this issue, in the summer of 2019, NAHEQA (commonly referred to as NAQA) and the British Council asked QAA to deliver a training programme to enable a new approach to higher education quality assurance across Ukraine. I was part of a team of two QAA staff tasked with delivering a three-day workshop in Kiev, which we called ‘Train the Trainers’. The workshop was designed to assist our Ukrainian regulatory colleagues at NAQA to move from an inspectorial system of higher education quality assurance, with a focus on compliance (based on the old Soviet system), to a developmental system where providers are encouraged to enhance quality by adopting a more proactive approach.


It was a privilege to be involved at such a critical stage of Ukrainian Higher Education Quality Assurance. The training was complemented by a series of interviews on Ukrainian radio and television in which I discussed the training that we had been asked to deliver, and the main differences between the Ukrainian approach to higher education quality and the UK’s approach. This was an opportunity for me to talk enthusiastically about the role of students in the quality assurance of higher education, and the importance of peer-led review.


A year later, we were asked to deliver a follow-up training event for new higher education review experts and experienced reviewers who were progressing to chairing. Needless to say, the COVID-19 crisis meant that all training was delivered online.


For both training events, I led the design and delivery of the sessions. Working closely with our Ukrainian partners to make sure that what we were proposing to deliver was what was required, I developed strong working relationships across NAQA and the British Council in Ukraine.


In November 2020, I was honoured to receive an invitation from NAQA to join their newly established Higher Education Quality Assurance Advisory Panel.


The NAQA Advisory Panel consists of internationally-recognised experts in higher education quality assurance, brought together to consider evaluations, proposals, consultations and draft documents submitted to the NAQA.


From the perspective of higher education in Ukraine, my appointment to the Board is an opportunity to help our Ukrainian colleagues to progress their efforts to implement a new approach to quality assurance across the sector.


For QAA, it is a valuable opportunity to establish a closer relationship with an important European partner that has recently had noteworthy success in digitising its higher education quality assurance, and rolling out an ambitious programme of reviews. What’s more, the direct relationship with NAQA is a useful inroad to other board members and senior people from as far afield as the USA, Georgia, Turkey, Northern Cyprus, Czech Republic, Sweden, Poland and France, as well as Advance HE in the UK.


Lastly, there are positive implications for QAA Members. As with much of our international activity, my appointment at NAQA presents a fantastic learning opportunity for QAA to gain greater understanding of what works and what doesn’t in international quality assurance from an overseas partner. Partners like NAQA can draw on QAA’s experience and expertise to develop and implement best practice, and likewise, QAA can draw on the experience of NAQA and other partners to our own betterment. In improving the way that QAA operates, we are directly improving our service offering to members.


I am greatly looking forward to working for NAQA to create channels to improve and leverage higher education quality assurance in Ukraine. I hope that in this role, I will nurture and strengthen valuable international relationships and explore new approaches to higher education regulation that can benefit partners and QAA Members, and influence the sector for the better in the future.