Based on the lessons learned fom EUA’s Joint Masters Project and the continued interest in developing and sustaining joint Masters, EUA undertook a project with the aim to generate a detailed European quality assurance methodology. To the Association's knowledge, no national agency had previously developed principles and practice to be applied to quality assurance of joint programmes, taking into account the specific translational nature of these programmes, and the shared responsibilities for matters such as course development, delivery and student services.
As Joint Master programmes have gained increased importance in the European Higher Education Area, EUA received funding from the European Commission under the Erasmus Mundus programme to develop a new methodology with a European perspective on assuring internal and external quality for Joint Masters. EUA oversaw the project development; specifically, EUA contributed to the experience gained in the EC Socrates-funded Joint Master Project, which identified important issues in creating and running joint programmes, and with the ongoing Institutional Evaluation Programme and Quality Culture Project, which has developed a methodology to implement internal quality assurance mechanisms in higher education institutions.
The final report, in the form of Guidelines, was published in May 2006. The Guidelines aim to provide different stakeholders involved in joint masters with a clear set of questions and issues, which they could usefully address in their daily work. Information and advice are provided for anyone involved or interested in the quality assurance of joint masters.
• Guidelines for Quality Enhancement in European Joint Master Programmes
EMNEM - European Masters New Evaluation Methodology, 2006
One of the main concerns revealed in EUA's Joint Masters Project (2002-2004) is the often weak anchoring of Joint Masters programmes within their network institutions. The programmes are sometimes primarily linked to committed individuals that have established the programmes and who keep them alive, while the institution as a whole does not endorse the programme sufficiently. This in consequence may lead to a weak sustainability of programmes. Another factor of concern is the increased running costs of Joint Masters in general.
Another important finding in EUA’s Joint Masters Project was the incompatibility of the national mandate of Quality Assurance agencies with the transnational nature of joint degrees. In addition, with regard to internal quality processes, the nature, maturity and standards of the institutions involved on which they are based vary across Europe. This situation poses great difficulties both to prospective students who need to appraise and to be assured of the quality of these programmes and to academics, who require a sustainable link between research and teaching within the European Research Area. The situation is also problematic for institutions to assure and maintain the quality of their programmes in a way that is recognised all over Europe, and for employers who need to recognise the added value that such Joint Masters programmes can offer.
The specific objectives for this project were to develop an evaluation methodology that was especially targeted at the particularities of Joint Master programmes.
The project objectives were to:
• Strengthen institutional anchoring of joint master programmes by developing internal procedures that involve a variety of institutional stakeholders and that develop the strategic value of joint programmes for the institution.
• Design a methodology with a European outlook and a quality culture which could be internalised and managed by the network of participating institutions.
• Strengthen sustainability of joint programmes: ensure that evaluation criteria examine their funding and administrative structures, their link between research and teaching and their internal quality procedures in place.
• Strengthen accountability of joint programmes: develop a robust and credible evaluation procedure to serve the need of students and the public.
• In the long-term the methodology developed by the project to become the standard methodology in Europe to evaluate Joint Master programmes.