Imperial College, London, is heading efforts to create a European network of universities that could have more clout in developing ways to measure the quality of teaching, writes Alison Goddard.
Imperial has teamed up with three European universities to "explore and work towards a common quality system", said Gareth Jones, European delegate at the college. Imperial is also a member of an 11-strong collaboration of European universities of science and technology, Cluster, which discussed quality issues at its meeting in London last week.
"If we could speak with one voice across Europe, we would be in a better position to develop a framework rather than having it imposed. There is value in universities discussing quality between themselves and not leaving it up to national bodies," said Professor Jones.
Last autumn, Imperial teamed up with Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich and the Technical University of Aachen in Germany.
Only the Netherlands has a national quality assurance agency similar to the UK's. In Switzerland and Germany, universities operate internal quality systems.
The collaboration aims to see if a common internal quality framework could be established between the institutions and, if so, what form it would take. It would be developed by adjusting existing procedures, and the results would be presented to national quality bodies. Eventually, it could contribute to the development of an international system for quality measurement, management and accreditation.
At present, the initiative is limited to the four institutions. However, quality was discussed at last week's meeting of Cluster.
Members also agreed to establish a task force for innovation and entrepreneurship to share best practice in creating spin-off companies and commercialising research. A database of students who have spent a year on an exchange programme with a Cluster partner will be set up for potential employers.
Cluster members are: Imperial College, London; Institut National Polytechnique de Grenoble; Ecole Polytechnique Federal de Lausanne; Trinity College, Dublin; Technische Universitat Darmstat; Universitat Karlsruhe; Politecnico di Torino; Technische Universiteit Eindhoven; Universite Catholique de Louvain; Kungl Tekniska Hogskolan; and Technical University of Catalonia, Barcelona. European universities group considers common teaching quality system