The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) has agreed a major deal to help review standards in Albania’s higher education system, as it looks to expand its international activities.
The QAA will support institutional reviews of Albania’s 35 universities and assist in the development of the country’s own quality assurance organisation under a deal being signed on 29 February.
The agreement follows a critical review of Albanian higher education in August 2014, which led to the Albanian government closing a third of the country’s institutions. Last year, a series of laws were passed to enable reform of the sector.
Lindita Nikolla, Albania’s minister of education and sports, said that improving the country’s “chaotic and unregulated higher education sector” had been a “priority” for the government.
“Having observed the quality of higher education in UK, the education ministry decided to look at the UK model for best practice in quality assurance,” Ms Nikolla said. “QAA, a founding member of the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education, was our partner of choice.”
The deal is a boost for the QAA at a time when its core activities with English institutions are set to be put out to tender in several separate packages. Large firms such as Tribal and Capita could be potential bidders for the packages, which would cover areas such as Higher Education Review, external examining and transnational education.
However, in an email sent to reviewers last week, Douglas Blackstock, the QAA’s interim chief executive, said that the move by the Higher Education Funding Council for England “does not come as a surprise to us” and that the QAA has had “initial plans in place to respond to the different possible scenarios and the likelihood of multiple tenders”.
In the email, Mr Blackstock said that the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, the Home Office and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills have confirmed their intention to continue their partnerships with the QAA until at least 2017. The Scottish Funding Council remains committed to its quality enhancement framework also, Mr Blackstock adds.
Expanding international activity will be another key target for the QAA, which has recently worked with countries such as Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Uzbekistan.
Commenting on the Albania deal, Mr Blackstock said that the quality of UK higher education was “seen as a benchmark in Europe and beyond”.
“It is a privilege to be involved in reforming Albania’s universities as its government aspires to provide a better quality of education for its students and their future in a rapidly changing country,” Mr Blackstock said.