The EHEA Twinning project is moving forward at a full speed now. Every week, since the last week of September, new experts have arrived to Baku to work with the Azerbaijani universities and the MoE (Ministry of Education). The experts have trained the Azerbaijani pilot universities in self-evaluation, interviewed the experts of the ANO (Accreditation and Nostrification Office) and prepared recommendations concerning higher education regulations together with the Ministry’s senior officials.
The project’s key objective is to support the development of Azerbaijani standards and guidelines for quality assurance in higher education align with the latest ESG (European Standards and Guidelines) of 2015. The project has, together with the Azerbaijani experts, prepared and agreed on draft standards and guidelines which will be applied in test evaluations in the pilot universities (Azerbaijan Technical University, Azerbaijan State Economic University and Azerbaijan State Pedagogical University).
Self-evaluation is the first step in external quality evaluation and accreditation. Therefore, the EHEA Twinning project is training the pilot universities’ teaching and administrative staff to make self-evaluation. The main aim of the trainings is to foster the capacity to conduct a self-evaluation for the external evaluation. As such, this is not new. The pilot universities’ staff already has experience from accreditations and on making self-evaluations. However, the draft standards and guidelines applied in pilot evaluations and the whole evaluation process are new and differ in many ways from the principles and practices of previous accreditations. Therefore, trainings are required.
The first missions on training the teaching and administration staff of pilot universities were carried out at the end of September 2016. The three one-day trainings focused on the introduction of the draft standards and guidelines and sharing good practices from Finland. The second trainings took place last week, only two weeks after the first. Now the training focused on making self-evaluations in three specific evaluation areas. The group work was moderated by the Twinning project experts and proved to be an appropriate method for the staff of the universities. Last training sessions will take place at the end of November and early December, focusing on self-evaluations in remaining evaluation areas. After the training, the pilot universities will prepare their self-evaluation reports and the international evaluation groups will make the site visits in spring 2017. This far, the feed-back from participants has been enthusiastic and many have expressed their motivation to take part in the pilot evaluation using new working methods.
I am very happy and grateful for the pilot universities and their staff. Taking part in pilot evaluations requires additional effort. However, the experiences of the pilots provide a valuable contribution to the development of Azerbaijan higher education. The purpose of the exercise is to test in practice the feasibility of jointly prepared draft standards and guidelines and to learn which will be appropriate for Azerbaijan higher education and which require reconsideration. In some countries, the rules and criteria of external evaluation are decided without much consideration how they function in practice. The EHEA Twinning project will test the standards and guidelines before making final recommendations.