Quality assessment systems in higher educational institutions specializing in sports disciplines (foreign literature review)

PhD, Associate Professor A.V. Kergaard1
Dr.Med., Professor R.B. Tsallagova1
1Lesgaft National State University of Physical Education, Sport and Health, St. Petersburg

Keywords: academic education, sports disciplines, education quality assurance, accreditation

Background. High quality academic education is ranked among the top priority policies by many developed nations the world over [2, 4, 11] with its quality secured by the relevant assurance systems [3, 15, 17]. The Russian academic physical education and sport system is no exclusion, with the ‘Physical education and sports research and education specialist training’ and ‘new research technologies implementation in the academic education system’ being listed among the priority policy goals by the relevant policy documents" [1].

The ongoing reforms of the national academic physical education system need to take advantage of the best international experience in the academic education quality assurance domain to have analyzed the typical and most beneficial quality assurance models and their applicability at the national academic physical education and sport establishments.

Objective of the study was to analyze the foreign academic physical education and sports education quality assurance systems for application in the national academic physical education and sport sector.

Study results and discussion. Generally, the existing academic education quality assurance systems may be classified into internal and external ones, with the latter implying the EQA being run by the relevant governmental agencies. Normally such EQA are applied in the countries with strong state control and regulation traditions, with the relevant agencies being responsible for the graduates being trained and committed to effectively contribute their knowledge and skills to the national development projects. Such ‘continental’ approach is traditional for many European nations [2, 5, 10] with the internal EQA systems being reasonably free of the governmental influences and allowed to pursue their own priority policies, practices and accreditation criteria and systems. Such approach is called ‘British’ in Europe although it is typical for the USA, Taiwan, Philippines and some other nations [10, 12, 13].

The existing British EQA systems apply multiple criteria including accreditation, contributions to the national and international research events, adapted international education models etc. It is the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) that supervises the academic accreditation systems [2, 12, 20]. The QAA system may be considered quite efficient since two British sport universities are ranked among the top five by the international QS World University Rankings by Subject report of 2018, namely Loughborough University ranked number one in terms of the sporting system and education and University of Birmingham ranked number five [22].

The quality assurance system in the US with its relatively isolated sport universities largely differs from the other nations in the following aspects: open competition; legal and regulatory provisions and uniform standards for the sport education and accreditation. The US sport universities are accredited by special accreditation agencies reporting to the U.S. Department of Education (ED or DoED) with the accreditation procedures set by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) [8, 9, 14].

The US quality assurance system applies the following nine commonly accepted education quality criteria: integrity of the university; purposes, planning and efficiency; administration and management; education curricula; faculty and service personnel; library, online education and other resources; academic education service and other services to students; audiences, equipment and other assets; and finance. Special accreditation agencies, however, are entitled to apply their own quality assurance criteria [2, 12, 14]. Ranked with the top twenty the 2018 QS World University Rankings by Subject were the Pennsylvania State University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (numbers 8 and 9, respectively)  [22].

The integration prioritizing European policies have always implied a growing cooperation in the academic education domain. These initiatives received an impetus from the 1998 Sorbonne Declaration that provided a basis for a closer interuniversity cooperation at no sacrifice for the individual traditions and polices of the universities. The 1999 Bologna Declaration was the next step in the European academic education system integration process [7].

This integration process made it possible to form, among other things, a network of the relevant accreditation agencies and their associations including, e.g., The European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA). These agencies have developed and implemented the quality assurance standards and procedure for the transnational European academic education service with the main quality assurance criteria including the professional knowledge, skills and experiences generated by the academic education system [6]. It was in 2005 that the ENQA initiated, in cooperation with the ESU, EURASHE and EUA, new quality assurance standards and guarantees (ESG ) for the European higher education system; and in 2015 the ESG were revised ‘to improve their transparency, applicability and benefits for the relevant application fields [21]. It should be mentioned, however, that neither of the universities participating in the Bologna process has been ranked among the top ten by the international 2018 QS World University Rankings by Subject in the sport disciplines [22].

The European nations operate their own quality assurance systems based on the individual traditions and needs [16, 18, 19, 20, 23]. Actual practices of the relevant accreditation agencies have resulted in the growing versatility of the quality assurance toolkit (including the institutional accreditation, accreditation of the academic curricula, cluster accreditation, system accreditation etc.), with multiple quality assurance instruments such as accreditation, audit, evaluation, benchmarking, excellence etc. [21]. Let us, therefore, overview the national quality assurance systems applied in Europe.

The Swiss universities are entitled to apply their own quality assurance sets of criteria as required by their strategies, missions and objectives, with every university expected to offer its own set of criteria and publicize them [2, 12, 17]. France runs its national academic education quality rating and certification program and revises it on a regular basis, with the governmental Research and Higher Education Service Evaluation Agency (Agence d'évaluation de la recherche et de l'enseignement supérieur, AERES) publishing detailed information on the applied quality assurance procedures and methods and giving a free access to its university audits [17, 20]. Germany applies a multilevel academic education quality assurance system with contribution of many accreditation agencies that come up with their own requirements to the quality assurance systems. Such approach allows every university keeping up its own QA and qualification systems and timely upgrading as required by the modern challenges and progress trends [5, 11, 21].

Sweden applies a three-tier academic education quality assurance system including accreditation; education curricula assessment; and audits to improve the education service quality, with The Swedish Higher Education Authority (Universitetskanslersämbetet, UKÄ) being in charge of the university accreditation system [20]. Norway traditionally rates the academic education quality in the following two stages: (1) university self-rating stage; and (2) verification of the university self-ratings by the relevant outside agencies; with the academic education quality assurance system supervised by the NOKUT [19]. The Finnish academic education quality is audited mostly by the internal audit systems with the audits often joined by outside experts. Thus the Finnish Center for Higher Education Assessment (FINEEC) runs the university education quality assurance service audits versus the missions, demands and objectives. Such audits find whether or not the university education quality assurance system complies with the national academic education service quality criteria and the European quality assurance standards and recommendations for the sector [16]. Therefore, the existing academic education quality assurance systems are generally intended to guarantee the academic education service quality, with every nation given a reasonable freedom in the quality assurance system design.


1. The best internationally accepted academic education quality assurance systems may be classified into the external and internal ones; with the external implying the quality assurance service provided by the relevant governmental agencies and the internal meaning the internal audits of the education establishments designed with respect to their traditions, needs and experiences.

2. Many European nations are committed for close cooperation in the sector including the efforts to set and apply uniform academic education quality assurance criteria and systems. However, the national differences in the quality assurance approaches, traditions and progress policies and practices still complicate these efforts.

3. The existing academic education quality assurance systems may be described as rather dynamic and progressing and, hence, the relevant education quality assurance criteria are being updated to cater for the actual social demands and education system progress needs, including those in the physical education and sport service sector.

The study was performed by the Lesgaft National State University of Physical Education, Sport and Health task group under the Academic PES Service Quality Assurance System Research Project in context of the National Qualification System standards and requirements.


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Corresponding author: anna_kyergaard@mail.ru

The review summarizes the foreign research data on the academic education quality assurance systems applied by the physical education and sports universities for the last two decades. It is shown that all the world systems for assessing the quality of higher education are divided into two main types: external and internal, their characteristics are considered. The aspiration of many European states for mutual cooperation aimed at the formation of common criteria for assessing the quality of higher education is noted. The stages of this process are traced, the existing achievements and obstacles that do not allow full realization of the task are considered.
The most important reasons for the lack of a single, standard approach to assessing the quality of higher education in the world are the historically established traditions of educational systems, features and trends in the development of each country. It is emphasized that due to the constant development and improvement of the quality assurance systems for higher education, their criteria are not rigidly defined, they are determined by the contemporary needs of the society and its sphere of education, including the field of physical culture and sports.