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Is the quality of studies ensured in higher education institutions

July 08, 2021

2021-07-13

National Audit Office: quality assurance in higher education needs improvement

Picture for National Audit Office: quality assurance in higher education needs improvementThe quality of studies in higher education institutions should be ensured in a more targeted manner, the development and implementation of study programmes should be improved, more attention should be paid to the internationalisation of studies, as shown by the audit carried out by the National Audit Office “Is the quality of studies ensured in higher education institutions”.

There are 37 higher education institutions (18 universities and 19 colleges) in Lithuania, with about 105 thousand students enrolled in the previous school year. From the state budget, some EUR 288 million was allocated to state higher education institutions (which are 23) last year. 

“Higher education promotes economic growth, enhances the country’s overall prosperity, leads to higher employment rates and greater social stability. We carried out an audit to assess how the higher education institutions in our country succeed in ensuring the quality of studies. All state higher education institutions take measures aimed at ensuring the quality of studies, however our audit shows that there is still a need to improve this area," says Kristina Česaitienė, Principal Auditor (Audit Team Leader) of Performance Audit Department 1 of the National Audit Office.

The audit shows that there are no established indicators that would allow the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport to make comparisons between higher education institutions and make informed decisions about them. The availability of comparable indicators on the quality of performance of higher education institutions and the monitoring of progress would make it possible to implement quality assurance measures in a timely manner and to achieve progress in the quality of studies.

The involvement of the social partners and students in the development of study programmes leads to a better understanding of labour market and learning needs and the preparation of higher quality programmes. Unfortunately, at present, social partners and students are often involved “formally” in the programme development process, with more than one third of student representations saying that students are not actively involved in programme development. According to the audit, at least 56.5 % of the on-going programmes were not evaluated on time at the beginning of this year, although some 53 000 (60.1 %) of students were enrolled in them. A stronger focus on the development of study programmes would ensure that they are developed in a high-quality manner.

According to the auditors, greater internationalisation of studies would increase the international attractiveness of Lithuanian higher education, promote the mobility of students and teachers and attract talent from abroad. In Lithuania, the aim was that by 2020 (before the Covid-19 pandemic), 20 % of students would have completed part of their studies abroad, but the proportion was less than 4 %. The mobility of teachers according to institution data is around 13.6 % in colleges and around 11.2 % in universities. In terms of incoming students, Lithuania is twice below the EU average (22 %) in terms of the share of foreign doctoral students in the country (10.1 %). An increased choice of programmes taught in a foreign language and the required level of language proficiency among teachers would allow to attract more foreign students, improve the quality of studies and increase employment opportunities.

By implementing the recommendations of this audit, more targeted measures to ensure the quality of studies would lead to better quality of higher education, study programmes would be more oriented towards students’ learning needs and adapted to the labour market, the internationalisation of studies would contribute to greater mobility of students and teachers, would allow to gain more experience and new skills.