The following bodies are involved in the evaluation of higher education:
- The High Council for the Evaluation of Research and Higher Education (Hcéres) ;
- The General Inspectorate of Education, Sport and Research (IGÉSR);
- The Commission des Titres d'Ingénieur (CTI)
Higher education institutions also contribute to the evaluation of the system through the implementation of internal evaluation procedures.
The High Council for the Evaluation of Research and Higher Education (Hcéres)
The High Council for the Evaluation of Research and Higher Education (Hcéres) is the independent administrative authority in charge of evaluating all higher education and research structures, or validating the evaluation procedures carried out by other bodies. Through its analyses, evaluations and recommendations, it accompanies, advises and supports the process of improving the quality of higher education and research in France.
To guarantee the quality of its work, the Hcéres relies on a college of 30 French and foreign members who set the general framework for its action. Eight "business" departments and the general secretariat work to orchestrate evaluation campaigns, lead missions and provide functional support for the organisation.
Each year, 3,500 experts are mobilised to conduct the evaluations, supported by scientific advisers/advisers and administrative staff.
The law entrusts Hcéres with the task of conducting evaluations directly or ensuring the quality of evaluations carried out by other bodies by validating the procedures adopted. The possibility of using this external evaluation procedure is offered to higher education institutions and their groupings, research entities and training courses.
The Hcéres' activity reflects the dual desire of the public authorities to :
- Entrust a body with the task of evaluating territorial coordinations, institutions, research entities and training courses, or, where appropriate, ensuring the quality of evaluations carried out by other bodies;
- Provide the country with an evaluation tool for higher education and research institutions, their associations and, more broadly, for stakeholders.
The evaluation campaigns conducted by Hcéres follow a five-year rhythm. The timetable adopted is thus compatible with the requirements of the State's contractual policy, which has divided the institutions concerned into five geographical zones known as waves A, B, C, D and E. Each institution is thus evaluated every five years.
As a member of the network of quality assurance agencies in Europe, ENQA, Hcéres has a solid experience in providing its know-how to foreign countries or agencies that request its support in defining or specifying their quality assurance policy.
The Hcéres is also part of the construction of the European Higher Education Area, which, through the Bologna Process, has led to the implementation of numerous measures, in particular the development in each Member State of national quality assurance systems (evaluation, accreditation, audit, etc.) based on European standards (ESG: standards and guidelines for quality assurance in the European higher education area).
The General Inspectorate of Education, Sport and Research (IGÉSR)
The IGÉSR is regularly asked by higher education presidents to carry out support missions aimed at helping these institutions overcome financial difficulties or carry out major internal reorganisations.
In these different situations, the IGÉSR's analyses lead to action plans or operational recommendations to help the institutions concerned overcome the difficulties or obstacles identified.
The Commission des Titres d'Ingénieur (CTI)
The CTI is an independent body, responsible under French law since 1934 for the accreditation of all engineering courses, for developing the quality of courses and for promoting the title and profession of engineer in France and abroad.
The Commission des titres d'ingénieur has the characteristic of being composed of an equal number of representatives from the academic world (16 members) and the socio-economic world (16 members from companies, trade unions and engineering associations) who are actively involved in the life of the agency and participate in all accreditation missions.
The CTI's accreditation procedures concern not only the academic degree but also the professional qualification and authorisation of graduates to use the title of engineer. Because there is no engineering order in France, the CTI takes on tasks that in other countries are the responsibility of an order; it is consulted on all matters relating to engineering education and the title of engineer and signs professional recognition agreements with foreign orders.
As a quality assurance agency, the CTI is a member of the European Network of Quality Assurance Agencies (ENQA). Recognised by its peers, the CTI is listed in the European Agency Register (EQAR).
It therefore participates in the reflection and working groups of European networks, including the European Consortium for Accreditation (ECA), but also in the Peer Group on Quality Assurance of the Bologna Process.
More specifically, the CTI is a founding member of the FraqSup network (network of French-speaking agencies) and is one of the founding members of the European Network for Accreditation of Engineering Education (ENAEE), which created the EUR-ACE® label with the following objectives :
- provide a European label for engineering education,
- improve the quality of engineering education programmes,
- facilitate agreements for the recognition of diplomas,
- promote the academic mobility of students and the professional mobility of engineers.
This label is awarded to engineering courses that meet the quality criteria of the specific EUR-ACE® Framework Standards & Guidelines (EAFSG).
Over the years, the CTI's missions have evolved and now include
- Periodic evaluation of all engineering courses in French institutions with a view to their accreditation to award a degree in engineering. Since 2020, the evaluation of Bachelor's degree programmes in Science and Engineering in accredited engineering schools with a view to awarding the degree of licence.
- On request, the evaluation of engineering courses at foreign institutions.
- The definition of the generic profile of the Master's level engineer and the elaboration of the criteria and procedures necessary for the delivery of the title of engineer and for the accomplishment of the missions of the CTI.
- The formulation of opinions on all matters relating to engineering degrees.
- The development of a quality assurance culture within French schools and the CTI itself
- All actions that promote the academic and professional recognition of the title of French graduate engineer.
- Evaluation of French and foreign engineering courses with a view to awarding quality labels.
Approaches and methods for quality assurance
Various aspects of higher education and research are subject to external evaluation, including
- The institutions ;
- Research units ;
- Training and qualifications.
The bodies responsible for the external evaluation of higher education (Hcéres, IGÉSR, CTI) are involved in the evaluation of one or more of these aspects. Each body has its own working methodology.
Examples include the Hcéres institutional evaluation procedure and the CTI accreditation procedures.
The evaluation of an institution by Hcéres takes place in three major stages: preparation of the evaluation, visit of the institution, production of the evaluation report.
Some of these steps are internal to Hcéres; others are shared with the stakeholders of the evaluated institution. The process is broken down as follows:
- Presentation of the Hcéres evaluation modalities on site (year N-1) ;
- Publication of the evaluation framework and reference documents to be consulted and filed by the evaluated entities;
- Submission of the self-assessment report ;
- Constitution of the expert committee ;
- Meeting with the institution and consultation with the head of the institution on the composition of the expert committee;
- Visit of the expert committee ;
- Sending of the provisional report for the contradictory phase with the institution ;
- Sending the final report to the institution and requesting a comment letter ;
- Publication on the Hcéres website of the final evaluation report, together with a letter of comment from the evaluated institution.
The CTI's accreditation procedures are based on the same principles, in accordance with the European Standards and Guidelines (ESG): publication of the reference framework listing the criteria; self-evaluation by the engineering schools; on-site visit by the team of experts; drafting of the mission report; remarks and factual corrections by the schools; opinion or accreditation decision voted on in plenary session and sent to the ministries responsible for the engineering schools; publication of the mission reports on the CTI website and in the European DEQAR database.
In accordance with the European Standards and Guidelines, the principle of institutional autonomy, reinforced by the law on university freedoms and responsibilities, the primary responsibility for quality assurance in higher education lies with each institution itself, thus laying the foundation for the accountability of the university system within the national quality framework.
Self-evaluation (or internal evaluation) procedures are implemented in institutions, under the impetus and monitoring of the Hcéres and the CTI.
Internal evaluations can be carried out on an ad hoc or continuous basis. For the governance of an institution, self-evaluation allows for an analysis of its functioning and development in relation to its objectives. Extending this analysis by an external viewpoint of "peers" enriches and consolidates the reflection, by bringing new perspectives. In this system, self-evaluation is not a response to a specific request from an evaluation agency, but a tool specific to the institution.
The Hcéres and the CTI base their external evaluation on a self-evaluation report. They thus propose self-evaluation guidelines. The most recent ones have been published on their websites.