Assessment of the quality of studies and research in Lithuanian higher education was initiated in 1995 after establishment of the Lithuanian Centre for Quality Assessment in Higher Education. One of the functions of the Centre is to organise quality assessment of studies in Lithuanian higher education institutions (HEIs). It goes without saying that the quality of studies was always a matter of great concern. This function, however, was performed by higher education institutions themselves. The newly established Lithuanian Centre for Quality Assessment in Higher Education is an institution entirely independent of higher schools. It organises the external evaluation of the quality of research and studies. Experts invited from other institutions can take a more critical look at the object to be evaluated and see the shortcomings that might escape the attention of employees who are delivering the study programmes or taking care of their quality in the institution under evaluation.
Institutions or divisions to be evaluated are advised on how to prepare a summary of the self-evaluation findings for external evaluators. The Centre for Quality Assessment in Higher Education organises seminars, prepares various handouts as well as provides advice by telephone and e-mail on all matters related to the preparation of the self-evaluation findings summary.
Under the Law on Higher Education and Research, higher education institutions may deliver only accredited study programmes. Study programmes are accredited for a period not exceeding six years.
An external evaluation of study programmes for accreditation purposes started in 1999–2000. The evaluation is aimed at continuous improvement of HEI study programmes and provision of information to the public about the quality of studies. The external evaluation of study programmes is conducted with the help of Lithuanian or international groups of experts.
HEIs are authorised to carry out only accredited study programmes. Study programmes are accredited at least once in six years. In view of the findings of the external evaluation of a particular study programme, the Centre for Quality Assessment in Higher Education pronounces one of the following judgements: to accredit the study programme for six years; accredit the study programme for three years; refuse to accredit the study programme.
External evaluation of HEI study programmes is performed by the Centre for Quality Assessment in Higher Education or any other higher education quality assessment agency included in the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education.
Evaluation of research (artistic) output of Lithuanian institutions of higher education and research is carried out in accordance with the Methodology for the Evaluation of Research (Artistic) Output of Lithuanian Institutions of Higher Education and Research.The results of the education institutions’ research (artistic) output evaluation are available publicly.
In December 2012, the Government adopted the Procedure for National Higher Education Institutions’ Supervision. The purpose of the Procedure is to monitor the availability and quality of higher education and research, encourage higher education institutions to seek for improvement, consult them and evaluate their performance. Continuous monitoring will allow assessment of systemic changes in higher education and help the process take the right direction. The Procedure identifies the existing measures as well as suggests new instruments to monitor and supervise higher education institutions, such as external evaluation and accreditation, monitoring of how expert recommendations are being implemented, supervision of compliance with laws and regulations currently in force, consultations on new legislation and potential means of its implementation.
According to the Law on Higher Education and Research, as amended in 2012, national higher education institutions’ supervision is performed by the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport, Research Council of Lithuania, Research and Higher Education Monitoring and Analysis Centre, Centre for Quality Assessment in Higher Education, Council of Higher Education and other institutions.
Evaluation of research (artistic) output is organised by the Research Council of Lithuania.
On 22 December 2010, the Minister of Education and Science issued an order authorising the Centre for Quality Assessment in Higher Education to organise the external evaluation of HEIs performance. External evaluation of HEIs study programmes may be performed by the Centre for Quality Assessment in Higher Education or any other higher education quality assessment agency included in the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR).
In 2012, the Lithuanian Centre for Quality Assessment in Higher Education (in Lithuanian, abbreviated as SKVC) applied for inclusion in the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education. Following the positive assessment, SKVC was listed in EQAR for the period of 2012–2017.
In March 2012, the Lithuanian Centre for Quality Assessment in Higher Education became a member of the elitist European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA). The decision to grant SKVC full membership in ENQA was based on the positive findings of the external review. (the report of the ENQA panel of the SKVC external review can be found here.) Joining the ENQA group means that the requirements for higher education in Lithuania comply with the European standards. Membership in ENQA and inclusion in EQAR amount to recognition that SKVC activities are open and transparent and its procedures appropriate and correct.
Approaches and methods for quality assurance
In institutions of higher education, self-evaluation is performed in accordance with the Methodology for Self-Evaluation of Higher Education Institutions. The self-evaluation of a particular institution is based on the evaluation results of its available resources, purpose-specific evaluation results, summary of self-analysis and other documents, data obtained during the site visits of experts to the institution, findings of the previous evaluation and recommendations and data on how and to what effect they were implemented, as well as other information about the activities of the higher education institution.
The performance of a higher education institution is evaluated according to its activities in the following four areas: 1. strategic management; 2. organisation of studies and lifelong learning; 3. research and (or) artistic activities; 4. effect on regional and country-wide development.
A higher education institution is responsible for conducting self-evaluation and preparing a self-evaluation report. The report should reveal the ability of a HEI to analyse and critically evaluate its performance and outline the prospects for its further development. Statements contained in the self-evaluation report must be based on both quantitative and qualitative evidence. The self-evaluation report should present the purpose-specific information necessary for the external evaluation.
Higher education institutions have an opportunity to apply for and receive targeted support for the development of internal quality management systems (e.g. system’s development, personnel trainings, system’s testing and improvement), implementation of best practices and promotion of social and economic partners’ involvement in the quality management process. These actions called ‘Development and Implementation of Internal Quality Management Mechanisms’ are an integral part of the National Study Programme.
External evaluation of higher education institutions is performed by expert groups set up by the Centre for Quality Assessment in Higher Education. The final findings of the evaluation are publicly available in the reference publications of the Centre for Quality Assessment in Higher Education. Within a specified period of time, institutions of higher education and research are required to correct the deficiencies pointed out by experts. In a higher education and research institution of very poor quality, its activities (or those of its unit, study programmes, etc.) may be restricted or even completely terminated. In order to avoid unfavourable findings of external evaluations, institutions should do everything possible to make their performance efficient and assure its quality.
Under the Law on Higher Education and Research, institutions of higher education can carry out only accredited study programmes which are accredited for a maximum period of six years. Study programmes are accredited in accordance with the findings of the external evaluation (except for study programmes that are intended to be delivered, in which case they can be accredited without undertaking the external evaluation procedure). This means that over a period of six years all higher education study programmes will be evaluated and accredited.
Subject to the Procedure for the External Evaluation and Accreditation of Study Programmes the currently delivered study programmes are evaluated according to six areas, viz. the objectives and expected learning outcomes of the study programme, its structure, staffing, material resources, the course of studies and its assessment and programme management. Each of the areas evaluated are assessed on a four-point scale. Based on the assessment of each area and the overall scores, study programmes are accredited according to the Procedure for the External Evaluation and Accreditation of Study Programmes.
Since 2010, Lithuania has been implementing the project ‘Development and Implementation of the Higher Education Admission System’. The purpose of the project is to improve the higher education admission system through enhancing its technical and functional capacity, developing the professional competences of people involved in the system and assuring the effectiveness and transparency of the admission process.The results of the Project: the system of general admission was developed and implemented; the central co-ordination reception for the admission to Lithuanian high schools established; the system’s operators-consultants and high schools’ admission committees membersprepared to develop efficient work; the trial experience of the common entrance examinations in art and pedagogical study programs realized; new system introduced to graduates and public; the general admission system’s effectiveness evaluation systemdeveloped and implemented.