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The concept of excellence in higher education

Publication type
ENQA. (2014) The concept of excellence in higher education . The concept of excellence in higher education, ( ). pp. 1-46.


This paper records the discussions of a working group over a period of two years and reflects the progress made in describing, evaluating and defining the concept of excellence in higher education. The group took the view that excellence is a concept that can be applied to all types of institutions and subject disciplines. It defines a goal to be achieved and can be recognised in terms of the value and worth of institutional practice. A criterion-referenced model defines excellence in relation to defined standards that in principle can be attained by all institutions. The criteria identified for excellence could be incorporated and referenced within the methods used for the conduct of quality assurance activities. Some relate directly to the European Standards and Guidelines, others deal more generally with the context for the support and development of academic programmes. The specification of expectations for excellence would provide a focus for the development of strategies for quality enhancement. The methods currently used by quality assurance agencies are not primarily focused on identifying excellence. Agencies could include explicitly in their missions a statement such as 'identifying and developing excellence'. Consequently, the current set of standards could be re-organised and/or revised to make a definite distinction between the 'normative part', used for licensing or accreditation and the developmental part which could eventually lead to excellence. The overall intention would be to raise the level of institutional performance beyond the threshold standards set for the minimum requirements of common practice in academic quality and standards.
Publication type:
Theme(s) and sub-theme(s):
Quality assurance and enhancement > Enhancement of the learning experience
Publication title:
The concept of excellence in higher education
Official URL:
Reference number:
Summary deposited on:
19 Sep 2014
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