As relations between institutions from different countries becomes easier in the digital age, CHEA has released 7 principles meant to guide educational quality internationally.
The Council for Higher Education Accreditation  (CHEA)’s International Quality Group  has released a set of International Quality Principles  to help strengthen growing international activity within higher education.
Recent years have seen a large rise in student mobility, faculty exchanges, research collaboration, and partnerships among institutions from different countries. This is largely thanks to using online or Web-based education and various supporting technologies to act as a bridge across borders.
“There is no question that the internet and technology have greatly increased the capacity to be a higher ed provider and reach many, many more students,” said Judith Eaton, President of the CHEA.
Closer relations between institutions of different cultures, however, have created a need for a better shared understanding of educational quality, which is precisely what inspired CHEA to create a set of international quality principles.
Although a single standardized regimen for educational quality would be difficult or even undesirable to establish worldwide, CHEA’s international quality principles aim to act as guidelines towards further understanding the dimensions of quality “while acknowledging and respecting the many differences of history, culture, beliefs and values that shape our systems of higher education and our perspectives on quality.”
“These principles are not coming from a negative or some big problem out there,” said Eaton. “We just want to underline the importance of the international quality conversation, and looked at what we can do to further frame this. We respect the diversity of cultures and their different approaches to quality, but it’s important to share ideas, communicate efficiency, and find common ground.”
Chiefly, the seven principles are intended to serve as a framework for international deliberation by establishing a common foundation for understanding quality in higher education. The principles should be used to guide discussions of quality, quality assurance and necessary qualifications at the country, regional or international level.
“We worked hard on finding language that was…adequately descriptive without putting anyone on the spot with regards to learning,” said Eaton.
(Next page: a breakdown of CHEA’s international quality principles)
The following are the seven principles identified by CHEA as most important for effectiveness and quality in today’s international higher education landscape:
1.) Quality and higher education providers
This principle contends that the primary responsibility of higher education providers and their staff is assuring and achieving quality in higher education.
“The leadership of colleges and universities in quality conversations is key,” said Eaton. “We need quality culture to spread, but it’s up to them to ensure quality education. The heart of achieving quality rests with schools.”
2.) Quality and students
Whatever the learning outcomes pursued, this principle states that education provided to students must always be of high quality.
“We have a profound obligation to students to provide high quality education,” said Eaton. “We have to examine quality with students in mind. What’s happening to them? Are they succeeding? Do faculty and curricula meet their needs?”
3.) Quality and society
This principle contends that the quality of higher education provision is judged by how well it meets the needs of society, engenders public confidence and sustains public trust.
“The very public role of higher education has never been more important than now,” Eaton explained. “Quality assurance today has a very important role in serving the public.”
4.) Quality and government
It is held by this principle that governments have a role in encouraging and supporting quality higher education. Even though governments across the world are involved in their country’s higher education system in different ways, every institution is also accountable to its government to some degree, whether that is a result of financial support or not.
5.) Quality and accountability
This principle states that it is the responsibility of higher education providers and quality assurance and accreditation bodies to sustain a strong commitment to accountability and provide regular evidence of quality.
6.) Quality and the role of quality assurance and accreditation bodies
It is extremely important, as stated by this principle, that quality assurance and accreditation bodies work with higher education providers and their leadership, staff and students to implement processes, tools, benchmarks and measures of learning outcomes that help to create a shared understanding of quality. Thus, the quality assurance field itself has a vital responsibility to consistently focus on the most effective practices.
7.) Quality and change
This final principle contends that quality higher education needs to be flexible, creative and innovative, and must develop and evolve to meet the needs of students in order to justify the confidence of society and to maintain diversity.
“This is a period of very great change in higher education,” said Eaton. “Innovation and flexibility are critical. Quality must be a part of this change, and it will be exciting to see how it develops over time. These principles may evolve, as we may add detail or even add new principles.”
CHEA has also developed a Quality Platform  to examine the quality of new methods of online and distance learning. It is currently being piloted in China.