Accumulation of credits in ECTS is the process of collecting credits awarded for achieving the learning outcomes of educational components in formal contexts and for other learning activities carried out in informal and non-formal contexts. A student can accumulate credits in order to:

  • obtain qualifications, as required by the degree-awarding institution;
  • document personal achievements for lifelong learning purposes.


Allocation of credits in ECTS is the process of assigning a number of credits to qualifications, degree programmes or single educational components. Credits are allocated to entire qualifications or programmes according to national legislation or practice, where appropriate, and with reference to national and/or European qualifications frameworks. They are allocated to educational components, such as course units, dissertations, work-based learning and work placements, taking as a basis the allocation of 60 credits per full-time academic year, according to the estimated workload required to achieve the defined learning outcomes for each component.

Awarding credits in ECTS is the act of formally granting students and other learners the credits that are assigned to the qualification and/or its components if they achieve the defined learning outcomes. National authorities should indicate which institutions have the right to award ECTS credits. Credits are awarded to individual Students after they have completed the required learning activities and achieved the defined learning outcomes, as evidenced by appropriate assessment. If students and other learners have achieved learning outcomes in other formal, non-formal, or informal learning contexts or timeframes, credits may be awarded through assessment and recognition of these learning outcomes.

Competence means ‘the proven ability to use knowledge, skills and personal, social and/or methodological abilities, in work or study situations and in professional and personal development. In the context of the European Qualifications Framework, competence is described in terms of responsibility and autonomy’ (Recommendation 2008/C 111/01). Competences can be generic or subject–specific. Fostering competences is the object of a process of learning and of an educational programme.

The mobility of an exchange student, who stays at a host institution for a period, during which s/he can carry out activities awarding academic credits, which are then recognized by the home institution.

Reference: ECT user guide 2015

Learning mobility for degree purposes, even if only part of the programme is undertaken abroad, e.g. in a jointly delivered or jointly awarded degree programme. Where a mobile student enrols for a complete course in another country or even another institution, this is often described as vertical mobility or programme mobility.

It is a document accompanying a higher education diploma, providing a standardised description of the nature, level, context, content and status of the studies completed by its holder. It is produced by the higher education institutions according to standards agreed by the European Commission, the Council of Europe and UNESCO. The Diploma Supplement is also part of the Europass framework transparency tools. It has the following eight sections of information:

  • the holder of the qualification
  • the qualification
  • its level and function
  • the contents and results gained
  • certification of the supplement
  • details of the national higher education system concerned (provided by the National Academic Recognition Information Centres (NARICs)

ECTS credits express the volume of learning based on the defined learning outcomes and their associated workload. 60 ECTS credits are allocated to the learning outcomes and associated workload of a full-time academic year or its equivalent, which normally comprises a number of educational components to which credits (on the basis of the learning outcomes and workload) are allocated. ECTS credits are generally expressed in whole numbers.

ECTS documentation: The use of ECTS credits is facilitated and quality enhanced by the supporting documents (Course Catalogue, Learning Agreement, Transcript of Records, and Work Placement Certificate). ECTS also contributes to transparency in other documents such as the Diploma Supplement.

Europass is a set of five documents (Curriculum Vitae, Language Passport, Europass Mobility, Certificate Supplement, Diploma Supplement) which aims to make skills and qualifications clearly and easily understood in Europe. Europass Mobility is a document to record knowledge and skills acquired in another European country, completed by the institutions involved in the mobility of the individual (sending and receiving institution).

Refers to measures through which the provision of higher education is made more flexible. The idea behind this concept is to open up higher education to more people and to increase adaptability to the multiple life worlds in modern societies. It also relates to flexibility in programme/curriculum design and approaches to learning and teaching.

A single document which is awarded by higher education institutions offering the joint programme, and nationally acknowledged as the recognized award of the joint programme
(EQAR, 2015).

An integrated curriculum coordinated and offered jointly by different higher education institutions and leading to double/multiple degrees or a joint degree.

Learning agreement is the document that should be signed, before the start of the mobility period, among the three parties involved in the mobility– the student, the sending institution and the receiving institution- in order to facilitate the organisation of credit mobility and its recognition on the programme abroad. The Learning Agreement is intended to give the student the confirmation that the credits he/she successfully achieves during the mobility period will be recognised.

Learning mobility is normally understood to involve physical mobility in which the learner/student moves to an institution in another country for part or all of a programme of study. The credits from such mobility are formally recognized by the sending institution. The majority of such mobility takes place in the context of planned and organised programmes (e.g. Erasmus), but there is also a considerable amount of ‘free mover’ mobility which depends on individual initiative.
As well as physical mobility it is increasingly possible for learners to participate in virtual mobility. This too may be through organized joint or shared curriculum, or through Open Universities, Open Education Resources, MOOCs, or other on-line material.
Learning mobility is of two main kinds, short-term mobility and degree mobility (see the glossary).

Learning outcomes are statements of what the individual knows, understands and is able to do on completion of a learning process. The achievement of learning outcomes has to be assessed through procedures based on clear and transparent criteria. Learning outcomes are attributed to individual educational components and to programmes at a whole. They are also used in European and national qualifications frameworks to describe the level of the individual qualification.

It refers to all learning and research mobility at doctoral (i.e. third-cycle) level. Mobility of doctoral candidates can refer to short-term mobility or degree mobility. Depending on the country, doctoral candidates are regarded as academic staff or students, or both. The term doctoral candidate is therefore used in most cases. If ‘doctoral candidate(s)’ are not referred to specifically, they may be covered by mobile students and learning mobility, or staff mobility and early stage researchers, depending on the context.

A mobility window is a period of time reserved for international student mobility that is embedded into the curriculum of a study programme (Ferencz et al., 2013).

In the QF-EHEA, three main cycles, as well as a short cycle, are identified and described by the so-called Dublin Descriptors, in terms of applying knowledge and understanding, making judgments, communication skills, and learning to learn. The short, first and second cycles are also characterised by credit ranges:

  • Short cycle qualifications typically include approximately 120 ECTS credits.
  • First cycle qualifications typically include 180 or 240 ECTS credits.
  • Second cycle qualifications typically include 90 or 120 ECTS credits, with a minimum of 60 ECTS credits at the level of the second cycle.
  • The use of ECTS in the third cycle varies.

ECT user guide 2015

Approval of courses, qualifications or diplomas from one (domestic or foreign) higher education institution by another for the purpose of admitting students to undertake further studies. Academic recognition can also be sought for an academic career at a second institution and in some cases for access to other employment activities on the labour market (academic recognition for professional purposes). As regards the European Higher Education Area, three main levels of recognition can be considered, as well as the instruments attached to them (as suggested by the Lisbon Convention and the Bologna Declaration): recognition of qualifications, including prior learning and professional experience, allowing entry or re-entry into higher education; recognition of short study periods in relation to student mobility, having as the main instrument the ECTS (European Credit Transfer System); recognition of full degrees, having as the main instrument the Diploma Supplement.

ECT user guide 2015

Recognition of credits is the process through which an institution certifies that learning outcomes achieved and assessed in another institution satisfy the requirements of one of the programmes they offer.

ECT user guide 2015

It allows ECTS to be used as an additional means of expressing full-time course duration in the case of the seven ‘sectoral’ professions. The obligation to express course duration in terms of full-time academic years and total numbers of hours will remain for medical doctors, general care nurses, dentists, and midwives. For veterinary surgeons, pharmacists and architects, the obligation covers only full-time academic years.

ECT user guide 2015

All types of learning mobility beyond that which is solely for degree purposes (see degree mobility). A mobility period that is part of a course (such as a typical ERASMUS study placement) is sometimes called ‘horizontal mobility’ or ‘credit mobility’.

Mobility: Closing the gap between policy and practice

Staff mobility refers to any mobility for academic or other professional purposes, which is not permanent (i.e. staff intend to return to their home institution). Academic and administrative/technical staff mobility refers to: a) mobility periods undertaken by staff at higher education institutions; b) the crossing of national borders; c) physical (not virtual) mobility; d) organised short-term mobility with the intention of returning to the point of departure (i.e. no permanent migration); e) a mobility period during which teaching or research (or both) are undertaken; f) a mobility period during which training is undertaken.

Academic staff are engaged mainly in teaching and research, either of which is also the purpose of their mobility. They may thus include (for example) academics in charge of managing a joint programme, provided that they are also engaged in teaching and research. Administrative/technical staff are engaged mainly in administration, which is also the purpose of their mobility, including all situations, such as governance and institutional leadership, in which the main task of staff is no longer academic.

Mobility: Closing the gap between policy and practice

An up-to-date record of the student progress in their studies, the educational components they have taken, the number of ECTS credits they have achieved, and the grades they have been awarded. It is a vital document for recording progress and for recognizing learning achievements, including for student mobility.

The receiving institution provides the sending institution and the student with a Transcript of Records within a reasonably short period of time (stipulated between the two institutions) after proclamation of the student’s results at the receiving institution.

Upon successful completion of the set of educational components included in the Learning Agreement and confirmed by the Transcript of Records sent by the receiving institution, the sending institution should recognise fully the agreed number of ECTS credits, transfer them into the student’s programme and use them to satisfy the qualification requirements. The sending institution should specify clearly how the educational components taken abroad have been integrated into the home degree programme.

ECT user guide 2015

Transfer of credits is the process of having credits awarded in one context (programme, institution) recognised in another formal context for the purpose of obtaining a qualification. Credits awarded to students in one programme may be transferred from an institution to be accumulated in another programme offered by the same or another institution. Credit transfer is the key to successful study mobility. Institutions, faculties, departments may make agreements which guarantee automatic recognition and transfer of credits.

ECT user guide 2015

Cross-border e-learning (i.e. when a student follows distance learning courses offered by a higher education institution abroad). Virtual mobility can be useful in promoting and complementing physical mobility. Virtual mobility can play an important role in the internationalization strategy of an institution (Mapping University Mobility Project, 2015).

ECT user guide 2015

Learning delivered by a university, college or other training provider in the workplace, normally under the supervision of a personfrom the same company, as well as, a professional teacher from outside the company.

ECT user guide 2015

Workload is an estimation of the time the individual typically needs to complete all learning activities such as lectures, seminars, projects, practical work, work placements1 and individual study required to achieve the defined learning outcomes in formal learning environments. The correspondence of the full-time workload of an academic year to 60 credits is often formalized by national legal provisions. In most cases, workload ranges from 1,500 to 1,800 hours for an academic year, which means that one credit corresponds to 25 to 30 hours of work. It should be recognised that this represents the typical workload and that for individual students the actual time to achieve the learning outcomes will vary.

ECT user guide 2015

A planned period of experience outside the institution (for example, in a workplace) to help students to develop particular skills, knowledge or understanding as part of their programme.

Work placements which are necessary to have access to a regulated profession. These can be undertaken in any EU/EEA member state, irrespective of where the qualification is delivered, and enjoy full recognition. Recital 27 states that the ‘recognition of a professional traineeship completed in another Member State should be based on a clear written description of learning objectives and assigned tasks, to be determined by the trainee’s supervisor in the host Member State.’ Article 55a requires Competent Authorities to ‘publish guidelines on the organisation and recognition of professional traineeships carried out in another Member State or in a third country, in particular on the role of the supervisor of the traineeship.’

ECT user guide 2015

A document is issued by the receiving organisation/enterprise upon the trainee’s completion of the work placement, and it can be complemented by other documents, such as letters of recommendation. It aims to provide transparency and bring out the value of the experience of the student’s work placement.

ECT user guide 2015


see “Regulations”.

See “institutional accreditation”.

A methodical examination and review of educational or research activities.

The enhancement of the skills, abilities and powers of partners to engage effectively at different levels in processes.

Structure of decision-making within an enterprise whereby employees and their representatives exert influence on decisions, often at a senior level and at a relatively early stage.

The involvement of every level of the institution, including students, in the quality assessment of single courses and the teaching, which form part of the teacher’s quality report to his/her department, which form part of the reports to the central board and to external evaluators – see also “Periodic program evaluation


(on the grounds of age, racial or ethnic origins, religion or belief, sexual orientation, political opinions, socio-economic background or trade union membership and activities).

Different treatment of individuals or groups based on arbitrary or acquired criteria as the above
The principles of the Norwegian Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act must be built into all aspects of the universities’ quality work, from universal design of the premises (accessibility) to student accomodation, admission regulations, and curricula, and are reported to the ministry of education annually.

European Industrial Relations Dictionary
Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act (in English)

A combination of strategies intended to achieve better representation in the employment of excluded groups within organizations. Diversity is considered as added value and implies that organisations are committed to building more inclusive decision-making.

European Industrial Relations Dictionary

System for the content of an institution’s offer within teaching – on program or course level. Norway’s Academic Supervision Regulations state that “Results derived from QA practices shall form part of the knowledge base used in the evaluation and strategic development of the institution’s portfolio of study programmes.

NOKUT – Quality Assurance – The institutions’ responsibility Section 4-1 (5)

A combination of factors (such as job-specific skills and soft skills) which enable individuals to progress towards or enter into employment, stay in employment and progress during their careers. Relevance: The EU and governments consider emphasis of employability in education as a quality element.

European Industry Relations Dictionary

Guidance documents which assist with decisions relating to the responsibility to adhere to established and relevant standards of ethical principles and practice.

Central for the UiO’s operations to uphold good quality, are the University Act, the Public Administration Act, the Working Environment Act, the Civil Servants Act, the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act and Ethical Guidelines for the Civil Service. Other internal regulations are the regulations for procurement, supervision and research ethics.

Research Ethics Glossary
Ethical Guidelines – University of Oslo

(and Equal opportunities) refers to the absence of discrimination and the promotion of equal treatment in and beyond the organization, e.g. for men and women through a Gender Equality Strategy (see also Discrimination).

European Industry Relations Dictionary

All systematic processes to assess or value the quality, merit and/or significance of something. Process evaluations describe and assess materials and activities, Outcome evaluations study the effects on participants and Impact evaluations identify longer-term as well as unintended effects (risk assessment). Evaluations can be performed internally or by the appointment of external evaluators.

ECA (European Consortium for Accreditation) Glossary

An ethical and scientific quality standard for designing, conducting, recording and reporting trials that involve the participation of subjects, that has its origin in International Conference of Harmonization (ICH).

Research Ethics Glossary

Unacceptable behavior by one or more individuals that can take many different forms, some of which may be more easily identified than others. Can be countered through a Harassment and violence prevention strategy where affected students or employees can report without risks of retaliation and where there are written procedures for handling the cases.

European Industry Relations Dictionary, adapted to higher education


The process by which a (non-)governmental or private body evaluates the quality of a higher education institution as a whole or of a specific educational programme in order to formally recognise it as having met certain pre-determined minimal criteria or standards. The result of this process is usually the awarding of a status (a yes/no decision), of recognition, and sometimes of a license to operate within a time-limited validity. The process can imply initial and periodic self-study and evaluation by external peers.

European Area of Recognition – EAR Manual (

All learning activity undertaken throughout life, with the aim of improving knowledge, skills and competences within a personal, civic, social and/or employment-related perspective (Communication (2001) 678).

ECTS User’s Guide 2015 (

An overall program evaluation should be completed within a set period. The purpose of evaluation is to assess the overall program quality and the need for changes or improvements. This periodic program evaluation consists of a self-evaluation and an external evaluation. The Norwegian NARIC is entitled to have full insight into the evaluations and may demand changes or improvements in the case of deficiencies.

Periodic program evaluation – UiO

The process or set of processes adopted nationally and institutionally to ensure the quality of educational programmes and qualifications awarded. Quality assurance should ensure a learning environment in which the content of programmes, learning opportunities and facilities are fit for purpose. Quality assurance is often referred to in the context of a continuous improvement cycle (i.e. assurance and enhancement activities).

ECTS User’s Guide 2015 (

The practical and systematic application of a continuous improvement cycle.

ECTS User’s Guide 2015 (

The standards for quality assurance have been divided into three (interlinked) parts:

  • Internal quality assurance
  • External quality assurance
  • Quality Assurance agencies.

These three form the basis for a European quality assurance framework.

Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG)
Part II – first paragraph

A process in which all internal stakeholders assume responsibility for quality and engage in quality assurance at all levels of the institution. In order to facilitate this, the policy has a formal status and is publicly available.

Standards and guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG) Part I, 1.1 “Guidelines”


The purpose of preparing quality deficiency reports is to determine the cause of discrepancies, affect corrective action and prevent recurrence.

Periodic program evaluation – UiO

Advice and recommendations on how an institution may improve what it is doing. QA and quality enhancement together create trust in the higher education institution’s performance.

Standards and guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG)
Part I, page 7, paragraph 4.

A rule or order issued by an executive authority or regulatory agency of a government and having the force of law.

Regulation | Definition of Regulation by Merriam-Webster


Group of individuals who undertake the ethical review of research protocols involving humans, applying agreed ethical principles. Research ethics committees review proposed studies with human participants (or samples) to ensure they conform to international and locally accepted international guidelines, monitor studies and, where relevant, take part in follow-up action and surveillance after the end of research. Committees have the authority to approve, reject or stop studies, or require modifications to research protocols.

Research ethics glossary

A self evaluation is completed by the program leader, and must include feedback from both students and program staff. The self evaluation should include a review of the academic environment.

Periodic program evaluation – UiO

The quality of being done in an open way without secrets.

Periodic program evaluation – UiO


Academic autonomy refers to a university’s ability to decide on various academic issues, such as student admissions, academic content, quality assurance, the introduction of degree programmes and the language of instruction.

The ability to decide on overall student numbers and set admission criteria are fundamental aspects of institutional autonomy. While the number of study places has important implications for a university’s profile and finances, the capacity to select students contributes significantly to ensuring quality and matching student interest with the programmes offered.

The capacity to introduce academic programmes without outside interference and to select the language(s) of instruction enables a university to pursue its specific mission in a flexible way. A free choice of teaching language may also be important in the context of institutional internationalisation strategies.

Although quality assurance mechanisms are essential accountability tools, related processes can often be burdensome and bureaucratic. Universities should therefore be free to select the quality assurance regime and providers they consider as appropriate.

The ability to design the content of courses (except for the regulated professions) is a fundamental academic freedom.

EUA, European Universities Association


Academic leadership is the key to determine the quality of university governance. Academic leadership influences, leads, and guides the multiple stakeholders to create a common academic vision through participation, interaction and coupling, and to motivate the members of the university to accomplish the common academic vision.

University Governance and Academic Leadership in the EU and China
Chang Zhu and Merve Zayim-Kurtay, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium

The basic meaning of accountability can be outlined as an account-giving relation between individuals or organizations. In a public sector context, it plays a decisive role because it counterbalances the delegation of power among principal – agent relationships. This means that the more HEIs achieve autonomy from a central authority the more they need to be accountable. Also for private HEIs accountability has a fundamental role, because of the competition mechanisms both in the aspect of resources acquisition and in the aspect of students (customers) satisfaction.

The dimension measures the degree of effectiveness in data reporting. The degree of effectiveness is linked to the ability to make available in a clear and transparent way relevant data on different topics. For universities and their leaders, accountability represents the ethical and managerial obligation to report on their activities and results, explain their performance, and assume responsibility for unmet expectations. At the very minimum, all tertiary education institutions should be legally required to fulfill the following two basic dimensions of accountability: (i) integrity in the delivery of education services, and (ii) honesty in the use of financial resources. In addition, many stakeholders have a legitimate claim to expect a cost-effective use of available resources and the best possible quality and relevance of the programs and courses offered by these tertiary institutions.

Tertiary institutions maintain accountability specifically through their internal quality assurance mechanisms, regular reporting on academic results and relevance of programs, financial audits, and by putting in place appropriate instruments to prevent and punish corruption.

Rabovsky, T. M. (2012). Accountability in higher education: Exploring impacts on state budgets and institutional spending patterns. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 22(4), 675-700.
Main reference to UniGov WP1 report

The system by which business corporations are directed and controlled. The corporate governance structure specifies the distribution of rights and responsibilities among different participants in the corporation, such as the board, managers, shareholders and other stakeholders, and spells out the rules and procedures for making decisions on corporate affairs. By doing this, it also provides the structure through which the company objectives are set, and the means of attaining those objectives and monitoring performance.

The system of rules, practices and processes by which a company is directed and controlled.

OECD Principles of corporate governance (1999)

The responsibility of enterprises for their impacts on society. Respect for applicable legislation, and for collective agreements between social partners, is a prerequisite for meeting that responsibility. To fully meet their corporate social responsibility, enterprises should have in place a process to integrate social, environmental, ethical, human rights and consumer concerns into their business operations and core strategy in close collaboration with their stakeholders.

European Commission (2011) A renewed EU strategy 2011-14 for Corporate Social Responsibility

Financial autonomy refers to a university’s ability to decide freely on its internal financial affairs. The ability to manage its funds independently enables an institution to set and realise its strategic aims. European universities receive an important proportion of their funds from the state. Whether this funding is provided as a line-item budget or a block grant, the extent to which it may be freely allocated to different budget lines and the length of the funding cycle are important aspects of financial autonomy.

The ability to keep a surplus and borrow money on the financial markets facilitate long-term financial planning and provide universities with the flexibility they need to fulfil their diverse missions in the most suitable way. Similarly, the capacity to own and sell university-occupied buildings enables them to determine institutional strategies and academic profiles. The ability to charge tuition fees opens up new private funding streams, which make up a significant percentage of university budgets in some higher education systems. In these cases, the freedom to charge and set the level of tuition fees is a crucial factor in deciding on institutional strategies.

EUA, European Universities Association

It is the sum of the many ways that individuals and institutions, public and private, manage their common affairs. It is a continuing process through which conflicting or diverse interests may be accommodated and cooperative action taken. It includes formal institutions and regimes empowered to enforce compliance, as well as informal arrangements that people and institutions either have agreed to or perceive to be in their interest.

The Commission on Global Governance, Our Global Neighbourhood, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995, p. 4.

Governance has been defined to refer to structures and processes that are designed to ensure accountability, transparency, responsiveness, rule of law, stability, equity and inclusiveness, empowerment, and broad-based participation. Governance also represents the norms, values and rules of the game through which public affairs are managed in a manner that is transparent, participatory, inclusive and responsive. Governance therefore can be subtle and may not be easily observable. In a broad sense, governance is about the culture and institutional environment in which citizens and stakeholders interact among themselves and participate in public affairs. It is more than the organs of the government.

International agencies such as UNDP, the World Bank, the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) and others define governance as the exercise of authority or power in order to manage a country’s economic, political and administrative affairs. The 2009 Global Monitoring Report sees governance as ‘power relationships,’ ‘formal and informal processes of formulating policies and allocating resources,’ ‘processes of decision-making’ and ‘mechanisms for holding governments accountable.’

Often there is a tendency to equate governance with management, the latter primarily referring to the planning, implementation and monitoring functions in order to achieve pre-defined results. Governance systems set the parameters under which management and administrative systems will operate. Governance is about how power is distributed and shared, how policies are formulated, priorities set and stakeholders made accountable.

In the development literature, the term ‘good governance’ is frequently used. In particular, the donors promote the notion of ‘good governance’ as a necessary pre-condition for creating an enabling environment for poverty reduction and sustainable human development. Good governance has also been accepted as one of the targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The good governance agenda stems from the donor concern with the effectiveness of the development efforts. Good governance is expected to be participatory, transparent, accountable, effective and equitable and promotes rule of law.

UNESCO, International Bureau of Education

HR autonomy refers to a university’s ability to decide freely on issues related to human resources management, including recruitments, salaries, dismissals and promotions. In order to compete in a global higher education environment, universities must be able to hire the most suitable and qualified academic and administrative staff without external prescriptions or interference. The ability to determine salary levels is of prime importance when attempting to attract an excellent international workforce. The civil servant status held by university employees still prevents institutions in a number of European countries from setting salaries. The capacity to promote and dismiss personnel freely enhances an institution’s flexibility, providing it with a competitive advantage with regard to staffing matters. The possibility to promote staff on the basis of merit remains restricted in a number of European higher education systems. Compliance with applicable labour laws and regulations is of course not regarded as a restriction on institutional autonomy.

EUA, European Universities Association

Is the initiative by university manages/administrators to properly and effectively attend to the concerns, queries, proposals, grievances and feedbacks of students, academic and non-academic staff. Management encompasses processes, structures and arrangements that are designed to mobilize and transform the available physical, human and financial resources to achieve concrete outcomes. Management refers to individuals or groups of people who are given the authority to achieve the desired results.

Run the organization in line with the broad goals and direction set by the governing body. Implement the decisions within the context of the mission and strategic vision. Make operational decisions and policies, keep the governance bodies informed and educated. Be responsive to requests for additional information.

UNESCO, International Bureau of Education

A mission statement, or simply a mission, is a public declaration that educational organizations use to describe their founding purpose and major organizational commitments—i.e., what they do and why they do it. A mission statement may describe day-to-day operational objectives, instructional values, or public commitments to students and community.

The Glossary of Education Reform

The legal framework refers to the system of rules and regulation related to higher education.

It is based on the idea that many different actors may be involved in the public process and the network’s role and multilevel governance emerge in the debate. The network governance model builds on some criticisms of NPM. The main features concern the
development of higher education networks between higher education institutions and between higher education institutions and other social actors, where self-steering and self-organisation are implemented in these relationships. Models of complex multilevel governance are encouraged, including different levels of government (regional, local and supranational) but also a range of non-governmental stakeholders such as firms and civil society increase collaboration with HEIs; HEI governance systems are requested to become more pluralist, participative and less directive; there is a shift in the notions of accountability, referring mainly to the idea of giving account to other stakeholders through face-to-face dialogue. The state has a role of general interest supervisor and, in terms of senior management style, there is an emphasis on softer leadership skills, visioning and networking-based approaches.

The Steering of Higher Education Systems: A Public Management Perspective, Ferlie Ewan, September 2008

Operational planning is planning that takes place at the department level of an organization. In institutions where planning is not integrated, operational planning usually means the divisions and departments develop their own visions and, with them, their own list of critical resource needs. What this means at budget time is that each functional area has its own requests for institutional resources and these are not necessarily linked to the budget requests from any other functional area.

A Practical Guide to Strategic Planning in Higher Education, by Karen E. Hinton, Society for College and University Planning (2021),

Organisational autonomy refers to a university’s ability to decide freely on its internal organisation, such as the executive leadership, decision-making bodies, legal entities and internal academic structures. The ability to independently select, appoint and dismiss the executive head and to decide on the length of his/her term of office is by no means guaranteed in all European higher education systems. Legal guidelines and restrictions still apply in many countries.
University governing bodies, which usually consist of a board or council, a senate or both, decide on long-term strategic issues, like statutes and the budget, and academic matters, such as curricula and staff promotions. If external, non-university members are included in governing bodies and hence involved in such fundamental institutional decisions, it is important that universities have their say in their appointment.

The capacity to create profit and not-for-profit legal entities and to decide on internal academic structures is directly linked to an institution’s ability to determine and pursue its academic and strategic direction. The ability to set up distinct legal entities may also open up important new funding streams.

EUA, European Universities Association

Organizational performance is a fundamental construct in strategic management. Recently, researchers proposed a framework for organizational performance that includes three dimensions: accounting returns, growth, and stock market performance.

EUA, European Universities Association

Stakeholders actively participate, through meetings or representations on councils, in the decision-making processes of the HEI.

MacDonald, A., Clarke, A. and Huang, L. (2019), “Multi-stakeholder partnerships for sustainability: designing decision-making processes for partnership capacity”, Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 160 No. 2, pp. 409-426

Public governance refers to the formal and informal arrangements that determine how public decisions are made and how public actions are carried out, from the perspective of maintaining a country’s constitutional values when facing changing problems and environments. The principal elements of good governance refer to accountability, transparency, efficiency, effectiveness, responsiveness and rule of law. There are clear links between good public governance, investment and development. The greatest current challenge is to adapt public governance to social change in the global economy. Thus, the evolving role of the State needs a flexible approach in the design and implementation of public governance.


Internal stakeholder
Person employed by or enrolled at a higher education institution.

External stakeholder
Persons who have a vested interest in the function, practices and outcomes of higher education institutions (may include members of central, regional or local government, employers in the labour market or other representatives from industry, members of labour unions, national student associations, representatives of civic society, graduates, parents of students, etc.).

Higher Education Governance in Europe Policies, structures, funding and academic staff. Eurydice, 2008

It is a governance model where governance arrangements are made by the relationships between state and academic oligarchy. The role of steering strategies is divided between the government and the academic oligarchy; the State coordinates all or most aspects of HEIs, such as admission requirements, curricula, exams, nomination of academic staff. The academic oligarchy manages internal organisations mainly for teaching and research. Management and administrative human resources have a very limited role.

Van Vught, F. A., & Westerheijden, D. F. (1993). Quality management and quality assurance in European higher education: Methods and mechanisms. (Studies; Vol. 1). Commission of the European Community.

It is a governance model where governance arrangements are made by the relationships between internal management and academic oligarchy. The role of steering is divided between the management and the academic oligarchy while the state has a limited role, a supervising role, without defining regulations in detail.

Van Vught, F. A., & Westerheijden, D. F. (1993). Quality management and quality assurance in European higher education: Methods and mechanisms. (Studies; Vol. 1). Commission of the European Community.

Strategic planning usually refers to the process which results in the development of a strategic plan. This plan identifies the future direction of an institution and maps the way the direction will be reached.
Strategic planning is this, but it is also much more. If an effective strategic planning process is in place in an institution, the following should be evidenced:

  • A clearly defined and articulated institutional direction.
  • Institutional ability to choose priorities based on self-evaluation and understanding.
  • Knowledge and ownership of the institutional direction by all major institutional constituencies.
  • Institutional openness to growth, change.
  • Institutional ability to respond thoughtfully, but quickly, to new challenges.
  • Unified plans and actions, with clear lines of accountability.
  • Strong financial and resourcing plans to back identified strategic directions.
  • Institutional leader’s constant focus on the plan with all constituent groups.
  • An efficient but effective assessment and reporting strategy.

Strategic Planning in Higher Education, Andrea Luxton
Andrews University, 2005

This refers to that which is beyond institutional infrastructure governance.

Bouckaert, Pollitt, Public Management Reform: A Comparative Analysis
December 2000, Long Range Planning 33(6)

This refers to system design at the macro level, which includes major checks and balances, key allocation mechanisms of resources, core decision making, and distribution of power in society. It also implies a Whole of Government approach.

Bouckaert, Pollitt, Public Management Reform: A Comparative Analysis
December 2000, Long Range Planning 33(6)


It refers to an additional function of the universities in the context of knowledge society. The university is not only responsible for qualifying the human capital (Education – the first mission) and for producing new knowledge (Research – the second mission). Universities must engage with societal needs and market demands by linking the university’s activity with its own socio-economic context. Today universities develop their strategies around these three missions and play a much more visible and stronger role in the design of modern knowledge societies by providing socially, culturally and economically usable knowledge.

Pinto, Cruz, De Almeida (2016), Academic Entrepreneurship and Knowledge Transfer Networks: Translation Process and Boundary Organizations


University governance is defined as the constitutional forms. and processes through which universities govern their affairs. Governance and the process of governing the university. interact with the internal and external stakeholders striving for.

University governance is one of the key elements that can lead to improving outcomes. Altbach and Salmi (2011) report that the important characteristics of successful world class universities are: leadership, government policy, funding, the ability to continually focus on a clear set of goals and institutional policies, development of a strong academic culture, and quality of the academic staff. University governance is an important driver of change: how institutions are managed is one of the most decisive factors in achieving their goals. There are many governance models that vary according to the national context, the type of institution, the historical legacy, and other cultural, political, and, sometimes, economic factors. It is clear that there is no single model or “one size fits all” approach to university governance. It is also clear that choosing a governance model for adoption by a given institution must be a well thought out decision. As Trakman (2008) suggests, “Good governance is much about timing and judgment: it requires boards of governors to recognize when a governance model is not working, why, and how to repair it.”

Universities Through the Looking Glass : Benchmarking University Governance to Enable Higher Education Modernization in MENA

Faced with the complexity of current and future global challenges, higher education institutions have the social responsibility to advance our understanding of multifaceted issues, which involve social, economic, scientific and cultural dimensions, and our ability to respond to them. It should lead society in generating global knowledge to address global challenges, food security, climate change, water management, intercultural dialogue, renewable energy and public health. Higher education institutions, through their core functions (research, teaching and service to the community) carried out in the context of institutional autonomy and academic freedom, should increase their interdisciplinary focus and promote critical thinking and active citizenship. This would contribute to sustainable development, peace, wellbeing and the realization of human rights, including gender equity.
Social responsibility is best understood as the idea that organizations, institutions, and individuals have an obligation to act for the benefit of society as a whole, drawing on principles around ethics and social welfare. Social responsibility plays a critical role in the HE sector, cementing the sector’s place within society as a catalyst for innovation, progress, and social and economic development.

UNESCO (2009) World Conference on Higher Education: The New Dynamics of Higher Education and Research for Societal Change and Development

QS Star (2019) The rise of social responsibility in Higher Education

The university strategy is the core document setting the university’s objectives for the future. It is the plan to achieve long-term and short-term goals. It reflects the vision of the institution and sets the priorities and main area of intervention for a set period of time.

A vision statement, or simply a vision, is a public declaration that educational organizations use to describe their high-level goals for the future—what they hope to achieve if they successfully fulfil their organizational purpose or mission. A vision statement may describe core organizational values, long-term objectives, or what the organization hopes students will learn or be capable of doing after graduating.

The Glossary of Education Reform


Click on the role to see the comparison in other countries

  • Italy: Rettore
  • Norway: Rektor
  • Portugal: Reitor (universities)/ Presidente (Technical Institutes)
  • Spain: Rector
  • Kurdistan: President / سەروکێ زانکویێ
General Secretary
The General Secretary is the notary of the acts and agreements of the Governing Council. It performs a work of assistance to the Rector in the tasks of organization and administration of the university.
  • Norway: function is handled by the University Director, see below
  • Spain: Secretario general
  • Kurdistan: Not available
The Vice-rector assists the Rector in the execution of his/her duties.
  • Italy: Prorettore vicario
  • Norway: Viserektor
  • Portugal: Vice-reitor / Vice-presidente
  • Spain: Vice-rector
  • Kurdistan: 
    • Vice President for Scientific & Postgraduate Studies Affairs
      هاریکارێ سەروکێ زانکویێ بو کاروبارێن زانستی و خواندنا بلند
    • Vice President for Administrative and Financial Affairs
      هاریکارێ سەروکێ زانکویێ بو کاروبارێن کارگێری و دارایێ
    • Vice President for Students’ Affairs
      هاریکارێ سەروکێ زانکویێ بو کاروبارێن قوتابیان
  • Italy: Prorettore / Delegato
  • Norway: Prorektor
  • Portugal: Pro-Reitor
  • Spain: Pro-rector / Coordinador/ Delegado del Rector
  • Kurdistan: Not available
Management Board*
The Management Board oversees the administrative, financial, economic and asset management of the university, as well as the management of technical and administrative staff.
  • Italy: Consiglio di amministrazione
  • Norway: Universitetets administrative ledergruppe / Board of Directors
  • Portugal: Conselho de Gestão
  • Spain: Consejo de Dirección
Managing Director
The Managing Director is the overall head of the institution’s administration.
  • Italy: Direttore Generale
  • Norway: Universitets-
  • Portugal: Administrador
  • Spain: Gerente
  • Kurdistan: Directorate of Administration and Employees Affairs / رێڤەبەریا کارگێری وخویەتی
Academic Senate*
The Academic Senate oversees the teaching, research and student services of the university.
  • Italy: Senato accademico
  • Norway: Utdannings-
    komite Forskningsetisk utvalg
    (Committee of education, Committee of research ethics)
  • Portugal: Senado
  • Spain: Consejo de Gobierno
  • Kurdistan: Not available
Social Council*
The Social Council monitors the economic activities of the university and its service performance, with the aim of promoting relations between universities and their cultural, professional, economic and social environment at the service of the financing and quality of university activity.
  • Spain: Consejo Social
  • Kurdistan: Not available
University Assembly*
The University Assembly elaborates the university statutes, defines the Quality Plan, the evaluation of the institution, the research policy and the academic awards.
  • Norway: (performed by the University Council see above)
  • Portugal: (performed by the governing council)
  • Spain: Claustro Universitario
  • Kurdistan: Not available
Evaluation Unit
The Evaluation Unit verifies the quality and effectiveness of the educational offer and of the research activities carried out by the departments.
  • Italy: Nucleo di valutazione
  • Norway: Performed by the Committee of Education, the Forum for research deans and the Learning Environment Committee
  • Spain: Comisión de Calidad
    (belongs to the University Assembly). For research activity: Comisión de Investigación
Evaluation Council
The Evaluation Council supervises the internal quality system, based on the principle of self-evaluation and continuous improvement.
  • Italy: Presidio di qualità
  • Norway: (performed by the University Council see above)
  • Portugal: Conselho de Avaliação
  • Spain: Unidad para la Calidad
  • Kurdistan: Directorate of Quality Assurance / رێڤەبەریا دڵنیای جوری
Ethical Council
The Ethical Council is a consultative body with the role of safeguarding ethical and deontological principles in research, education, society connections and general University functioning.
  • Italy: Commissione etica
  • Norway: Forskningsetisk utvalg (Research Ethics Committee)
  • Portugal: Comissão de ética
  • Spain: Comisión de Etica de Investigación / Comisión de Bioseguridad
  • Kurdistan: Ethical Committee
Students Provider / Non-teacher and Non-researcher Provider
The Students Provider and the Non-teacher and Non-researcher Provider act as independent entities to defend the students/employers’ interests and rights.
  • Norway: Studentombudet (Ombud for students) and Vitenskapsombudet (the Science Ombud) 
  • Portugal: Provedor do estudante / Provedor do pessoal não docente
  • Spain: Defensor Universitario (for student and employers)
  • Kurdistan: Student Union / ئێکەتیا قوتابیا
The Department conducts and coordinates scientific research, teaching and educational activities, as well as additional external activities.
  • Italy: Dipartimento
  • Norway: Institutt
  • Portugal: Departamento
  • Spain: Departamento
  • Kurdistan: Department / بەش
Vice-Director of Department
The Vice-Director of Department assists the Director of Department in the execution of his/her duties.
  • Italy: Vicedirettore del dipartimento
  • Norway: Forskningsleder (Head of Research) and Undervisnings- og utdanningsleder (Head of Education)
  • Portugal: Vice-director de departamento
  • Spain: Secretario de Departmento
  • Kurdistan: Rapporteur
Department Council
The Department Council is the governing body of the Department.
  • Italy: Consiglio di dipartimento
  • Norway: Instituttstyre
  • Portugal: Conselho de departamento
  • Spain: Consejo de Departamento
  • Kurdistan: Department council /
    جڤاتا بەشی
Programme Council**
The Programme Council manages the activities of the corresponding study programme.
  • Italy: Consiglio di corso di studio / Consiglio didattico
  • Norway: Programråd
  • Spain: Comisión de Ordenación Docente (belongs to the Faculty)
  • Kurdistan: Department Scientific committee / لیژنا زانستی یا بەشی
Programme President
The Programme President is the head of the Programme Council and is responsible for the working of the corresponding study programme.
  • Italy: Presidente / Coordinatore di corso di studio
  • Norway: Programleder
  • Spain: Coordinador de grado (for a Bachelor programme) and Coordinador the semester (to coordinate the activities per semester) 
  • Kurdistan: Head of Department /سەروک بەش
School (or Faculty) **
The School (or Faculty) manages research and/or teaching activities together with the Departments.
  • Italy: Scuola / Facoltà (Optional)
  • Norway: Fakultet
  • Portugal: Escola (ou Faculdade)
  • Spain: Facultad / Escuela (the name of School is only use for technical studies)
  • Kurdistan: College / کولیژ
School (or Faculty) Vice-dean(s)
The School (or Faculty) Dean represents and is responsible for the activities of the School (or Faculty).
  • Norway: Prodekan
  • Portugal: Vice-director de escola
  • Spain: Vicedecano
  • Kurdistan: Vice-Dean /
    هاریکارێ راگری

School (or Faculty) Council
The School (or Faculty) Council is the governing body of the School (or Faculty).
  • Italy: Consiglio di Scuola/Facoltà (Optional)
  • Norway: Fakultetsstyre
  • Portugal: Conselho de escola
  • Spain: Junta de Facultad
  • Kurdistan: College Council /
    جڤاتا کولیژێ
Teachers - students committee(s)
Teachers-students committees are responsible for monitoring the teaching activities and may put forward proposals for improvements, at different levels: University, Department, Study Programs, etc.
  • Italy: Commissione paritetica docenti-studenti
  • Norway: Function performed by “Programråd” with student representatives (see above)
  • Spain: These issues can be monitored in the following structures:
    • Consejo de Departamento
    • Comisión de Ordenación Docente
    • Junta de Facultad
    • Comisión de calidad interna
  • Kurdistan: Not available

*  The exact subdivision of duties among Management Board, Academic Senate, Governing Council, Social Council and University Assembly depends on the specific national laws.

** The exact subdivision of duties among Departments, Schools, Faculties and Study Programmes depends on the specific national laws.