The Lebanese Higher Education (LHE) system is very diverse. It consists of a large number of autonomous higher education institutions with only one public and more than forty private universities. The system is growing at a rapid pace and at different levels including the number of enrolled students, the number of institutions and programmes and the variety of delivery modes. This growth is in response to the increase in demand for higher education, globalisation and, the fast development in science and technology. In parallel, the unemployability rate is very high and may exceed the 30% as often declared. In this context, the Directorate General of Higher Education and various committees at the Ministry regulate this development through quality control at the input level. Yet the effort has not been sufficient and the need for a dialogue among the stakeholders and a quality assurance (QA) system through external evaluation is strongly felt. A draft law has been proposed to the parliament since 2011 for the creation of a Lebanese QA Agency: the vote is still delayed. Currently, individual institutions spend efforts seeking accreditation from international agencies. This is currently reinforced by a clause in the latest general HE law voted in 2014 that requests from the HE institutions to engage in QA processes. As for the qualifications, Lebanon is still lacking a national qualifications framework (NQF).
In the past decade, efforts have been spent in the country to create and foster quality culture in HE. The EU Tempus Programme has significantly supported those efforts by providing European expertise and significant funding. TLQAA “Towards the Lebanese Quality Assurance Agency” was the latest EU Tempus project in this field. It has achieved major goals including:
- A consensus about a national model for QA
- A consensus on a set of standards for institutional QA
- Guidelines for institutional self assessment
- Training Lebanese academics to become reviewers
- Proof of the feasibility of institutional external evaluation through a pilot evaluation
At the end of the TLQAA project three main recommendations were formulated:
- Regular review of the standards
- Good articulation between the activities of a national agency and those of international agencies
- Transition to programmatic evaluation
Meanwhile, Higher Education in general witnessed important advancements: A new version of the European Standards and Guidelines has been released, new modes of delivery are being developed and the international dimension is being reinforced.
In addition to the great interest shown in the past years for the development of a Lebanese QA agency, efforts have been spent to establish a NQF. Several partners in the consortium were involved in a project led by the European Training Foundation (ETF) that yielded a first Lebanese QF draft. A grid of levels has been defined using corresponding descriptors that are an adaptation of the Dublin descriptors and of European QF ones. These will be updated to form a solid basis for the work on programmatic evaluation to be conducted in the present project. The project shall also involve stakeholders from the labour market, and both NQF and QA shall be used as tools to establish dialogue among all stakeholders with the aim of improving employability of University graduates.
While in wait for the establishment of a Lebanese agency for QA, and for the sake of performing beneficial capacity building, the members of the TLQAA+ group decided to propose a new project focusing on programmatic evaluation, internal QA, NQFs and recognition. Several points shall be examined in depth such as:
- Internal QA
- Learning outcomes
- Credit systems
- Diploma supplement
- QA and Delivery modes
The project also tackles the relation between QA and the recognition of competences and skills.
Along with the main objectives of programmatic QA, NQF, Recognition and Employability, the project responds to related needs of the LHE. It will develop descriptive indicators and statistics that could be used to evaluate quality and draw strategic plans. The project will also discuss internal QA, and will create a guide and a course to support all institutions starting and developing their internal QA system.
In summary, the project will respond to major and urgent needs in the LHE related to the use of internal and external programmatic QA for a better recognition of skills and competences. Moreover, the project aims to build more capacity by training QA experts and reviewers, building courses and a NQF, and developing dialogue between HE and the labour market. It will test the built components in a real pilot evaluation whose outcomes and findings shall be of profit to the whole LHE sector and beyond.
Last but not least, the project will contribute to the emergence of more integrated academic communities of universities cooperating for the improvement of a quality and relevant LHE system.