Session highlights

"What crises tend to do -- and Covid-19 has been no exception - is to dictate to us how we must change immediately, but also indicate to us how we could change in a more permanent way on the basis of the experience that has been inflicted upon us. For example, we need to consider the more intelligent and sophisticated use of digital learning, and we need to consider the implications in terms of quality assurance and enhancement that those changes bring." Professor Simon Gaskell, Chair of the UK Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education 

  • In response to the Covid-19 crisis, higher education quality assurances across the world have recognised the need for flexibility in their approaches, such as moving reviews online, postponing regulatory processes, easing reporting requirements on institutions, modifying regulations, and adopting flexible interpretations of standards and criteria, said Douglas Blackstock, CEO of the QAA in the UK and President of the European Association of Quality Assurance Agencies. The session heard examples of this in presentations from speakers from Egypt, Ukraine, and Hong Kong
  • Douglas Blackstock said the HE sector’s response to the Covid-19 crisis had disproved notions that universities could change the course of history, but could not change their own history course. “Higher education has been absolutely incredible in what it has done in the past 15 months,” he said.
  • Albert Chow, Executive Director, Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications, said his agency had moved to reflect the rapid move to digital learning brought on by the pandemic, by shifting to online accreditation. As a result in the past year "we have not stopped any accreditations", he said. Meanwhile, the Council has encouraged institutions not just to see online learning as a contingency measure, but to incorporate it into normal pedagogy. 

Session summary

The Covid-19 pandemic has presented unique challenges to the higher education sector. Institutions have shown innovation and commitment in finding ways to maintain quality and standards during this time. They have adapted to provide effective academic and personal support for their students. This session will focus on the lessons the HE sector has learned globally following the pivot to digital learning and teaching and take this as an opportunity to enhance the provision for students in the future. 

In this session speakers from several quality assurance agencies from around the world will outline how their geographic areas have maintained high quality and standards following the pivot to digital learning. Reference will be made to feedback received as part of research into the views of HEIs and students on their experiences with digital education following the initial outbreak of the pandemic. Reference will also be made to particular areas of focus from these agencies in their pandemic response, such as maintaining academic integrity and supporting the resilience of learners.

Overall, we wish to demonstrate that while the sector has made excellent progress worldwide in responding to the unique circumstances following the pandemic, a return to “normal” is unlikely to happen once it is over. This however, presents opportunities to develop practice, taking the positive lessons and developments learned during the pandemic and mainstreaming them into future practice. To achieve this, the higher education sector will need to work with students to ensure that the learning and teaching environment of the future is suited to their needs. 


  • Chair: Prof. Simon Gaskell, Chair of the UK Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, QAA,United Kingdom
  • Douglas Blackstock, CEO of the QAA and President of the European Association of Quality Assurance Agencies (ENQA), Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, United Kingdom
  • Albert Chow, Executive Director, Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications, Hong Kong
  • Prof. Dr. Youhansen Eid, PresidentNational Authority for Quality Assurance and Accreditation of Education (NAQAAE), Egypt
  • Nataliia Stukalo, Deputy Head of the National Agency for Higher Education Quality Assurance, QAA, Ukraine