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The seminar entitled „Role of students in quality assurance of higher education institutions“, held on 9 December 2019 in Zagreb, and organized by the Agency for Science and Higher Education (ASHE), ended with a conclusion that students can become agents of change in higher education.

The aim of the seminar was to introduce students to the culture of quality assurance at higher education institutions, to inform them about their rights, obligations and opportunities and to encourage them to become actively involved in the segments such as the improvement of teaching quality, studying and assessment experience as well as other aspects of student life.

The seminar was opened by Prof. Jasmina Havranek, Ph.D., ASHE Acting Director, who emphasized that the Agency is very student oriented in its HEI external evaluation procedures. “This is evident in our standards, which expect higher education institutions to objectively and consistently evaluate and assess student achievements, to provide them with adequate support regarding both study and career opportunities, and especially to care for and adjust teaching processes to students from vulnerable groups,” said Prof. Havranek.

The seminar placed emphasis on the opportunities and possibilities of having students involved in various quality assurance segments, with a focus on the shift from student – beneficiary to student – active stakeholder in the higher education system.

Gohar Hovhannisyan, the Vice-President of the European Students’ Union, was a special guest at the seminar.

The following student representatives who took part in a round table discussion shared their experiences in the work on the improvement of the quality of various aspects of student life:

Mateo Marušić (President of the Croatian Student Union), Ivan Pnjak (president of the Council of Students of Polytechnics and Colleges), Matej Smetiško (President of the Student Union of the University of Zagreb), Tea Dimnjašević (President of the Student Union of the University of Rijeka), Renato Nović (President of the Student Union of the University of Zadar), Marko Dubroja (student, an expert panel member in external evaluation procedures).

The participants discussed possible ways of motivating students to become more involved in quality assurance activities at all levels and they concluded that the responsibility for that equally lies with student representatives, teachers and management boards of higher education institutions. A two-way communication should be established (both vertical and horizontal) and the HEIs should foster a culture of providing feedback to students and other stakeholders on the possible activities which can be implemented by HEIs based on their suggestions and experience. Having stakeholders, including students, actively involved in the quality assurance processes contributes to the building of trust and creating an environment in which changes are both possible and desirable.

The seminar was the first event of the kind dealing with the role of students and their contribution to quality assurance, which gathered 140 students from all over Croatia, and the Agency intends to continue organizing similar activities in order to strengthen cooperation and improve the higher education system in Croatia.

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