In higher education, the term quality assurance refers to all the policies, ongoing review processes and actions designed to ensure that institutions, programmes and qualifications meet and maintain specified standards of education, scholarship, and infrastructure. In this respect, quality assurance primarily provides institutions and stakeholders in higher education with a guarantee that quality is being achieved (i.e. accountability). Quality assurance has also a function of enhancement and improvement of higher education system, institution, or programme.
One of the purposes of the Bologna Declaration (1999) was to encourage European cooperation in quality assurance of higher education with a view to developing comparable criteria and methodologies. The European Ministers of Education adopted in 2005 the "Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG)" drafted by the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) in co-operation and consultation with its member agencies and the other members of the “E4 Group” (ENQA, EUA, EURASHE and ESU).
In 2007, the European Ministers of Education, having received the E4 London report agreed that the E4 should proceed to setting up the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR). The Register was set up on 4 March 2008 as the first legal entity to emerge from the Bologna Process. The ENQA membership and listing on the EQAR have as criteria the ESG and thus provide information on quality assurance agencies that are in substantial compliance with this common European framework.
The E4 Group also organises European Quality Assurance Fora annually, to discuss the latest developments in quality assurance.