The report covers the activity of AERES during 2014, which involved carrying out evaluations for Group E (2013-2014), launching evaluations for Group A (2014-2015) and preparing evaluations for Group B (2015-2016). It presents the evaluation methods and changes implemented, a look at evaluation ethics, European and international activities, and the outlook for 2015.
Adaptation of evaluation processes for Groups E and A
In anticipation of the Decree pertaining to Hcéres, and following the reforms introduced in the Act of 22 July 2013, AERES focused on:
- for Group E (2013-2014): starting to have evaluation reports signed by the Chair of the Expert Committee and removing the scoring system for the evaluation of research units and training programmes, to be replaced by a brief textual assessment for each criterion;
- with a view to Group A (2014-2015): modifying evaluation files in order to take into account the accreditation of institutions to deliver training programmes and territorial coordination policies.
Changes over time in the ethical framework
AERES has, from its very inception, sought to ensure the quality and transparency of its evaluation activities and procedures, by:
- producing a quality policy statement and quality assurance standards in 2009, taking into account the European Standards and Guidelines (ESG). This approach was referred to as a strength in the external evaluation of AERES;
- following clear guidelines that are published on the website: Evaluation Charter (revised in December 2012), Status of the Expert and Scientific Delegate (June 2009), Declaration of Interests (2012).
- implementing a complaints management system from 2009 onwards. In the light of EQAR and ENQA recommendations, it was decided that the new complaints committee should have consultative powers and that the President, in the final appeal decision, should be bound to comply with the committee opinion.
AERES has developed a quality assurance system and ethical guidelines, both of which are essential for its operation. Hcéres will inherit this framework when it is established.
European and international activities of AERES
In 2014, AERES focused its activities in three main areas:
- cooperation with quality assurance agencies and participation in European projects such as CEQUINT and QACHE;
- participation in European and international discussions: involvement in ENQA working groups; contribution to the revision of the ESGs; establishment of “Réseau FR”, a French-speaking network of quality agencies;
- the evaluation of foreign institutions and programmes: evaluations of the State Engineering University of Armenia, and the second phase of the Saudi Arabian National Science, Technology and Innovation Plan (NSTIP).
Preparing for the transition from AERES to Hcéres and the incorporation of the Observatory of Science and Technologies (OST)
As soon as the Act dated 22 July 2013 had been published, AERES started to prepare for the transition to Hcéres. Firstly, the French interministerial archives department was commissioned to perform an audit on information and records management, with the purpose of developing a long-term records management policy, as well as verifying the AERES archives and deciding whether to transfer or dispose of the different records.
Secondly, work to identify the consequences of the structural change made it possible to plan and carry out various administrative, IT and communication operations, within a week of the Decree being published, including switching over staff e-mail addresses and in-house applications, launching the new website, and informing foreign partners and service providers.
The Decree pertaining to Hcéres specified that OST should become a department of Hcéres. A working group was instituted from January 2014, under the aegis of the General Directorate for Research and Innovation, comprising representatives of the Ministry, OST and AERES, in order to prepare for the forthcoming incorporation of OST activities and staff, who will move to the Hcéres premises from mid-January 2015.
Outlook for 2015
Two questions are as yet unresolved: the level of financial compensation for higher education and research institutions for making academic and research staff available part-time to HCERES; European recognition of Hcéres as a member of ENQA and its listing on the EQAR register.