The importance of quality has always been a part of the academic tradition. The current quality culture includes both measures to improve quality and an individual and collective commitment to maintaining and improving it. Thus the importance of quality becomes understood by all members of the institution and it influences their daily activities.
From the beginning of the 1990s, different types of quality management and evaluation systems (QMS) have become integrated into higher education institutes in European HEI. One impetus for introducing these systems, especially for the evaluation process, was the decision of the member states of the European Union to create a European Higher Education Area (EHEA), a process that started in Bologna in the summer of 1989. The high quality of education has been one of the key aims of the Bologna Process and the Lisbon Strategy as a means to promote the attractiveness and competitiveness of European higher education.
In 2005, Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESGs) were developed based on a proposal prepared by the E4 group (ENQA, ESU, EUA and EURASHE). ESGs are considered as a cornerstone, reinforcing the importance of institutional autonomy and responsibility in quality assurance (QA). When working on QA processes, HEI’s are expected to develop internal quality cultures which take into account their institutional realities and are related to their organizational culture.
In accordance to the EUA’s, “quality culture refers to organisational culture that intends to enhance quality permanently and is characterized by two distinct elements: on the one hand, a cultural/psychological element of shared values, beliefs, expectations and commitment towards quality and, on the other hand, a structural/managerial element with defined processes that enhance quality and aim at coordinating individual efforts.” (EUA 2010: 16) Quality assurance is something tangible and manageable by institutional decisions; unlike quality, culture is something intangible—shared values, beliefs, expectations, and commitment—and far more difficult to change.