Tell us briefly about the evolution of ARACIS (purpose and mission of the agency, the defining moments).

The Romanian Agency for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ARACIS), hereinafter ARACIS, was founded in 2005 by the Emergency Ordinance (EO) no.75/2005 concerning quality assurance in education for external evaluation of quality in education. The EO 75/2005 was approved, with amendments, by Law no. 87/2006. Subsequently, the Law 87/2006 has been changed through successive legislative procedures that related mainly to organizational and procedural matters with regard to the effects of the external evaluations on higher education institutions but have not affected the mission of the agency and its independence.  

The decision to establish ARACIS, as an independent agency, was the materialization of Romania’s determination to promptly apply the new European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in Higher Education, adopted in Bergen in 2005 by ministers responsible for higher education in Europe (ESG 2005). I emphasize, however, that the new regulatory framework for issues of quality in education concerned also the pre-university education, through the establishment of ARACIP agency, but it was subordinated to the Ministry of National Education and Scientific Research (current name).

The mission of ARACIS is to conduct the external evaluation of quality in education offered by the higher education institutions and other organizations providing study programs specific for higher education, operating in Romania in order to:

  • test, based on quality standards, the capacity of organizarions proving education to meet the expectations of beneficiaries;
  • contribute to the development of an institutional quality culture in higher education;
  • assure the protection of direct beneficiaries of study programs of higher education through the production and dissemination of systematic, coherent, credible, publicly available   information on quality assurance;
  • propose to the Ministry of Education, Research and Inovation (now Ministry of National Education and Scientific Research) strategies and policies for permanent improvement of quality in higher education, in close correlation with pre-university education.

Before describing in brief several moments that I consider defining for the activity of ARACIS, I want to mention that Romania was one of the first countries in Central and Eastern Europe which established in 1993, the National Council for Academic Evaluation and Accreditation (NCAEA), as an external quality assurance agency subordinated to the Parliament, which functioned until the complete takeover of its patrimony, liabilities and human resources by ARACIS in 2006.

In the first period of activity, particularly in 2006, ARACIS draw the Methodology for external evaluation, standards, reference standards and the list of performance indicators, approved by Government Decision of Romania, as well as the Guidelines of activities for evaluating the quality of university study programs and higher education institutions, approved by the Agency Board.

In 2007, under a contract with the Ministry of National Education, the Methodology was piloted through the external evaluation of ten universities, including two private universities. A central element of ARACIS activity is the way evaluations are carried out. Thus, the agency evaluates study programs/curricula for cycle I of university studies – Bachelor’s degree and for cycle II – Master’s degree. Within external institutional evaluations of providers of university studies, for provisional authorization or accredited higher education institutions (university, academy, and national school), there are also evaluated approx. 20% of the study programs of the respective institution, in order not to "decouple" the institution from its programs.

At this stage, the Methodology is under reviewing, completing and adapting process to the new European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in Higher Education, adopted in Yerevan in 2015 by ministers responsible for higher education in Europe (ESG 2015). A new element is the evaluation of Masters’ domains, designed to provide a greater flexibility and a faster response to the requests of employers for training highly qualified workforce.

ARACIS evaluators' training was a constant concern of the Agency since its inception. This activity was conducted with funding from the Agency resources, ACADEMIS and QUALITAS projects, European financing and support from the Romanian Government. In these projects were established collaborative relationships with other agencies in the European Higher Education Area, based on which expert evaluators were invited from abroad to be part of teams conducting external evaluations at the institutional level. In the evaluation activities, students have an important role, and they have benefited from training sessions organized by student associations recognized at national level, with the participation and support of ARACIS. At this stage, it was launched the activity of restructuring and reorganization of employers commission, which will play an important role in light of the new ESG provisions.

What were the challenges faced by ARACIS in the quality assurance process in higher education in Romania and how did you overcome them?

From my point of view, as a member of the ARACIS Council and director of Quality Assurance Department, since the establishment of the Agency until 2014 when I finished my second four-year mandate provided by law, the biggest challenge was to restore the confidence of the academic world and the general public in the external evaluation activities, both in terms of procedural and ethical compliance, as well as how the results of the evaluations and ratings carried out can be factually supported by evaluators’ statements. Furthermore, all Agency's proposals concerning the provisional authorization or accreditation for both study programs as well as institutions have been accepted by the Ministry of National Education and Scientific Research (current name) and served as basis for the regulations drafted by the ministry as decisions of the Romanian Government or orders of the Minister.

An important element that contributed to the increased confidence in the agency were the positive results of those two external evaluations of the Agency by international teams coordinated by ENQA, aimed at obtaining the status of agency with full membership in ENQA (full member) and to reconfirm this status, as well as to register in EQAR, and renew it.

Did the activities carried out by ARACIS  manage to raise the quality level of higher education in Romania? Please, list three Agency’s important achievements to date.  

Universities were stimulated to pay greater attention to quality by the qualifiers received. As proof, the Guide was completed with provisions that allow universities to request a new evaluation to change the qualifier, and the Agency to carry out such assessments.

Barometer quality - three editions, two in the ACADEMIS project, and the most recent, in 2015, in the QUALITAS project, consisted in disseminating the results of several researches at the system level, based on a wide consultation of representatives of the academic world - teachers and students, as well as beneficiaries - employers, political factors etc.

The results of ARACIS activity contributed to raising awareness, acceptance and involvement of members of academic communities in universities in activities related to quality assurance in universities, where quality of higher education is carried out effectively. This statement is supported by the fact that ARACIS is a partner in the EU-funded project IMPALA, which aims to identify through research in four European countries (Germany, Finland, Romania, and Spain) how quality culture is created and what are the effects of external evaluation in this direction. Besides ARACIS from Romania, another university partner in the project is Technical University of Civil Engineering of Bucharest, where the evaluation questionnaire was applied. The project ends this year, and the preliminary results show that Romania is on the same level with other participating countries in terms of the perception of the external evaluations effects in the university.

Details on these elements, as well as Agency's activities can be found on the webpage at

As we know, you have started collaborating with the Republic of Moldova in the education domain since 2001, when you were holding the position of Secretary of State for Higher Education and European Integration. We would like to know more details about your collaborations with institutions from the Republic of Moldova both from the past, as well those planned for the future. 

My collaboration with the Republic of Moldova officially started, as you mentioned, in 2001, when I became Secretary of State for Higher Education and European Integration in the Ministry of Education and Research. Beyond the above title, my duties included also the international relations, which concerned the cooperation with other countries, including the privileged relationship with the Republic of Moldova. Furthermore, my first visit to Chisinau was in the spring of 2001, during the Interministerial Committee Romania – the Republic of Moldova. Between January 2001- January 2005, when I served as Secretary of State, important changes in the cooperation activities between our countries were made, in terms of increased numbers of students from the Republic of Moldova who studied in Romania, being offered scholarships by the Romanian authorities or through other types of financing, as well as the procedure of their acceptance to studies etc. Unfortunately, not all the times the Moldovan political factor was conducive to cooperation at the university level, and here I am referring to the situations of university extensions in the Republic of Moldova of several universities from Romania, which could no longer function.

Currently, I am pleased to participate in activities that strengthen the institutional capacities of ANACIP carried out with the support of the Romanian Government. I believe that the partnership between ARACIS and ANACIP - an agreement is being prepared in this regard - will contribute to closer ties between the two agencies, as well as to the continuation of cooperation relations between universities of the two countries in order to boost mobility of students and teachers.

You have an extensive experience in the area of quality assurance in education, therefore, could you formulate several recommendations for ANACIP  to achieve a successful activity in promoting the quality culture?  

Personally, I think that ANACIP began its activity under favorable auspices, although every beginning is difficult. I think the most important thing is, according to the experience of other agencies, including the one of ARACIS, to restore the confidence of the academic community and the general public in the importance of quality assurance activities both through the internal component and external evaluation. In this regard, I recommend a permanent dialogue with universities, employers, but also the political factors which must be convinced that success in promoting and achieving a quality culture is conditioned by the time factor. Education has always been characterized by certain inertia, which some even perceive it as a resistance to change. Continuity of quality assurance actions can be encouraged by the constant support of the decision makers, primarily through legislative stability and assurance of functioning conditions of the Agency. At the same time, every agency, including ANACIP is seen from the outside through its evaluators, whose competence and integrity must always be maintained at the highest level. From this point of view, I recommend ANACIP to be concerned with training of its evaluators, including student evaluators and also to appeal to the international evaluators, as much as their presence in evaluation teams can be supported financially.

In your opinion, what are the challenges of education systems/higher education in EU, implicitly those of the quality assurance actions in education?

In my opinion, in the European Higher Education Area (as a result of the Bologna process), which includes 28 countries of the European Union, there are at least two important challenges:

The first of these has a general character and is linked to social changes, some of geopolitical nature, from the recent period, after 1990, and which still occur. This is related, on the one hand, to the massification of higher education and the development of new communication technologies that put into question the very role of traditional universities. The mentioned above evolutions require additional human and material resources and, importantly, the close relationship between the university education and pre-university level, including training teachers to meet the new expectations of students. To me, it does not seem unimportant the elimination by all means of communication of a confusion, which, unfortunately, tends to get generalized among the new generations of students, namely the term to get informed and to learn. As shown by recent studies, knowledge as a result of learning is the basis of innovation and creativity, meanwhile the information should contribute to the accumulation of relevant knowledge, but is not able to replace it.

The second challenge, affecting the quality of education, but not equally affecting all countries in Europe, is the inequality between the resources allocated to education. For higher education, the lack of resources seriously affects academic research, without which the university cannot fulfill one of its important missions. Here we might hear objective reasons, related to the economy of some countries - for whom and what for the research is conducted, who are the beneficiaries requesting and supporting programs or research topics, as well as subjective elements of bureaucracy, outdated mentalities, present especially in countries without a well-defined tradition in academic research.

Obviously, all of us can identify many other challenges to which the answer is not easy or obvious. My hope is that together, in Europe and not only, we will overcome them for our common good and for future generations.