ERASMUS Network for Music 'Polifonia'

ERASMUS Network for Music 'Polifonia'

Published by Martin Prchal op Friday 20 July
© 2019

The Royal Conservatoire is the contractor of the ERASMUS Network for Music 'Polifonia', in collaboration with the European Association of Conservatoires (AEC). This network, which exists since 2006 and is supported by the ERASMUS programme of the EU, is discussing various issues related to internationalisation at the level of higher music education sector and at European level. For example, it is implementing a European level subject-specific framework for the quality reviews and the accreditation of programmes and institutions in the field of higher music education. Furthermore, new approaches to international benchmarking specifically for institutions and programmes in the field of higher music education and a pilot project for the exchange of international external examiners are also being developed. These developments are based on the understanding and vision that if programmes have the ambition to be international, they also have to be willing to constantly compare themselves at the international level through international accreditations, benchmarks and the use of international examiners.


In the ERASMUS Network for Music 'Polifonia', which is coordinated jointly by the Royal Conservatoire The Hague and the European Association of Conservatoires (AEC), various strands exist that each address a different area of development. Quality assurance and assessment feature highly among these areas. Firstly, a European level subject-specific framework for the review of programmes and institutions in the field of higher music education is being implemented. This framework was recently used during a formal accreditation procedure of the Master programmes at the Royal Conservatoire, in which the criteria of the framework were merged with the obligatory standards for the NVAO limited programme review. These merged standards were subsequently used by an independent international review panel in the visit for the limited programme review. Another issue addressed in the 'Polifonia' project is international benchmarking. The aim of this strand is to develop a benchmarking approach specifically for higher music education programmes and institutions, which institutions can use as a tool for quality improvement. Some institutions, such as the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester and the Royal Conservatoire in Antwerp, are already engaged in such international benchmarking exercises that can serve as models. Finally, a system is being developed and tested by 'Polifonia' for the exchange of international external examiners that can serve on final examination panels with the aim to observe that programmes reach international standards or not. This is particularly important for internationally oriented subject areas.

Favourable and demonstrable effect on the quality of education

Much has been discussed about the positive impact of international mobility of students on the quality of education. Discussions are also taking place (even if less so) about the benefits of international curriculum development. However, very little has been said about a comparison at the international level of the actual outcomes of higher education. With 'outcomes' is not meant the learning outcomes as described by programmes in their programme deblockedions, but 'outcomes' as actual results of the programme (in terms of publications or artistic products). By engaging in international accreditation procedures, international benchmarking exercises and especially the use of international examiners, the programme is constantly challenged to compare itself in a very concrete way to international subject-specific quality standards with a positive effect on the quality of its education.

Constraints or limitations and unique features

The unique feature of this vision and approach is that by engaging in international comparisons and judgments, a new level of engagement is reached for the internationalisation of programmes, which until now has been mostly focused on mobility and (to a lesser extent) joint curriculum development. By adding an international approach to assessment through the comparison to international standards, a programme that already has an international study environment (e.g. through the presence of many international students and an internationally informed teaching faculty and curriculum) will become truly international in all aspects of its functioning.
Limitation for the moment is the relative inflexibility of national accreditation systems to deal with such international subject-specific approaches to quality assurance and accreditation.

Exchange characteristics & opportunities

These practices can easily be used by programmes with a strong international profile and ambition, provided that work has been done in their subject area in developing international quality standards (e.g. in the 'Tuning' project).

20 JUL


Level: Bachelor
Orientation: Professional

Standard: Vision on Internationalisation
Assessment Result:

Type: The programme was NOT assessed against the NVAO framework "BKInt"

Contact information

Contact: Martin Prchal
Contact e-mail: M.Prchal(plaats the 'at' sign hier)
Institution: Royal Conservatoire
Country: The Netherlands


In terms of resources, experience shows that an international accreditation review is only slightly more expensive due to translation costs (to translate documents that programmes will need to translate anyway for their international audience) and the transportation costs of international experts. International benchmarking exercises can be done relatively low-cost through new media and the exchange of international examiners can be supported by teaching staff mobility in ERASMUS. None of these approaches are therefore very challenging in terms of resources.