The World Declaration on Higher Education for the 21st Century promoted by UNESCO highlighted, among other issues, that higher education institutions should provide students with the possibility to fully develop their own capacities with a sense of social responsibility, educating them for active participation in democratic society and promoting changes that will bring about equality and justice (UNESCO, 1998).
In the European framework, the Bologna Declaration itself speaks of a Europe of knowledge "capable of giving its citizens the necessary competences to meet the challenges of the new millennium, together with an awareness of shared values and belonging to a common social and cultural space" (European Ministers of Education, 1999).
And, in line with the above, the ESGs endorse the Council of Europe's conclusions on the orientation of higher education which state that "higher education has multiple purposes, including preparing students for active citizenship, for their future professions, assisting in their personal development, building a broad base of advanced knowledge and fostering research and innovation" (CoE, 2007).
It has been pointed out in relevant international forums that " Higher education must not only give solid skills for the present and future world but must also contribute to the education of ethical citizens committed to the construction of peace, the defence of human rights and the values of democracy." (UNESCO, 2009); and, therefore, the important role that higher education is called upon to play in many different facets when it comes to facing challenges, including the inclusion of groups with difficulties, equity in access to quality education, internationalisation, sustainability, etc., is evident. Furthermore, the priorities highlighted in the latest ministerial communiqués of the EHEA member countries (Ministers of Higher Education, 2015 and 2018) include the interest in improving the quality and relevance of learning and teaching, strengthening the employability of graduates and their participatory citizenship in democratic societies, and making education systems increasingly inclusive.
In short, given that quality assurance processes are already a reality with significant scope, care should be taken to ensure that the effects they produce - by virtue of their configuration and operation - are, as far as possible, clearly at the service of the fundamental objectives of university education and, therefore, of the demands of students and society.Understanding the university system to be diverse would mean that the main objectives and challenges of the universities, addressed by universities through their functions, are progressively and systematically supported in an explicit and direct way by quality assurance processes; this will make it easier for such processes to guide, accompany and encourage the achievement of these objectives and challenges in a decisive way.
By identifying of a set of key aspects to be addressed by universities, this line of action aims to progressively facilitate (from a quality assurance perspective that promotes university autonomy and excellence in diversity) guidelines for the implementation and comprehensive review of university mechanisms that explicitly contribute to the improvement in the fulfilment of the different higher education objectives agreed by countries in supranational forums, and also to advance towards a meeting of perspectives between universities and the rest of the agents involved. In this way, and by complementing other initiatives, the focus here is directly on the fulfilment of several of the fundamental objectives of higher education.