Accreditation

Accreditation

QAA offers institutional accreditation for universities and for other higher education institutions. In an institutional accreditation process, QAA is assessing the capacity of an institution to perform its main functions. It is a process that focuses on the strategic management and the processes, policies and procedures used within an institution as well as general framework conditions.

Higher education institutions are diverse in their mission, profile and character. In order to more accurately replicate this in accreditation procedures, QAA offers different accreditation for universities and for other higher education institutions. Accreditation is undertaken on the basis of standards that better reflect the distinctive features of the institutions under assessment.

As QAA’s approach is to focus on the continuous enhancement of quality and relevance, the reports from the site-visit do not just assess the compliance of an institution with the respective standards. The reports also contain a wide range of suggestions for the improvement of quality that go beyond meeting the standards.

In addition, QAA offers programme accreditation for individual study programmes or clusters of study programmes. However, given the high demands QAA has of its reviewers, we can only offer accreditation for a selected range of study programmes. If you are interested in obtaining programme accreditation, please contact us to find out whether we can offer accreditation for that field.

QAA also offers accreditation of joint degree programmes. Given that QAA is an international quality assurance agency, the accreditation of international programmes, such as joint degree programmes is not impeded by national peculiarities. However, QAA fully respects the national regulations in every procedure.

QAA offers accreditation in Technical and Vocational Education. Accreditation in this sector is also offered for the institutional level as well as for individual programmes. 

Furthermore, QAA offers accreditation of other training and qualification providers. The focus of this accreditation is on the institutional level, but QAA also offers accreditation of individual qualifications. This accreditation is applicable for institutions that deliver specific qualifications or training programmes as part of a further education scheme. This accreditation is also applicable to any institution that delivers and awards qualifications of other organisations and institutions. 

If you are interested in applying for an QAA accreditation or to request further information, please contact us by email. We will be glad to provide you with information and to discuss the details of the further procedure with you.

The different accreditation processes of QAA follow the same structure and layout. The processes are managed by QAA and the responsible person at the applying university of higher education institution.

Step 1: Application

The university or higher education institution contacts QAA and declares its intention to receive QAA accreditation.

Step 2: Selection of reviewers

QAA identifies and selects a team of reviewers, including a chair and a secretary. QAA informs the applying university or higher education institution about the selected reviewers. The university or higher education institution can object within 10 days to individual reviewers on the basis of a conflict of interest.

Step 3: Self-evaluation

The university or higher education institution submits a self-evaluation report to QAA. QAA forwards the report to the review team, which starts preparing for the site-visit. The review team may identify the need for further documentation. This will be communicated to the applying university or higher education institution, leaving sufficient time to compile the documentation.

Step 4: Preparation of the site-visit

The Secretary of the review team coordinates with the liaison person of the applying university or higher education institution all practicalities regarding the site-visit. This includes the agenda of the site-visit, the identification of people and stakeholders to be interviewed and practical arrangements, such as meals, transport etc.

Step 5: Site-visit

The site-visit to the applying university or higher education institution is conducted approximately 6 weeks after the self-evaluation report was submitted. The site-visit normally lasts 2-3 days. During the site-visit, a range of interviews is conducted with leadership, staff, students and other stakeholders. The site-visit also includes a tour of the premises and facilities. At the end of the site-visit, the review team will present its preliminary findings to the applying university or higher education institution.

Step 6: Drafting of the report

The Secretary of the review team drafts a report based on the findings of the documentation and site-visit within 4 four weeks. The Chair and other review team members comment on the report.

Step 7: Finalisation of the report

The draft report is sent to the applying university or higher education institution. The applying university or higher education institution has the possibility to comment on factual errors of the report. The applying university or higher education institution has 10 days to check the accuracy of the report. Should any errors have been identified, the Secretary of the review team jointly with the Chair will correct the report and submit the final report to the applying university or higher education institution and to QAA. The applying university or higher education institution has the possibility to provide content feedback on the findings of the report and to submit this feedback to QAA within 14 days.

Step 8: Decision and publication

The Board of QAA analyses the report received by the review team as well as the content feedback provided by the applying university or higher education institution. The Board takes a decision about the accreditation. The Board may decide to grant full accreditation, conditional accreditation or to reject accreditation. The decision will be immediately communicated to the applying university or higher education institution. The applying university or higher education institution has the right to appeal within 3 weeks against the decision on procedural grounds and in cases of unreasonable judgement. If no appeal is made, the decision becomes final and the report is published on the website of QAA. The applying university or higher education institution is also encouraged to publish the report on its website.

Step 9: Follow-Up

In case full accreditation or conditional accreditation is granted, a follow-up procedure is determined between QAA and the applying university or higher education institution. The exact follow-up procedure depends on the recommendations and suggestions of the review report. In case the accreditation is rejected, the university or higher education institution has the right to apply again after 12 months.

QAA uses standards, which fully take into account and adhere to the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the EU & UK.

Due to the differences between universities and other types of higher education institutions, QAA uses slightly modified sets of standards for these two types of institutions. Similarly, QAA also uses two sets of standards for programme accreditation, depending on the type of institution offering the degree.

Each site-visit to a university or higher education institution is undertaken by a team of reviewers. The reviewers all have substantial expertise in quality assurance and great international experience.

For an institutional accreditation, a review team consists normally of five people: a Chair, a Secretary, a student and two further reviewers. The Chair is in charge of the coordination of the team. The Secretary is in charge of practical arrangements and compiles the draft report. The student is a full member of the team. Besides the coordination and the drafting of the report, there is no pre-defined division of responsibilities and the team agrees amongst themselves about the arrangements.

For a programme accreditation, a review team consists normally of four people: a Chair, a Secretary, a student and one further reviewer.

QAA’s reviewers are typically current or former Rectors, Vice-Rectors, high-ranking officials from national authorities or international organisations, higher education researchers and international experts on higher education. If an institution wishes that a reviewer with a specific background or field of expertise is incorporated into the team (e.g. an employer or a person), this can normally be discussed and arranged with QAA.  The student reviewers are chosen from the Student Experts Pool on Quality Assurance of the Students’ Union all of whom underwent specific trainings and gained international experience.

The reviewers are chosen by QAA. Their names are communicated to the applying institution in advance of the site-visit. The institution has the possibility to object to reviewers on the grounds of potential conflicts of interest.

QAA has a very selective policy of choosing its reviewers. All reviewers need to possess wide-ranging experience in quality assurance. In addition, the reviewers QAA engages must have been active in the international higher education environment. This is understood as a crucial element, as in this way it will be ensured that the assessment done by the reviewers does not reflect the situation in their home countries, but rather ensures that international best practices are the centre of attention. After all, QAA provides an international accreditation and not a foreign accreditation.

Furthermore, only through engaging internationally experienced reviewers QAA ensures that the institutions in the process of accreditation will be assessed within the specific context in which they operate, as reviewers are trained to understand the differences of higher education systems and national settings. Contextualisation is key to ensuring that the institutions receive an objective assessment.

Even though QAA only engages highly experienced reviewers, QAA also provides trainings for reviewers in order to ensure that they are always most up-to-date in all areas of relevance.

World-Class Universities

QAA offers a special accreditation, specifically designed for the most prestigious research universities. It will be possible to obtain an accreditation based on the highest standards. This world-class accreditation will be awarded to universities that systemically excel in teaching, research and third mission.

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Validity of the accreditation

Accreditation is valid for 5 years. In the cases of conditional accreditation, the university or higher education institution should address the conditions as outlined in the decision of QAA’s Board and defined in the follow-up procedure. If the university or higher education institution does not address the conditions appropriately, the accreditation can be withdrawn by QAA.

Other services

Evaluation / Audit

Normally, universities or higher education institutions would opt for QAA’s accreditation. However, there are cases where national regulations require an evaluation or an audit. QAA therefore offers to undertake an evaluation or audit of universities and higher education institutions. If your institution is interested in undergoing an evaluation or audit by QAA, please contact us.

Consultancy

QAA offers consultancy to universities and higher education institutions about all aspects of quality assurance. The range of consultancy services includes:

  • Establishment of an internal quality assurance system
  • Improvement of an internal quality assurance system
  • Preparation for an external review by a quality assurance agency
  • Assistance in the self-evaluation process
  • Development of an institutional quality culture
  • Development and implementation of quality policies and procedures
  • Trainings and workshops for academic and administrative staff on quality assurance matters

If you are interested in these services, please contact us.

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