January 2009

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New ISO: 9001: 2008

Núria Comet Seńal - Responsible for internal quality

Quality implementation is a strategic decision for the continuous enhancement of AQU Catalunya’s activities and to enable it to adapt to the changes taking place in the university system in Catalonia. The Agency’s internal quality system has been certified since 2000 and it will renew its ISO 9001 certification next April as an additional element of quality assurance, together with the European standards and guidelines, for which it was reviewed in 2007 by the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA). This review enabled the Agency, at the end of 2008, to become one of the first three QA agencies to be entered in the European EQAR Register, a register of QA agencies operating in the EHEA, which lists the agencies that are considered to be reliable, trustworthy and that have a high level of credibility. Founded by the European associations that bring together universities and higher education institutions, students and QA agencies – EUA (European University Association), EURASHE (European Association of Institutions in Higher Education), ESU (European Students Union) and ENQA (European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education), the aim of EQAR is to promote the development of the EHEA by increasing transparency in quality assurance.

The next external audit to be carried out will be based on the new version of the ISO 9001 standard: Quality Assurance Systems management, following the release of the fourth edition last November. According to the figures given in the ISO organisation’s last report (ISO Scope 2007 .), ISO standard 9001 has been introduced in 175 different countries as a working framework for managing internal quality systems. The number of certified organisations grows on a daily basis: in 2006 there were 896,929 certified, which grew to 951,486 by December 2007. These figures consolidate the standard as a benchmark for quality management systems.

In order for the standards to be kept updated, all ISO standards (more than 17,400) are periodically reviewed. The users’ opinions obtained through surveys, doubts that arise during the implementation processes, and trends relating to management systems are all taken into account for these reviews.

The Committee in charge of this review (ISO/TC 176/SC 2) has produced a series of documents that explain the differences between the two versions (available from <http://www.iso.org>. As regards content, there are no new requirements in the 2008 version compared to the 2000 version, which it replaces. It is envisaged that the changes with the biggest impact will take place in a subsequent review in 2012.


  • The process-based approach is maintained, and
  • The aim, scope and eight quality management principles remain the same, which are: Customer focus; leadership; involvement of people; process approach; system approach to management; continual improvement; factual approach to decision-making; and mutually beneficial supplier relationships.

The aims of the change are:

  • To improve the current standard,
  • To provide clarity and ease of use, and
  • To allow for greater compatibility with the ISO 14001:2004 standard for environmental management.

One other point considered by the standard, given the repercussions that it has always had, is the documentation. First of all, one should remember that, at the level of an organisation, the main purposes of documentation are:

  • To serve as a tool for communication and information,
  • To provide evidence of conformity and to show that what was planned has actually been carried out,
  • To be a tool for the sharing and preservation of an organisation’s knowledge.

Based on these principles, the standard seeks to give organisations greater flexibility to choose which documentation system they will use to develop their system. Each organisation will therefore choose the necessary documents to demonstrate the effectiveness of its processes and continuous improvement.

In accordance with the new 9001:2008 version, section 4.2: Documentation requirements and the definitions of ISO 9000:2005 standard, section 3.7: Guidance regarding documentation, documents may use the following formats:

  • paper
  • magnetic
  • electronic or digital
  • photographic

The notes in section 4.2 point out that the extent of documentation for the Quality System will depend on each organisation, according to:

  • the organisation’s size and type of activity
  • the complexity of the processes
  • staff ability

It should be remembered that, while external certification according to ISO 9001 standard is not a requirement, most organisations that apply it as an internal assurance system are certified. The change of standard will mean that all bodies certified with the 2000 version will need to revalidate in line with the new version within two years, when previously issued certificates will expire; the transition process will have a maximum duration of two years.

As mentioned above, given that this change does not involve any new requirements, but is aimed at the understanding, clarification and harmonisation of the vocabulary with other standards, this period of transition is considered to be sufficient for organisations to adapt with ease. 



Generalitat de Catalunya

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© 2009 AQU Catalunya - Legal number B-21.910-2008