September 2009

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The follow-up of new recognised degree programmes

Javier Bará Temes - Director of AQU Catalunya

A stipulation of the launching of new Bachelor and Master's degree programmes, as regulated by Royal Decree 1393/2007, dated 29 October, is the ex-ante accreditation of a degree's design prior to its authorisation (in which AQU has so far not been able to participate), a process that has created great expectation as well as extensive discussion and numerous complaints, along with considerable effort by the universities.

Mention has only been made so far of the design of degrees. The ex ante accreditation of these designs should guarantee a minimum level of quality, within the conditions set by the regulations, with a wide margin for variability (some being assessed as excellent, others merely mediocre). The real quality of a degree programme (i.e. the quality of the programme as received by the students), however, will not be known until it is started. One should bear in mind that the Royal Decree referred to above provides for the monitoring of a programme's implementation, over six years in the case of Bachelor degrees, until an accreditation process that includes an external site visit to the institution is carried out. In the case of current Master's programmes, the period for accreditation is three years following their entry in the recently launched Register of Universities, Schools, Faculties and Degrees (RUCT), i.e. up until 2012.

September 2009 will mark one year since the first thirty-one Bachelor degree programmes were started in Catalonia and is the time when the monitoring process must be started. Based on the available public information, the monitoring must be carried out by AQU Catalunya, in coordination and cooperation with ANECA, a process which is pending instructions from the General Committee for University Policy.

In anticipation of events, the Spanish university quality assurance agencies network (REACU) began working in 2008 on a series of recommendations based on the Royal Decree that specify the basic lines of action for the monitoring process; the final document was approved in March 2009. The basic idea behind the wording of these recommendations, which have served to inspire the joint work of the twelve agencies that make up the REACU, was to make a work tool available to both QA agencies and particularly the universities for the corresponding decision-making processes called for according to the regulations. The proposal was also based on the recognition of the capability of higher education institutions to submit requested information in a personalised and flexible way. Defined indicators and processes were provided to be used together with the tools already available to the university, with the quantity of necessary documents being reduced to a minimum, and taking into account the various stages anticipated in the implementation of the degree programme.

The Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ESG) adopted by the member states in Bergen in 2005 have also been borne in mind. It is emphasised in the ESG that HEIs should have formal mechanisms for the approval, periodic review and monitoring of their programmes and awards (Standard 1.2), they should ensure that they collect, analyse and use relevant information for the effective management of their programmes of study (Standard 1.6), and they should regularly publish up to date, impartial and objective information, both quantitative and qualitative, about the programmes and awards that they offer (Standard 1.7). In addition, the abovementioned ESG state that external QA aqencies should have a predetermined follow-up procedure which is implemented consistently (Standard 2.6), and that they should produce from time to time summary reports describing and analysing the general findings of their reviews (Standard 2.8).

Monitoring and follow up will, in practice, need to carried out through the publication by the university at different times throughout the year of the course plan for each academic year, the demand and supply of places (i.e. how many places are applied for and how many are offered) and the corresponding indicators for at least the performance rate, the drop-out rate and, when applicable, the graduation rate. It is important to point out that, in the case of Catalonia, all of these numerical indicators have already been gathered together in the UNEIX database. The university will also have to inform the QA agency of the references for the public information, any modifications made to the degree and the results of the performance of the internal quality assurance system, with the strong and weak points identified as well as any correction and/or enhancement measures adopted.


Generalitat de Catalunya

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