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Next stop: accreditation

Josep Anton Ferré Vidal - Director

There is so much fruit and vegetables and fish in the market that the expression "now it's the season for grapes" or "now it's the time of year for corn" has become a thing of the past. Nevertheless, if one wants to eat well, healthily and inexpensively you have to buy in season. Even if it's been grown in a greenhouse, whatever is in season is always better. And if it's grown locally, on top of saving energy in transport, one helps the local economy.

And so the time for accreditation is about to start. In recent years a glut of validations (ex-ante assessments) have been carried out, both fresh and frozen, i.e. revalidation, but next year will be the "time for accreditation". In fact the "season" has already arrived because out of the more than four hundred Masters' programmes offered the current academic year by Catalan universities, approximately one hundred and eighty were validated during the 2008-09 academic year and have already completed their fourth year by now (2012-13 academic year). Regardless of whether or not the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport (MECD) publishes the decree that extends the deadlines for accreditation by the time this editorial comes out, come next year the list will have been reduced considerably. It is estimated that around 140 out of the 160 Masters' degrees submitted for validation are revalidations, which reduces the number of Masters' that come up for accreditation next year to only 40. To this figure one should add around 50 more that were validated during the 2009-10 academic year.

We are currently in the process of going through the contents of the Accreditation Guidebook with each and every university, with a very broad audience that takes in academic managers and quality unit staff. If you haven't got hold of it so far, please download it from the website, where you will see that we have started a public consultation process concerning the accreditation methodology.

We said above that "the time for accreditation is about to start", and not just in the chronological sense mentioned above, but in that now we are looking forward to the season for accreditation so we can review and also rethink validation and monitoring. We want to turn a critical eye to everything that has been done so far, and we know this will be different from what we have right now if meanwhile we apply our – and your – experience with accreditation. This is because it is accreditation that will give force and meaning to these two preliminary stages (validation and monitoring), as defined in Royal Decree 1393/2007 and 861/2010, which would continue to make sense even if there were no legislation to regulate this!

According to the dictionary, to "accredit" is to recognize or attribute credit, recognition, authority or sanction to something. The accreditation of university degrees and awards means, firstly, recognition of the fact that the award is what is said it would be when it was first validated. It guarantees that students who have taken the degree programme have acquired the intended skills (competences) that they were supposed to, and it guarantees that they have been able to do this because they had adequately prepared teachers and the necessary learning support. And it ensures that new generations of students will also be able to have them because there is an internal quality assurance system for this very purpose. In short, what is working now in programme delivery will continue to work because things will continue to be done in the future just as well as they are now, or even better. That's easy to say, although more complex to make it happen.

We have almost all of the ingredients, now we just need to take the resources being used for validation to carry out the accreditations, plus a little bit more. In a previous editorial we informed you of the exceptional economic measures that the Agency has had to adopt in 2013. Given this scenario, we envisage that all of the time now being spent on validation will need to be spent on accreditation from the beginning of the 2013-14 academic year onwards so we can start the accreditation of Master's programmes that are already in their fourth year. The problem is it's not just a question of time, but that it's also necessary to ensure that the on-site work of the review teams can be carried out, as in certain cases this year meetings have been held on-line (virtual meetings), which has been possible because they were already consolidated review teams working on a consolidated process. Accreditation however is a new process that cannot happen and grow "virtually", in the same way that external review panels cannot carry out their work in on-line virtual meetings. We trust that these conundrums have dissipated by the start of the new academic start so we can fully and successfully reach the next stop, which is accreditation.


Generalitat de Catalunya

C. de Sancho de Ávila, 125-129, 1a planta 08018 Barcelona. Tel.: +34 93 268 89 50

© 2013 AQU Catalunya - Legal number B-21.910-2008