September 2014


AQU Quality labels for degree programmes and institutions

AQU Catalunya - Editorial Department


AQU Catalunya is a key instrument for university policy in Catalonia that instigated and has consolidated an internationally recognised external quality assurance system for degree courses in Catalonia. The purpose of quality assurance procedures by the Agency is, as far as study programmes are concerned, to improve and enhance their academic quality.

At the same time, the European Union faces the strategic challenge of improving the quality of higher education and learning and aligning them with the needs and requirements of society and the labour market.1 One of the instruments available for successfully dealing with these challenges are external quality assurance agencies like AQU Catalunya.

In addition, the fact that AQU Catalunya is listed with the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR) means that all programme review activities by the Agency in Catalonia and other countries are recognised by international authorities, thereby facilitating mobility and academic cooperation for Catalan universities, both of which are stated objectives of the European Commission’s Europe 2020 Strategy.

The labels

In order to provide the university system in Catalonia with a element of distinction to position itself both nationally and internationally, the AQU Board of Management, in its meeting on 8 July 2014, approved the establishment of the following quality labels:

  • Programme accreditation: to distinguish study programmes that successfully obtain accreditation from AQU Catalunya, in accordance with the VSMA Framework (for the validation, monitoring, modification and accreditation of recognised degree courses, 2010).
  • IQAs Certification (systems for internal quality assurance) for educational facilities: currently in the development stage as part of the completion of the AUDIT programme, IQAs certification is for faculties, schools and institutes.
  • Accreditation of international educational institutions for academic cooperation and mobility: also in the development stage, this is for the accreditation of international education institutes and facilities that have demonstrated high academic standards according to the type of centre, and that from an international point of view, are reliable as regards cooperation and international academic mobility, in particular with universities in Catalonia.


How to acquire a quality label

A quality label is acquired by successfully undergoing the corresponding evaluation process coordinated by AQU Catalunya. The Agency awards a certificate that states that the study programme or faculty has successfully undergone review and can make use of the quality label.

Quality labels for programme accreditation may be either a:

  • Favourable Quality label, which is acquired when the study programme or faculty successfully undergoes accreditation or certification, regardless of any qualification. Award of the label will be according to either “favourable” or “favourable, subject to conditions” as explained in the Guide to the accreditation of recognised Bachelor and Master’s degrees.
  • Seal of excellence, which is acquired when a study programme successfully undergoes accreditation and, in addition, obtains the overall qualification of “accreditation with excellence”, and has complied to a high level with the majority of the accreditation criteria and numerous good practices that exceed the required minimum.
  • Label with distinction, when a study programme successfully undergoes an evaluation on request of certain additional dimensions, in accordance with the corresponding guidelines. As a form of distinction, the name of the specific dimension/s will be added to that of the quality label.

Scope of quality certificates and labels

Certificates and labels are not transferable to other study programmes or educational facilities that have not been duly accredited and/or certified, neither shall they extend or be transferable to course subjects or units not covered by accreditation and/or certification.

Use shall not be made of certificates or labels in the following cases:

  • When the accreditation process is still under way, except in cases of the renewal of accreditation2 and/or the certificate.
  • When evaluation has been unsuccessful.
  • For programmes, when there has been a substantial modification that calls for programme re-validation.
  • When accreditation and/or certification has been withdrawn either temporarily or permanently.
  • When the period of validity of the certificate and/or accreditation has expired.
  • For purposes other than those for which they are intended.

Acquiring a certificate and quality label shall in no way exempt a study programme and/or faculty from the corresponding guaranties and responsibilities in accordance with prevailing legislation, regardless of the type of certification and/or accreditation. AQU Catalunya shall not be responsible for non-compliance with any applicable legislation.


AQU quality labels can be used as long as the certificate is current. When a certificate has not been renewed, or where it has been withdrawn due to justified reasons, the use of a quality label is forbidden, and it is the responsibility of the study programme and/or faculty to withdraw the use and/or application of the label in any media or format.

It is the responsibility of the study programme and/or educational facility to undertake the relevant formalities to ensure that the certificate and quality label remain valid.


AQU seals of quality are registered3 at European level and are therefore legally protected under trademark law.

Programme coordinators and directors and heads of educational facilities may use quality labels granted by AQU Catalunya to distinguish the facility from others, or to promote it, amongst other purposes.

Where use is made of the quality label, the label logo shall appear on the programme or facility’s website with a hyperlink to the AQU Catalunya webpage, where the certificate and all relevant information regarding the certificate can be consulted.

Clear and honest use and application shall be made of the obtention of certification and/or accreditation for quality labels and any confusion shall be avoided.

Use may be made of quality labels in graphic and audio-visual products to promote a certified educational facility and/or accredited programme.

The size and all specified colours, fonts and shapes of the quality labels shall be respected when reproduced, and the content shall be legible. Any adaptation or version of a quality label is forbidden, as is the ambiguous application of the same as regards certification. The use of AQU quality labels shall not in any way be relegated when used together with other logos.

Quality label logos may appear, provided that their use is consistent with the scope of accreditation and/or certification that has been granted, on:

  • Reports, pamphlets, brochures, presentations, correspondence.
  • Corporate publicity and advertising, websites, e-mails, social networks.
  • Signs, flags, corporate banners.
  • Exhibitions and other elements of dissemination.


AQU Catalunya has a duty to ensure correct use of the quality labels and, on being informed of any improper use,4 will start informative proceedings, and the coordinator or head of the programme or facility in question given notice to submit a formal statement (either in person or in writing).

The outcome of the hearing may lead to a written warning to respect the conditions of use of the quality label. In any case where such a warning goes unheeded or the situation is more serious, AQU Catalunya shall take the corresponding legal actions and, where applicable, bring the matter to the attention of other bodies and institutions.


1 Report on Progress in Quality Assurance in Higher Education (Report from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions), 28 January 2014).

2 This will only apply on successful completion of the first renewal of accreditation. 

3 In the process of registration.

4 Improper use refers to any breach of the conditions stipulated here, together with any other that may alter the meaning or value of the quality label.


Generalitat de Catalunya

c/. dels Vergós, 36-42. 08017 Barcelona. Tel.: +34 93 268 89 50

© 2014 AQU Catalunya - Legal number B-21.910-2008