April 2015


Accreditation: methodology and external site visits

Editorial Department - AQU Catalunya

The methodology

The procedure for the accreditation of undergraduate (Bachelor's) and Master's programmes is described in the Guide to the accreditation of recognised Bachelor and Master's degrees.

The guide is organised into four sections: the first gives an introduction to the legal framework and the European standards; the second describes the administrative formalities and required documents for the assessment; the key sections are the third and fourth, which contain the standards for assessment and the rubric charts.

The assessment standards correspond to six dimensions, which are connected with the prior procedures of validation and monitoring.

The dimensions deal with:

  • the quality of the study programme,
  • the relevance of public information,
  • the efficacy of the programme's internal quality assurance system,
  • the suitability (qualifications and level of competence) of teaching staff on the study programme,
  • the efficacy of learning support systems, and
  • the quality of programme learning outcomes.

An additional three optional dimensions are proposed in the assessment model:

  • Entry into work and employment outcomes,
  • Research-teaching linkages, and
  • Internationalisation.

Each dimension, which is specified as a series of standards that, in turn, are broken down into different component parts, are assessed according to four levels of achievement: quality-level compliance; compliant; compliant with conditions; and non-compliant. Use is made of rubric charts to describe the assessment of each component part.

The external site visit, the aim of which is continuous enhancement, is used to gather evidence for accreditation, which is an administrative process that results in either a favourable or unfavourable outcome.

The site visits are planned on an annual basis by AQU Catalunya together with the universities. The visit is made to the organisational unit (faculty, school, department) and includes all programmes that will undergo accreditation.

Three months prior to the visit, the organisational unit has to submit the following documentation via AQU Catalunya's online platform:

  • The self-assessment report, which analyses the running of the unit and the study programmes that will undergo accreditation. The layout and contents of the self-assessment report are described in the Guide to the accreditation of recognised Bachelor and Master's degrees.
  • A selection of the student achievement tests for final-year projects (Bachelor courses) and dissertations (Master's courses), external work experience/placement/internship and other selected courses.
  • Other evidence in support of delivery of the curriculum.

The site visit

The external visit to the organisational unit (faculty, school, department) is undertaken by an external review panel appointed by AQU Catalunya's Quality Assurance Commission. In general, the external review panel consists of a chairman or moderator, one academic, one student, one professional and a secretary.

Prior to the site visit, the review panel's chairman and secretary go over the quality of the self-assessment report and the evidence submitted, and then draw up the evidence-based review report where an assessment is made of whether it is appropriate for the preliminary site visit to be made, the objective being to ensure that the site visit itself by the external review panel takes place in the best conditions possible.

The external review panel then analyses the documentation submitted and assesses the programme's compliance with each aspect of the various accreditation standards, the panel then makes the site visit to the unit in order to gain first-hand knowledge of the delivery of study programmes that are undergoing accreditation.

The external panel has a maximum of six weeks following the visit to remit the preliminary audit report to the institution. The report includes a rubric table for each degree assessed, which is used to establish the outcome of the accreditation.

The institution then has a maximum of twenty days to present any supporting arguments or representations regarding the preliminary audit report, following which the external panel has a maximum of twenty days to draw up and issue the definitive external review report, which is the final report on the site visit. This report will include good practices and enhancement proposals, the aim being that it serves as an instrument for continuous improvement and enhancement.

The accreditation procedure

The administrative process of accreditation begins with the university submitting an application for programme accreditation through the Extranet of the Catalan public authorities.

The external review report on the unit (faculty, department, school) in which the programme is being accredited is used by a subject-specific review panel as the basis for issuing the definitive accreditation report.

The outcome of accreditation is given as either favourable or unfavourable in the accreditation report, according to four levels: accreditation on track to excellence, accreditation, accreditation with prescriptions and accreditation withheld.

The accreditation report is then officially registered with the corresponding Spanish and Catalan authorities in order for the administrative procedure of the programme's accreditation to proceed.

Programmes that are awarded either accreditation or accreditation-on-track-to-excellence will receive AQU Catalunya-recognised certification, together with a quality label in recognition of successful accreditation1.

Segells d'acreditació

In the case of programmes awarded accreditation with prescriptions, an enhancement plan is agreed between the programme coordinators and AQU Catalunya, which is to be implemented within two years. At the end of this period, a programme will need to submit a monitoring (progress) report, showing evidence of the implementation and outcomes of the enhancement measures.

University Faculties/Schools/Depts. Degrees programmes
 Universitat de Barcelona  5  7
 Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona  6  8
 Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya  3  10
 Universitat Pompeu Fabra  2  10
 Universitat de Girona  3  8
 Universitat de Lleida  2  6
 Universitat Rovira i Virgili  2  4
 Universitat Ramon Llull  4  11
 Universitat Oberta de Catalunya  2  9
 Universitat de Vic-Universitat Central de Catalunya  2  3
 Universitat Internacional de Catalunya  2  4
 Universitat Abat Oliba-CEU  0  0
 Total  33  80


1 Programme accreditation and the external site visits began in 2014. 


Generalitat de Catalunya

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

© 2015 AQU Catalunya - Legal number B-21.910-2008