July 2016


Revision of the accreditation guide

Josep Manel Torres - Coordinator of Quality Assessment department

Guia per a l?acreditació de les titulacions oficials de grau i màsterThe original Guide to the Accreditation of Recognised Bachelor and Master's Degrees took a year to produce and was finally endorsed by AQU Catalunya's Quality Assurance Commission on 15 November 2013 following a process which took into account a series of criteria agreed with all other QA agencies in Spain and the opinions of the universities. The opinions of other important stakeholders in the system of universities and higher education in Catalonia were also incorporated following an unprecedented process of public consultation for AQU.

At the same time that AQU was drawing up the guide, it also planned, together with the universities, the first faculty-level site visits of the teams of experts (review panels). These site visits commenced in May 2014. Since then, and up until June 2016, 141 site visits have been made to university faculties, schools and institutes and 521 undergraduate/Bachelor and Master's degree courses reviewed.

Two years on from the guide's endorsement, both AQU's technical team and its Institutional and Programme Review Commission (CAIP) considered it would be appropriate to examine the workings of the accreditation procedure and to revise and update the guide. In this regard, discussions were maintained throughout 2015 and into 2016 with the technical units at the universities, review panels and review panel secretaries external to AQU. The AQU Director also regularly meets with vice-rectors, amongst other academic authorities, to assess the running of quality assurance procedures.

The process of reviewing the accreditation procedure culminated on 18 March when the Institutional and Programme Review Commission endorsed the new version of the Guide to the Accreditation of Recognised Bachelor and Master's Degrees . The main changes made are as follows:

  1. Description of the new accreditation procedure introduced in the second half of 2015. At the end of the first year of accreditations it was noticed that the outlined procedure led to two periods of supporting arguments being submitted: one in relation to the external review report and another corresponding to the accreditation reports. In order to simplify and expedite the process, it was established that the issuance of site visit reports and accreditation reports would occur at the same time and there would only be one coinciding period of appeals relating to both site visit reports and accreditation reports.
  2. Adaptation to the new Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG) adopted at the EHEA Ministerial Conference held in Yerevan (2015). Quality assurance procedures at AQU are always aligned and comply with European guidelines. As a consequence of the changes in the ESG, the way in which the accreditation procedure complies with European guidelines has been revised.
  3. Specification of the accreditation criteria. The Institutional and Programme Review Commission has introduced criteria in the guide for establishing the outcome of accreditation for its committees and review panels. The conditions are laid down for accreditation according to whether a degree course is on track to excellence, whether conditions for accreditation will apply or if accreditation cannot be awarded.
  4. Specifications for the recommended minimum evidence and indicators that institutions will need to submit for the assessment of each standard.
  5. Revision of Standard 3, Efficacy of the programme's internal quality assurance system. As a consequence of the setting in motion of the IQAS certification programme , the Institutional and Programme Review Commission decided to simplify the assessment of this standard. Standard 3 is now divided into three specific standards (as to five previously) and fundamentally consists of an assessment of whether procedures for the quality assurance of study programmes are in place and working, whether the required relevant information for this has been made available and that the IQAS is regularly reviewed.
  6. Simplification of the rubric tables. In order to facilitate even further the work of the external review panels and correct certain irregularities observed during the year, the entire rubric table has been revised. The main simplification is in standards 3 (Efficacy of the programme's internal quality assurance system), 4 (The suitability to teach of staff on the programme) and 6 (Quality of programme/learning outcomes).
  7. Elimination of the additional dimensions, which will now be compiled in a separate guide. The Institutional and Programme Review Commission considered it expedient to separate the additional dimensions for compilation in an independent guide to the assessment of additional dimensions for two reasons: 1) in practice, the assessment of additional dimensions is carried out independently and at different times to accreditation, meaning that the procedure that is followed does not coincide with that of accreditation, and 2) compilation of the additional dimensions in an independent guide will help to streamline the revision of these dimensions. 

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