The importance of internal quality assurance systems (IQAS) and their influence in the university system is apparent in the requirements laid down in the different regulations governing courses in higher education.
As regards the introduction of new Bachelor, Master's and doctoral/PhD programmes, legislation enacted by the executive branch of the government since 2007 (Royal Decrees 1393/2007 and 99/2011) requires study programmes to have a functioning IQAS, the design of which is evaluated in the stage of programme validation.
As of new legislation in 2015 (Royal Decree 420/2015) on institutional accreditation, institutions are required to renew the accreditation of 50% of their study programmes and certify their IQAS implementation in order to receive accreditation.
AQU Catalunya has provided assistance to the universities in Catalonia in the design of IQAS for education facilities (faculties, institutes and schools, hereinafter referred to as the "faculty") since 2007 through the AUDIT programme. Now that these institutional IQAS have been running for several years in universities in Catalonia, this programme has been developed to review and assess their implementation and, where appropriate, grant the corresponding certification.
The objective of the review for IQAS certification is to check that the system has been implemented and is operative in the faculty responsible for running the programmes covered by the IQAS and that it is appropriate for the programme's quality assurance.
Certification of a faculty's IQAS shows at the very least that the operating mechanisms (validation, monitoring, modification and accreditation) underpinning the continuous enhancement of its study programmes are running effectively.
Following the review, assessment and certification of a faculty's IQAS, recognised study programmes covered by the IQAS which must undergo validation, modification and accreditation during the period of validity of certification will be exempt from having to submit any additional documentation on the QA systems.
As mentioned above and following the central Government's approval of the corresponding procedure, faculties with a certified IQAS and 50% of their study programmes accredited will be eligible to apply for institutional accreditation.
In order to obtain certification for IQAS implementation, higher education institutions will need to comply with certain requirements that assure the viability of the external review.
To this end, a faculty will need to comply with the following:
- The faculty delivers study programmes covered by the IQAS and there are graduates of these programmes.
- The design of the implemented IQAS has either received a favourable report from the AUDIT programme or been favourably evaluated by the institution's Quality Unit.
- The faculty's IQAS is a mature and stable system, with all of the system's processes fully implemented (scope, indicators gathered and analysed, etc.).
- The faculty has reviewed the IQAS at least once. Where applicable, an enhancement plan has been set in place as a result of any such review.
If any of these aspects are not complied with during the IQAS certification procedure, the outcome of certification will be automatically unfavourable.
PDF Guide to the Certification of IQAs Implementation (October 2016) New version!
Applications can be made at any time. Faculty IQAS certification is jointly planned by AQU Catalunya and the universities every year. Institutions must make an individual application for certification for each faculty using the following form, which is to be filled out and submitted to the official register:
Three months prior to the external site visit to the faculty by the external review panel, the institution will need to make available the following documentation on its IQAS implementation, preferably online:
- Quality handbook with information on the procedures of the IQAS it has implemented.
- List of indicators connected with the IQAS and the latest values achieved and used to review the procedures, according to the timetable laid down in the IQAS.
- Records produced as a result of the IQAS implementation, such as IQAS review reports, enhancement plans, etc.
The external review panel will make an initial review of the documentation, which may lead to a preliminary visit, and issue a report with an assessment of the quality of the evidence submitted, any new evidence that may be required and whether it is suitable for the certification procedure to continue.
Once any new evidence has been submitted, the external review panel then makes a site visit to the faculty to check the degree to which the IQAS has been implemented and how it is running, together with its capacity to assure the quality of the content (teaching and learning) of the subjects and courses that make up the programme.
An institution may appeal the findings of the report that is drawn up at the end of a site visit. In cases where the preliminary external review report calls for the compulsory modification of the IQAS, a faculty will have a maximum period of three months to submit its comments to the external review panel, which of necessity should include the plan with any relevant enhancement proposals. The external review panel assesses the enhancement plan and issues the definitive external review report.
The certification report issued by the IQAS Implementation Certification Committee will state either a favourable or unfavourable outcome for the certification process.
The deadline for the release of the certification report is six months from the date when the application was submitted.
An institution may lodge an appeal to AQU Catalunya's Appeals Committee against the decision of the IQAS Implementation Certification Committee within thirty days.
Certification is valid for five years and can be renewed for a further five-year period following a new external review procedure.
During the period of validity of certification, the IQAS Implementation Certification Committee reserves the right to modify the scope of certification or suspend or revoke certification in cases where:
- Changes occur that adversely and irreversibly alter the conditions in which the IQAS was certified.
- Inappropriate use is made of the certification certificate.