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.
AQU Catalunya is committed to disseminating the results and outcomes of programme and institutional review to society, as it already does through the EUC and EUC Reports web portals, and quality labels and seals are an element that serves to easily identify programmes of study and institutions that have successfully undergone external review by AQU Catalunya.
In order to provide the university system in Catalonia with a element of distinction to position itself both nationally and internationally, the AQU Governing Board, in its meeting on 21 November 2016, approved the establishment of the following quality labels:
|Programme ex-ante accreditation|
|Certification of the Internal Quality Assurance System (IQAS)|
|Quality assurance of research at department level|
|Accreditation of an International Educational Facility for Cooperation and Academic Mobility||
Each AQU Catalunya quality label includes a registration number and comes with the corresponding certificate.2
Programmes of study that receive an unfavourable report following evaluation by AQU Catalunya, but that have been validated (ex-ante accreditation) or accredited by the Spanish Universities Council (Consejo de Universidades), will not be associated with an ex-ante accreditation or accreditation quality label. In such cases, an unfavourable report is posted on the EUC Reports web portal, with the following text appearing on the EUC portal: Validation (ex-ante accreditation) or Accreditation issued by the Spanish Universities Council (Consejo de Universidades).
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 and certificates are non-transferable to any other programme or institution other than the programme or institution that has successfully undergone evaluation and review by AQU Catalunya, nor can they be extended or transferred to cover units or fields of study outside of the scope of the review.
Use of a quality label is not permitted in the following cases:
In no case shall the obtaining of a quality label discharge a programme or institution that has successfully undergone review from the corresponding guarantees and responsibilities in accordance with current legislation, regardless of the type of quality label. Furthermore, AQU Cataluña shall not be responsible for non-compliance with legislation affecting quality labels.
Use of quality labels and certificates is allowed during the period of validity, in accordance with the stipulations of the corresponding review guide. In cases where a quality label has not been renewed, or where it has been withdrawn on justified grounds, it can no longer be used and it is the responsibility of the programme or institution to remove the label immediately from all communication media and platforms where it has been applied.
It is the responsibility of the programme or institution to carry out all necessary actions to ensure that the conditions for maintaining the validity of a quality label and certificate are fulfilled.
Quality labels are the property of AQU Catalunya and are registered at both national and European level. They are therefore legally protected by legislation relating to trade marks. The EUIPO registered trademark is 013316153.
Those responsible for programmes and institutions that have successfully undergone evaluation and review may use a quality label that has been awarded by AQU Catalunya for distinction or other purposes, such as promotion.
As regards usage, the quality label should appear on the programme or institution's website with a link to the review report that shows eligibility to use the label. In the case of recognised programmes of study from Catalan higher education institutions, the quality label should be linked to the corresponding page of the estudis.aqu.cat/euc portal.
The application of a quality label must be clear and honest and should avoid the risk of any confusion.
Quality labels may be used in graphic and audio-visual material and products that promote a programme or institution that has been favourably reviewed.
Quality labels must be reproduced according to the specified size, colours, typography and shapes, and the content must be legible. The adaptation, versions or the ambiguous application of a quality label are not permitted, and when a quality award is used together with other logos and/or distinctions it should be positioned with sufficient clear space and in such as way as to ensure its clear visibility.
In the case where a quality label is used together with the AQU Catalunya logo, the guidelines given in the Guide to the AQU Catalunya logo are to be followed.
Communication media and platforms
Provided they are used in a way that is consistent with the scope of the corresponding evaluation and review, quality labels may be used in:
It is the duty of AQU Catalunya to ensure that quality labels are used correctly and in the case of improper use the Agency will begin informative proceedings, which will be referred to the corresponding programme coordinator or institutional authority for any supporting arguments or representations to be submitted (either in person or in writing).
The outcome of the hearing process may lead to a written warning saying that the conditions for use of the quality label must be respected. In more serious cases or where a warning goes unheeded, AQU Catalunya will initiate the corresponding legal proceedings and, where applicable, inform other bodies, institutions and, where appropriate, the media of the facts.
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 is only applicable subsequent to a first renewal of accreditation (reaccreditation).
3 Improper use refers to non-compliance with the terms and conditions laid down here, together with any others that may alter the meaning and/or value of the quality label and/or negatively affect the reputation of AQU Catalunya.