November 2014


New legislation governing AQU Catalunya

Josep Joan Moreso Mateos - President, AQU Catalunya

On 29 October 2014 the Government of Catalonia's Executive Council (Govern) presented a bill to the Catalan Parliament (Parlament de Catalunya) regulating AQU Catalunya (the Catalan University Quality Assurance Agency, or Agència per a la Qualitat del Sistema Universitari de Catalunya). The issue of the reform of the Agency is a long-standing one. In 2009 and 2012, the respective governments of the Generalitat de Catalunya initiated legislative reform that, due to the parliamentary calendar, could not be concluded. This is the third time therefore that impetus is being to the modification of this body by way of changes to the prevailing legislation.

Before going on to explain why different governments of varying hues, with the support of the successive management teams of AQU Catalunya, have felt it necessary to set in motion the reform of the Agency, an explanation is necessary of the main legislation governing AQU Catalunya, which is the Universities of Catalonia Act (Llei d'universitats de Catalunya, or LUC) passed by the Catalan Parliament in 2003. During this period of almost twelve years during which the LUC has been in force, two developments occurred which have had a big impact on the Agency.

The first was the approval in 2005 by the ministers responsible for higher education in Europe of the Standards and Guidelines for quality assurance in the European Higher Education Area. The standards set out the principles for action and guideline criteria for higher education institutions and quality assurance agencies for the purposes of recognition at European level, and for which they are reviewed on a regular basis by the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA). The two reviews of AQU Catalunya carried out by ENQA have kept up the momentum of reform in the Agency, with the Board of Management now including students and also improvements made in the way the chairs and members of certain review panels and committees are appointed in order to enhance their independence.

The second was the new planning and governance of recognised university degrees passed in 2007 and 2010, which is now being guaranteed by AQU Catalunya through the Framework for the validation, monitoring, modification and accreditation of recognised degrees (VSMA Framework). This model however calls for greater flexibility in the Agency's structure than that granted by current legislation (LUC).

The proposal made by the Government of Catalonia's Executive Council served as a sound basis of reasoning because the two amendments presented by the Partido Popular and Ciutadans for the entire proposal to be rejected were in turn rejected by almost all of the other parliamentary groups. In spite of this, however, all of the parties in their statements explicitly acknowledged the good work undertaken by AQU Catalunya over the years. We see this as a great value that should be maintained, and at the same time it carries with it a great responsibility.

The challenges facing the Agency are considerable. It was only this year (2014) that implementation of the VSMA Framework was completed and programme accreditation begun. This latter process, the height of which will occur in 2015 and 2016, has been set in motion in circumstances of marked budgetary constraint, but with no compromise as regards the continuous improvement that it signifies for the university system in Catalonia. In tandem with this, the assessment of university teaching staff has been taking place with technological improvements made to ensure a more efficient process, as well as a revision of the criteria to improve the transition of teaching staff between the different staff categories. On top of all of this, use was made of the available resources to continue taking action in the area of knowledge generation, with the survey on the transition to the labour market of university graduates and participation by AQU in international projects. The Agency does all of this because it is in the returns that are evident in the university system where we can see we are doing a good job.

New governing legislation is therefore necessary for the Agency that:

  • Extend the functions of AQU Catalunya in order for it to maintain the same level as other external QA agencies at international level.
  • Simplify and make more flexible the Agency's internal structure, in order to:
  1. Place the accreditation of First Cycle (undergraduate), Second Cycle (Master's) and doctoral programmes at the centre of quality assurance procedures.
  2. Make the accreditation of teaching staff more consistent and the assessment of candidates' academic careers more coherent.
  3. Make it more efficient.

In short, new and relevant governing legislation is required because the Catalan university system depends on a robust agency that maintains its level of recognition in Europe and positions itself at world level. In 2016-2017 AQU Catalunya will again be subject to review at international level, and it will need to demonstrate that it has incorporated the recommendations made in the previous reviews as well as maintained the same rigorous standards in its work while continuing to focus on its main objective, namely, improvement of the university system in Catalonia.

We trust that the parliamentary calendar and work of the policymakers will allow, once and for all, for appropriate legislation for AQU Catalunya to be passed.


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