NVAO was one of the founding members of ECA. In the founding treaty NVAO got the task to communicate and coordinate with other countries.
NVAO was one of the founding members of ECA. In the founding treaty NVAO got the task to communicate and coordinate with other countries. According to NVAO an organisation like ECA would provide a better insight into alternative ways of accreditation, supervision and external quality assurance. Of course, co-operation within ECA enhances the legitimacy of the Dutch and Flemish accreditation systems. Furthermore, the international recognition of the Dutch and Flemish accreditation systems would also lead to a strengthening of the international position of the higher education systems in both countries.
Mutual recognition of accreditation decisions should lead to less cross-border checks and bureaucracy; it therefore gives the institutions a better position to realise their international ambitions.
Although the governments of the Netherlands and Flanders fund NVAO the organisation is totally independent in procedures, methodologies and decision-making. NVAO is responsible for an area where 22 million people live. There are over 150 higher education institutions where almost one million students are enrolled. The quality assurance system before the Bologna Declaration was signed in 1999 had a focus on programmes and was essentially an external assessment of a programme by an assessment panel (of peers). After the Bologna Declaration was signed the governements of the Netherlands and Flanders wished to increase the international transparency of its higher education. Furthermore, in the context of the new European bachelor and master qualifications a need arose to benchmark these new bachelor and master degrees.
The Netherlands and Flanders are among the most open economies in the world and in the light of the internationalisation of the labour market, the governments also wanted to internationally guarantee the quality of its higher education.
The Netherlands and Flanders therefore introduced programme accreditation and made accreditation a precondition for public funding, for the right to award officially recognised qualifications (diplomas) and for granting study finance to students (eg. grants, social services). In addition to programme accreditation, institutional audits were introduced in 2011 and are gaining in importance. Institutional accreditation pilots started in 2016 in Flanders and are being proposed in The Netherlands as well.
Apart from its role as an accredition organisation, the NVAO plays a proactive role in higher education issues and policies. In the international arena, the NVAO sees itself as an active member of its ‘umbrella’ organisations: globally (INQAAHE), regionally (ENQA) and topically (ECA).