AQU - Catalan University Quality Assurance Agency

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Country: Spain
Name in English: AQU - Catalan University Quality Assurance Agency
National name: AQU - Agència per a la Qualitat del Sistema Universitari de Catalunya

Agency's position within the national higher education system Description of the agency

The history of the agency

The Catalan University Quality Assurance Agency was founded as a consortium on 29 October 1996. That consortium was composed by Universities and the Government of Catalonia. With the passing of the Catalan Universities Act in 2003, the consortium was transformed into an independent Agency as it is today. AQU Catalunya, is the main instrument for the promotion and assurance of quality in the Catalan higher education system. The purpose of AQU Catalunya is the assessment, accreditation and certification of quality in the sphere of the universities and higher education centres of Catalonia (programmes of study, teaching staff, faculties and services).

Legal framework

AQU Catalunya is formally recognised as a QA agency and is a separate legal entity with a legal personality and patrimony of its own. It is a government-run public agency subject to private law that comes under the competent government department with jurisdiction over universities. There is an existing legal framework that lays down the activities that AQU Catalunya can carry out. Its activities of quality assurance, accreditation and certification are considered to be administrative acts subject to public law and its safeguards.

Independence

The technical independence of the QA commissions and panels that carry out the reviews made by the Agency in their respective fields and are responsible for approving AQU reports on external QA processes, is recognised under the Catalan Universities Act. This operational independence is also incorporated into the statutes, the internal QA system and the Code of Ethics, which applies to all staff who work in and for the Agency. The QA commissions therefore have the ultimate responsibility for the outcomes of the reviews that they carry out. AQU Catalunya has the authority to plan, organise and establish QA criteria and procedures and issue value judgments, in accordance with the regulations, with total independence from the universities and policy makers.

Funding

The Government of Catalonia is funding the agency; however the agency can get additional incomes from other sources. Last year 92% of the revenues came from the Government of Catalonia, 0.6% where taxes paid to the agency and 7% other sources, mainly from international projects.

Quality assurance procedures

Main procedures

At the present time the work of the agency is concentrated in the study programme quality assurance procedures. The framework is composed by 4 mechanisms:

Validation

Before a new degree programme can be introduced, a curriculum proposal for the programme must undergo validation by AQU Catalunya. Once a course has undergone validation, it receives authorisation from the Catalan government to be introduced, in accordance with established programme criteria and funding availability. The purpose of validation is to ensure that new degree courses are formulated in accordance with EHEA requirements, with the qualifications framework, and that there is consistency between the contents and outcomes from the particular approach to each discipline.

Monitoring

AQU Catalunya is carrying out monitoring of recognised awards, on the basis of the available public information, up until the time when they must undergo review for accreditation renewal. The directors of each programme have to draw up a progress report once a year with the following content: a summary of the curriculum development, in addition to all modifications subsequently introduced; the quantitative indicators and other written information (internal and/or public) on the delivery of the programme; the qualitative assessment of the indicators and other information by those responsible as specified in the university's IQAS or, in the case of an external review, a panel of experts; any enhancement proposals stemming from the assessment made of the programme monitoring, including all modification proposals.

Every year AQU Catalunya carries out an individual evaluation of reports received from the universities in the following cases: reports on recognised programmes that contain proposals for substantial modification; a representative sample of other progress reports on recognised programmes, with particular attention being paid to those with proposals for non-substantial modification; and reports on programmes where a site visit is included in the external review.

AQU Catalunya issues a monitoring assessment report for each university, which may propose enhancement or corrective actions to be implemented across all programmes.

Modification

The universities can make modifications to their programmes of study. If such modifications affect aspects such as the administrative definition or the essential academic characteristics of a degree programme or award, it must undergo a new validation process. If the modifications are assessed as being favourable, they can be implemented directly by the universities.

Accreditation

AQU Catalunya is responsible for programme accreditation, which, in the case of Bachelor's and doctorate degrees, must take place within six years of the initial (or most recent) validation and, in the case of Masters, within four years. In order for programme accreditation to be maintained, confirmation that the corresponding curriculum is being followed according to the initial project must be obtained in the form of a report following an evaluation that includes a site visit to the institution. The Agency organises a series of site visits in faculties and schools every year to carry out a simultaneous review of all recognised programmes being offered in each faculty or school.


Consequences of quality assurance and accreditation decisions

When a study programme is not validated with a positive review report, the study programme cannot be authorised by the Government and it is not included in the register of officially recognised study programmes. Modifications must receive a positive external review report to be implemented. Negative reports in the monitoring phase can affect negatively to the accreditation of the programme. When the external review report for accreditation is not positive, the programme should be reformulated in order to pass a validation process, or if this is not performed, the study programme is removed from the register of the officially recognised study programmes.

Validity of the decision(s)

If there are no relevant changes in study programmes, validations and accreditations for bachelor and PhD programmes are valid for 6 years and validations for master programmes for 4 years. Publication policy Reports on the validation, monitoring, modification and accreditation of degree programmes, they all are public with one exception referred to negative validation reports, which only affect proposals for programmes that are unsuccessful and do not go on to be introduced or taught.

(Legal) appeal system

Review reports of validation, monitor, modifications and accreditations are approved by the Specific Committees for Quality Assessments. Any appeal to the results of those processes can be formulated to the Quality Assurance Commission of the agency, in which international experts are included.

Figures on QA/A procedures

AQU Catalunya is implementing progressively the framework. In its initial period the validation of proposals for new programmes has been important with around 70 validations processes a year. Up to now, modifications have represented around 100 external evaluations a year. The evaluation of monitoring reports has been also for 100 a year. The accreditation process is expected to cover around 160 programmes a year.

International activities

Member of international quality assurance networks / organisations

ECA ENQA INQAAHE

External reviews, compliance with ESG

  • 2007
  • 2012 (waiting for the external review report)

AQU Catalunya is listed on the European Quality Assurance Register since 2008.

Accreditation procedures in another jurisdiction

AQU Catalunya might conduct accreditation procedures outside Catalonia. The result of those accreditation process, if positive, is an international accreditation label issued by AQU Catalunya recognising the quality of institutions and/or programmes according the European Standards for Quality Assurance for Higher Education (ESG).

Recognition of foreign qualifications

For the moment this is not a competence of AQU Catalunya.

Agreements concerning the mutual recognition of accreditation

AQU Catalunya has signed the MULTRA agreement with the following ECA members (FHR, OAQ, CTI, NVAO, PKA, ANECA, EVA).

See also