Code of Good Practice
Code of Good Practice for the Members of the European Consortium for Accreditation in Higher Education (ECA)
Based on Article 4 of the Agreement of Cooperation] of the European Consortium for Accreditation in Higher Education and taking into consideration the conclusions of the Conference of Ministers responsible for Higher Education in Berlin (2003) regarding Quality Assurance:
- The European Consortium for Accreditation in Higher Education (ECA) agrees on a common Code of Good Practice (Code).
- The member organisations of the ECA commit themselves to sign and implement the 17 standards of the Code. These 17 standards should be implemented before the end of 2006.
- New member organisations are obliged to sign the Code upon membership and implement all standards of the Code before the end of 2006.
- In 2007, a panel of independent experts will carry out an external evaluation of all member organisations to establish whether all the standards of the Code are met.
ECA Code of Good Practice: the Standards
The accreditation organisation
1. Has an explicit mission statement.
2. Is recognised as a national accreditation body by the competent public authorities.
3. Must be sufficiently independent from government, from higher education institutions as well as from business, industry and professional associations.
4. Must be rigorous, fair and consistent in decision-making.
5. Has adequate and credible resources, both human and financial.
6. Has its own internal quality assurance system that emphasises its quality improvement.
7. Has to be evaluated externally on a cyclical basis.
8. Can demonstrate public accountability, has public and officially available policies, procedures, guidelines and criteria.
9. Informs the public in an appropriate way about accreditation decisions.
10. A method for appeal against its decisions is provided.
11. Collaborates with other national, international and/or professional accreditation organisations.
The accreditation procedures
12. Accreditation procedures and methods must be defined by the accreditation organisation itself.
13. Must be undertaken at institutional and/or programme level on a regular basis.
14. Must include self-documentation/-evaluation by the higher education institution and external review (as a rule on site).
15. Must guarantee the independence and competence of the external panels or teams.
16. Must be geared at enhancement of quality.
The accreditation standards
17. Must be made public and be compatible with European practices taking into account the development of agreed sets of quality standards.
The Code of Good Practice guarantees comparability of accreditation procedures throughout Europe and defines internal quality assurance measures of accreditation organisations. The Code contains a series of normative standards with correlating questions and points of reference. Relying on concrete evidence, the reference points will illustrate how the predefined standards can be met by the various accreditation organisations. Documents of the [accreditation organisation]], e.g. a mission statement and strategic plan with regard to standard 1, can serve to provide evidence. The 17 standards are binding for ECA members and should all be met. The reference points serve as possible illustrations of the standards and should not be used as a check list. External evaluation of the accreditation organisations is necessary and will guarantee that ECA members fulfill the standards of the Code of Good Practice. Specifically, the Code fulfils the following purposes:
- The Code provides transparency for politicians, the governments and other
stakeholder groups in higher education.
- The Code guarantees reliability of the accreditation procedure for higher education institutions.
- The Code defines necessary requirements for accreditation organisations. All members of the ECA must fulfill these requirements and should review their procedures regularly against this code.
- The Code serves as a yardstick for external evaluations of all members of the consortium.
- The Code serves to support the internal quality assurance policies of an accreditation organisation and provides suggestions for the continuous improvement of its quality.
- The Code shall not lead to predominance of one single point of view, but should instead promote good practices and prevent bad quality.
- The Code should be updated when necessary to conform to the international state of the art of good practices.