AAQ - Swiss Agency of Accreditation and Quality Assurance

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Country: Switzerland

Name in English: AAQ - Swiss Center of Accreditation and Quality Assurance in Higher Education

National names:

Agency's position within the national higher education system

Description of the agency

The Swiss Agency of Accreditation and Quality Assurance (AAQ) safeguards and promotes the quality of teaching and research at universities in Switzerland. It is independent, uses internationally recognised methods and is able to draw upon the knowledge and experience of leading experts. It perceives its role as an external partner for quality assurance and development, and provides a range of supporting services.

The agency is under the authority of the Swiss Accreditation Council.

The history of the agency

The AAQ is the successor agency of the former OAQ; OAQ began its work on 1 October 2001.

Other quality assurance agencies authorised to operate in the country

The Swiss Accreditation Council can authorise further QA agencies to operate in future. At this moment, there are no other quality assurance agencies guiding procedures in Switzerland.

Legal framework

The AAQ carries out institutional accreditation procedures stipulated in the HFKG (Hochschulförderungs- und -koordinationsgesetz). Institutional accreditation is mandatory for any institution wishing to call itself a "University", "University of Applied Sciences" or "University of Teacher Education". The criteria are defined in Article 30 HFKG. Programme accreditation is voluntary. The decision-making body is the Swiss Accreditation Council.

Furthermore, the AAQ conducts in Switzerland and abroad other QA procedures, such as evaluations, quality audits and „Systemakkreditierungen“.

Independence

The procedures of all quality assessments undertaken by the AAQ are conducted according to constitutional prerequisites (procedural guarantee of equal and fair treatment) and cannot be influenced by any other party. The experts must be independent from the assessed institution or study programme.

Quality assurance procedures/ Main procedures (brief description)

Institutional Accreditation

The institutional accreditation procedure inspects the internal quality assurance system in a Higher Education Institution. Since the introduction of the HFKG, institutional accreditation has been a requirement for the right to use a specific designation in Switzerland – institutional accreditation is therefore mandatory for any institution wishing to call itself a "University", "University of Applied Sciences" or "University of Teacher Education". The criteria are defined in Article 30 HFKG.

The AAQ conducts institutional accreditation procedures in Switzerland. The decision-making body is the Swiss Accreditation Council. It awards the accredited HEI a quality seal.

Quality Audit

Quality audits are procedures that focus on the internal quality assurance systems in higher education institutions. Quality audits were carried out in Switzerland in a four-year cycle between 2003 and 2014 until the introduction of the Federal Act on Funding and Coordination of the Higher Education Sector (HEdA). Quality audits at Swiss HEIs have been replaced by institutional accreditation under the HEdA.

The AAQ conducts quality audits in Austria. These are based on Austrian legislation (Act on Quality Assurance in Higher Education - HS-QSG), which requires quality management systems in Austrian universities to be duly certified. The AAQ awards a seal of quality in the event of certification

Programme Accreditation

Programme accreditation procedures assess Bachelor and Master degree courses and continuing education programmes such as the MAS or EMBA; they are voluntary in Switzerland. A course of study receives temporary accreditation after successfully completing a procedure. A combined accreditation procedure can be conducted for meaningfully related courses of study.

The AAQ carries out programme accreditation procedures at universities and universities of applied sciences in Switzerland. This is conditional upon the relevant university being institutionally accredited.

The AAQ carries out programme accreditation procedures in the fields of training and advanced training in medicine (law on medical professions) and of advanced training in psychology (law on psychology professions) on a separate legal basis.

Evaluation

Evaluations review study programmes and institutions against a set of standards. They are carried out on a voluntary basis and do not lead to a formal decision on accreditation by a federal authority. The AAQ carries out evaluations in Switzerland for advanced study programmes such as MAS (Master of Advanced Studies) and EMBA (Executive Master of Business Administration).

Engineering degree programmes accredited in Switzerland have access to be granted the EUR-ACE® Label from AAQ. The regulations are available in English, the report may be written in a national language.

System accreditation (Systemakkreditierung)

The system accreditation procedure appraises the internal quality assurance system in a higher education institution in Germany in terms of its teaching. As an approved agency in Germany, the AAQ checks that all the structures and processes of relevance to teaching and learning meet the criteria of the German Accreditation Council. If a HEI is system-accredited, it can take responsibility for reviewing its own degree courses – programme accreditation is no longer obligatory.

Consequences of quality assurance and accreditation decisions

In Switzerland institutional accreditation is mandatory for any institution wishing to call itself a "University", "University of Applied Sciences" or "University of Teacher Education". The criteria are defined in Article 30 HFKG.

Programme accreditation is mandatory.

Validity of the decision(s)

Institutional accreditation according HFKG is valid for seven years.

Publication policy

The AAQ publishes in accordance with the HEI the expert reports on its website.

The decisions are published by the Swiss Accreditation Council.


Appeal system

Procedures conducted by the AAQ include an appeal procedure that is legally defined and published.

International activities

Member of international quality assurance networks / organisations

External reviews, compliance with ESG

  • 2011

Accreditation procedures in another jurisdiction

Yes. Germany (Systemakkreditierung), Austria (Quality Audit).