SQAA - Slovenian Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education

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Country: Slovenia
Name in English: SQAA - Slovenian Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education
National name: NAKVIS - Nacionalna agencija Republike Slovenije za kakovost v visokem šolstvu

Agency's position within the national higher education system

Description and legal framework of the Slovenian Quality Assurance Agency in Higher Education:

The Slovenian Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (hereinafter: SQAA) was established by the Government of the Republic of Slovenia with the Decision on establishment of the Slovenian Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (Uradni list RS [Official Gazette of the Republic of Slovenia], no. 114/09) in accordance with Article 51e of Higher Education Act (ZViS-G, Uradni list RS [Official Gazette of the Republic of Slovenia], no. 119/06 – official consolidated text, no. 59/07 – Scholarship Act (ZŠtip) (no. 63/07 rectified), no. 15/08 – judicial decision of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Slovenia, no. 64/08 and 86/09). SQAA commenced its operations on 1 March 2010 after, on 28 February 2010, the Council for Higher Education of the Republic of Slovenia had ceased to work.

SQAA is a body governed by public law and a direct non-governmental budget user in accordance with public finance regulations. The founding rights are exercised by the Government of the Republic of Slovenia on behalf of the Republic of Slovenia.

SQAA is independent in its operation. It is bound by the principles of professionalism, impartiality, legality, and political neutrality.

SQAA bodies are: Agency Council, Director and Appeal Committee.

Tasks and competences:

SQAA performs professional and developmental tasks in the field of higher education and regulatory tasks for the purpose of external quality assurance in higher and tertiary vocational education. External quality assurance includes accreditations of higher education institutions and study programmes, including external evaluation. SQAA performs, as being within its original competence, tasks that are in the public interest to assure permanent, professional and independent support for quality assurance and quality enhancement in higher education.

  1. SQAA has the following tasks:
    • managing the quality assurance system in higher and vocational education,
    • setting procedures and criteria for external evaluations and accreditations and setting other criteria and rules,
    • defining minimum standards for awarding titles to higher education teachers, researchers and faculty assistants at higher education institutions,
    • conducting external evaluations of higher education institutions, study programmes and vocational colleges,
    • performing accreditations of higher education institutions and study programmes,
    • giving consent to changing higher education institutions and study programmes,
    • establishing and updating an experts’ register,
    • appointing expert groups for external evaluations and accreditations as well as organizing and participating in their training,
    • officially publishing the Agency’s decisions, evaluation reports, annual evaluation and accreditation reports and Agency’s reports and analyses, which have to be transparent and accessible,
    • managing the public register of accredited higher education institutions and study programmes,
    • cooperating with higher education institutions and vocational colleges, providing them with advice and promoting self-evaluations,
    • cooperating with international institutions or bodies for quality assurance in higher education,
    • ensuring that the Agency operates in accordance with the EU directives and international principles of quality assurance,
    • collecting and analysing reports on self-evaluations and external evaluations of higher education institutions and vocational colleges,
    • performing development tasks in the field for which it was founded,
    • performing other tasks according to the provisions of the Higher Education Act and the constituent instrument.
  2. The tasks of the Agency’s Council are:
    • appointing and relieving the agency director,
    • appointing and relieving appeal committee members and their deputies,
    • setting procedures and criteria for external evaluations and accreditations, ECTS and other criteria,
    • setting procedures and criteria for external evaluations of vocational colleges,
    • setting the minimum standards for awarding titles to higher education teachers, researchers and faculty assistants at higher education institutions and vocational colleges,
    • deciding on accreditations of higher education institutions and giving consent to changes of higher education institutions,
    • deciding on accreditations of study programmes and giving consent to changes of study programmes,
    • setting the criteria for entry of experts into the register of experts for external evaluations and accreditations,
    • appointing groups of experts for external evaluations and accreditations,
    • setting the procedures and criteria for quality assurance in Agency’s operations and for external evaluation of the Agency in accordance with the European standards,
    • defining mandatory elements and giving consent to the contract from the second and third paragraph of Article 33c of the Higher Education Act,
    • defining other forms and conditions for transnational higher education,
    • monitoring European guidelines and international principles pertaining to quality assurance in higher education,
    • participating in preparation of a draft financial plan of the Agency and giving consent to the work plan and report on work and operation,
    • performing other tasks in accordance with the provisions of the Higher Education Act and the constituent instrument.
  3. The director has the following tasks:
    • organizing and managing the Agency’s work and operation,
    • representing the Agency,
    • administering the implementation of Agency’s Council’s decisions,
    • forwarding the general acts from the first indent of the fifth paragraph of Article 51e of the Higher Education Act for publication in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Slovenia,
    • ensuring that the agency operates in accordance with the law, the constituent instrument and the Agency’s general acts,
    • adopting general acts governing the Agency’s operation and work, for which no other body is competent according to the Higher Education Act or the constituent instrument,
    • preparing the draft financial plan of the Agency in cooperation with the Agency’s Council,
    • adopting the Agency’s work plan, which requires consent of the Agency’s Council,
    • preparing a report on the Agency’s work and operation, which requires consent of the Agency’s Council,
    • administering the material and financial operation of the Agency,
    • deciding on employees labour rights,
    • adopting the act on internal organisation and systematisation of workplaces,
    • carrying out other tasks in accordance with the provisions of the Higher Education Act and the constituent instrument.

Independence

SQAA is a body governed by public law and a direct non-governmental budget user in accordance with public finance regulations. The founding rights are exercised by the Government of the Republic of Slovenia on behalf of the Republic of Slovenia.

Funding

SQAA is independent in its operation. It is bound by the principles of professionalism, impartiality, legality, and political neutrality.

Quality assurance procedures

Main procedures

Types of accreditations

Accreditations in higher education are as follows:

  • initial accreditation of a higher education institution or study programme;
  • re-accreditation of a higher education institution or study programme.

An initial accreditation and each re-accreditation shall have a maximum validity of seven years. external evaluation

A condition for the re-accreditation is the external evaluation of the higher education institution or study programme, to be carried out before the expiry of the current accreditation.

Initial accreditation of higher education institutions and study programmes

After receiving the complete application for an initial accreditation of a higher education institution or study programme, the Agency’s Council shall appoint a group of experts. The expert group shall prepare a report on meeting the criteria for the initial accreditation of a higher education institution or the initial accreditation of a study programme at the latest within three months from submission of a complete application. The report on meeting the criteria for the initial accreditation of a higher education institution shall be sent directly to the Agency’s Council, while the report on meeting the criteria for the first accreditation of a study programmes shall be sent to the Agency’s Council and to the applicant for comment. The applicant may comment on the report within a month from receiving it. The report on meeting the criteria for the initial accreditation of a higher education institution shall be prepared by the expert group based on the submitted documentation and the inspection of the premises where the higher education institution will perform its activities. In case of an initial accreditation of a study programme, the expert group shall conduct an inspection of premises where the higher education institution will carry out its study programme, should this be necessary for full assessment of the actual state of affairs. The Agency’s Council shall decide on the initial accreditation of a higher education institution based on the recommendation of the expert group’s report at the latest within three months after the report is prepared. The Agency’s Council shall decide on the initial accreditation of a study programme based on the recommendation of the expert group’s report at the latest within three months after the deadline for commenting on the expert group’s report. In the initial accreditation procedure the Agency’s Council may:

  • award accreditation of the higher education institution or study programme for a period of seven years,
  • reject the application for accreditation of the higher education institution or study programme.
Re-accreditation of higher education institutions and study programmes

The re-accreditation procedure of a higher education institution or a study programme shall start with external evaluation and end with the decision on re-accreditation. The procedure for conducting an external evaluation of a higher education institution or a study programme is initiated by the Agency, however, it may also be proposed by the higher education institution. It shall be carried out by an expert group appointed by the Agency’s Council. The expert group shall at the latest within three months from its appointment prepare an evaluation report based on the review of the self-evaluation report of the higher education institution, on other documentation more precisely defined by the Agency, and on the visit to the higher education institution. The evaluation report shall be submitted to the higher education institution, which may comment on the report within a month of its reception. Should the higher education institution comment on the evaluation report, an expert group shall, after reviewing the validity of the comments, at the latest within a month from the reception of the comments prepare a final evaluation report. If the higher education institution does not submit any comments to the evaluation report by the deadline, the report shall become final. The evaluation report shall contain an assessment of meeting the criteria for accreditation and external evaluation of the higher education institution or the study programme as well as other elements that shall be more precisely defined by the Agency’s Council. The self-evaluation report by the higher education institution, the final evaluation report by the expert group and any comments by the higher education institution on the evaluation report shall be submitted to the Agency’s Council at the latest within seven days from the preparation of the final evaluation report. Based on the received documentation, the Agency’s Council shall decide on re-accreditation of the higher education institution or the study programme at the latest within three months from reception of the documentation. During the re-accreditation procedure, the Agency’s Council shall make one of the following decisions:

  • it extends the accreditation of the higher education institution or the study programme for a period of seven years,
  • it extends the accreditation of the higher education institution or the study programme for a shorter period, which shall be no longer than three years,
  • it does not extend the accreditation of the higher education institution or the study programme.

The Agency’s Council shall make the decision from the second indent of the fifth paragraph of this Article if any deficiencies are identified in the operation of the higher education institution or in the implementation of the study programme and shall impose a deadline on the higher education institution for remedying these deficiencies. After the deadline expires, another evaluation shall be carried out, based on which the Agency’s Council shall decide on accreditation, whereby it may extend the accreditation of the higher education institution or the study programme for a period of seven years or it may chose not to extend the accreditation of the higher education institution or the study programme.

Following expiry of the deadline for the remedying of weaknesses, a new external evaluation shall be carried out, on the basis of which the Agency Council:

  • shall grant the re-accreditation of the higher education institution or study programme for seven years;
  • shall not grant the re-accreditation of the higher education institution or study programme.
External evaluation

External evaluation may also be carried out as an extraordinary evaluation at any time during the period of validity of the accreditation. If the extraordinary evaluation is passed successfully, the period of validity of the accreditation starts over again.

Extraordinary evaluation

A condition for the re-accreditation is the external evaluation of the higher education institution or study programme, to be carried out before the expiry of the current accreditation.

External evaluation may also be carried out as an extraordinary evaluation at any time during the period of validity of the accreditation. If the extraordinary evaluation is passed successfully, the period of validity of the accreditation starts over again.

Consequences of quality assurance and accreditation decisions

Validity of decisions

The initial accreditation and each re-accreditation of higher education institutions and study programmes shall apply for a maximum of seven years. Accreditation shall expire at the end of the academic year in which the period for which accreditation is granted elapses.

If the Agency Council grants re-accreditation before the expiry of the period for which the previous accreditation was granted, the seven-year period of validity of the accreditation shall begin again from the date of the service of the decision of the Agency Council.

Appeal

The Appeal Committee shall decide on appeals against decisions of the Agency’s Council in accreditation procedures of higher education institutions and study programmes. The Appeal Committee shall also decide on appeals against decisions of the Agency’s Council on issuing consent to changes of higher education institutions and changes to study programmes and on issuing consent to contracts for conducting transnational higher education. An appeal may be lodged against Agency’s Council’s decision within 30 days of the official notice on the decision of the Agency’s Council. The Appeal Committee shall decide on the appeal within three months from its lodging. If the Appeal Committee grants the appeal, the matter is returned to the Agency’s Council for renewed consideration. The decision of the Appeal Committee is final; it can be challenged in an administrative dispute.

International activities

Member of international quality assurance networks/organisations

  • SQAA is a full member of the European Consortium for Accreditation (ECA)[[1]].
  • SQAA is a full member of the Central and Eastern European Network of Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (CEENQA e.V.)[[2]]

External reviews, compliance with ESG

  • October 2013: SQAA is registered with EQAR