TEAM I 2006-2008

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Transparent European Accreditation decisions and Mutual recognition agreements

TEAM was a project conducted by ECA partners in the period from September 2006 till July 2008. The project was funded with support from the European Commission.

The main objectives of the TEAM-project were the implementation of a tool providing information on qualifications from accredited programmes and/or institutions (in the perspective of the higher education system), the introduction of an accreditation statement in English which includes the published accreditation results and the dissemination of information regarding mutual recognition of accreditation decisions, as aimed at by the members of the European Consortium for Accreditation (ECA).

Background - Why did ECA want to undertake this project?

The European Consortium for Accreditation in higher education (ECA) has been established as a project organisation in 2003. ECA was set up to help realise the European Higher Education Area by means of mutual recognition of accreditation decisions among its members before the end of 2007. Mutual recognition of accreditation decisions will contribute to the recognition of qualifications and prevent the necessity of multiple accreditations for institutions and programmes operating across borders. ECA has fifteen members from ten countries: Austria, Belgium (Flanders), France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain and Switzerland. The project builds on the recommendation by the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament. They recommended the member states to “promote cooperation between agencies in order to build up mutual trust and the recognition of quality assurance and accreditation assessments, thus contributing to the recognition of qualifications for the purpose of study or work in another country”. In addition, the implementation of the Information Tool will help to “ensure public access to the assessments made by the quality assurance or accreditation agencies listed in the European Register”. The European ministers responsible for higher education stated in their Berlin Communiqué of 19 September 2003 that the quality of higher education has proven to be at the heart of the setting up of a European Higher Education Area. The ENIC and NARIC Networks stated in their Strasbourg Statement of 8 June 2004 that the improved recognition of European qualifications is intimately linked to improved and transparent quality assurance and this through cooperation between national systems based on a common understanding of goals, procedures and methods. Furthermore, in their Bergen Communiqué of 20 May 2005, the European ministers responsible for higher education underlined the importance of cooperation between nationally recognised agencies with a view to enhancing the mutual recognition of accreditation or quality assurance decisions. On 8 December 2005, ECA members and ENIC/NARICs signed the Joint declaration concerning the automatic recognition of qualifications. To achieve the aim of this declaration, certain preconditions and actions have been identified. The following identified actions are relevant for this project: ECA members will enter into mutual recognition agreements of accreditation results or decisions before the end of 2007 and a transparent information tool will be developed, which provides information on the accreditation organisations, systems and decisions as well as information on the qualifications of accredited higher education programmes and institutions.

Objectives - What did the project concretely intend to achieve?

First objective

The first objective of the project was to implement an Information Tool providing information on qualifications from accredited programmes and institutions. The Information Tool is a database driven website. The main aim of the Information Tool is to present the qualifications provided by programmes and institutions accredited by ECA members. These qualifications are presented in the perspective of the higher education system of which it is part (‘National Qualifications Framework’) together with information on the relevant accreditation organisation and recognition authorities. The Information Tool should provide relevant information for students, employers, recognition authorities and institutions.

Second objective

The second objective of the programme was the proposal of an Accreditation Supplement. One of the Standards of the European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance (EHEA) defines ‘reporting’ as: “Reports should be published and should be written in a style, which is clear and readily accessible to its intended readership. Any decisions, commendations or recommendations contained in reports should be easy for a reader to find.” The objective of this part of the project would then be to explore the Europeanization of this standard in the same way the ministers responsible for higher education have done with the Diploma Supplement in Berlin 2003. In the Berlin Communiqué it was written as follows: “[The ministers] set the objective that every student graduating as from 2005 should receive the Diploma Supplement automatically and free of charge. It should be issued in a widely spoken European language.” The project would explore the method for introducing a supplement, in English, to the published accreditation results and the format of this supplement. The Accreditation Supplement should be integrated into and published in the Information Tool.

Third objective

The third objective of the project was the dissemination of information regarding the mutual recognition of accreditation decisions. The ultimate aim of ECA is the achievement of mutual recognition of accreditation decisions among the participating accreditation organisations before the end of 2007. As shown in the first and second objectives of this project, ECA members are taking the necessary steps to build mutual trust in order to sign mutual recognitions agreements. The target groups of the dissemination are governments, stakeholders, recognition authorities and other European quality assurance agencies.

Partners

ECA Partners involved in the project

Coordinating organisation

  • Nederlands-Vlaamse Accreditatieorganisatie (NVAO), the Netherlands and Flanders

Participating applicant organisations

  • Fachhochschulrat, Austria
  • The Polish State Accreditation Committee (PKA), Poland
  • Agencia Nacional de Evaluación de la Calidad y Acreditación (ANECA), Spain

Associated applicant organisation

  • Organ für Akkreditierung und Qualitätssicherung der Schweizerischen Hochschulen (OAQ), Switzerland

Other participating organisations

  • Austrian Accreditation Council (AAC), Austria
  • Commision des Titres d'Ingénieurs (CTI), France
  • German Accreditation Council (GAC), Germany
  • Zentrale Evaluations- und Akkreditierungsagentur (ZEvA), Germany
  • Foundation for International Business Administration Accreditation (FIBAA), Germany
  • Agentur für Qualitätssicherung durch Akkreditierung von Studiengängen (AQAS), Germany
  • Akkreditierungsagentur für Studiengange im Bereich Heilpedagogik, Pflege, Gesundheit und Soziale Arbeit (AHPGS), Germany
  • Nasjonalt organ for kvalitet i utdanningen (NOKUT), Norway

Other organisations involved in the project

  • Stakeholder Group
  • Representatives from the following organisations/networks
  • European University Association (EUA),
  • European Students Union (ESU),
  • Association of Higher Education Institutions (EURASHE),
  • BusinessEurope (European employers) and
  • ENIC-NARICs (Recognition authorities)

Outputs - Which outputs were produced by the project partners?

Online Information Tool for qualifications from accredited programmes and institutions

  • Nature: A database driven website
  • Volume: By the end of the project there would have to be at least 100 qualifications online
  • Content: information on qualifications from accredited programmes and institutions (including, in at least 100 cases, the Accreditation Supplement), an introduction to all the higher education systems of the countries concerned, with links to the overarching European Qualifications Framework and the EQF, the profile of each accreditation organisation concerned, the profile of each recognition authority (ENIC/NARIC) of the countries concerned, the overarching European Qualifications Framework and the EQF, the qualifications of accredited programmes and/or institutions.
  • Structure: Designed in order to include possible new data providers (id. accreditation organisations/quality assurance agencies)
  • Language: EN
  • Deliverable: http://www.qrossroads.eu

The Accreditation Supplement

  • Nature: Accreditation supplement of two pages integrated in the Information Tool
  • Volume: 100 Accreditation Supplements integrated in the Information Tool
  • Content: The exploration of the possible content of the Accreditation Supplement is part of the project

Structure: Written proposal for a Accreditation Supplement (to be explored in the project)

Publication #1: Accreditation frameworks compared

  • Nature: Online publications (in pdf-files ready for print)
  • Volume: Five reports (five countries bilaterally) each not more than 60 and not less than 30 pages
  • Content: Comparison of accreditation frameworks, accreditation procedures and publication policies of accreditation organisations
  • Structure: Introduction, comparison of standards, procedures & publication policies and conclusions
  • Language: EN
  • Deliverable: Comparative analyses of accreditation standards and methodologies

Publication #2: Advancing mutual recognition of accreditation decisions

  • Nature: (1) Online publication of the analysis (in pdf-file ready for print) (2) A separate overview in print
  • Volume: Not less than 20 and not more than 40 pages, including a separate 9 page overview
  • Content: Issues related to the advancement of mutual recognition of accreditation decisions
  • Structure: Analysis of the relationship between accreditation and recognition of qualifications; a catalogue of achievements with regard to mutual recognition agreements; and an exploration of the involvement of governments (legal issues) and stakeholders (respect for institutional autonomy) needed to achieve mutual recognition of accreditation decisions
  • Language: EN
  • Deliverable: Advancing mutual recognition of accreditation decisions

Publication #3: Reports of observer missions

  • Nature: Online publications (in pdf-files ready for print)
  • Volume: Five reports (five countries bilaterally) each not more than 10 pages
  • Content: Observation accreditation procedures of ECA members in the perspective of ECA’s Code of Good Practice
  • Structure: Introduction, judgements against standards in the Code of Good Practice and conclusions
  • Language: EN
  • Deliverable: Observation reports

Publication #4: Promoting mutual recognition of accreditation decisions

  • Nature: Publication
  • Volume: Not less than 30 and not more than 60 pages
  • Content: The outcomes of the dissemination conference
  • Structure: Introduction to achieved mutual recognition agreements of accreditation and quality assurance decisions, the way forward to widening mutual recognition agreements to all countries in the EHEA and the relationship between mutual recognition agreements and similar agreements (in other regions/domain specific)
  • Language: EN
  • Deliverable: The Benefits of Mutual Recognition of Accreditation and Quality Assurance Decisions

See also