NVAO - Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders

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The Nederlands-Vlaamse Accreditatieorganisatie (Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders, acronym: NVAO) independently ensures the quality of higher education in The Netherlands and Flanders by assessing and accrediting programmes and contributes to enhancing this quality.

In addition, NVAO contributes to the increase of quality awareness within higher education and improving the position of higher education in the Netherlands and Flanders in the national and international context.

NVAO wishes to be a proactive partner in higher education in the Netherlands and Flanders. The organisation also intends to fulfil a pioneering role in the development of quality assurance and accreditation in Europe.

Agency's position within the national higher education system

The history of the agency

NVAO is the successor body to NVAO i.o. (in formation). This organisation started its work after the Dutch and Flemish Ministers of Education signed the Treaty establishing the NVAO in September 2003.

The formal ratification process took some time so that it was not before 1 February 2005 that the NVAO was formally established. The NVAO builds upon the operation of the Netherlands Accreditation Organisation (NAO). NAO was established when the Dutch law on accreditation was published in August 2002. Other quality assurance agencies authorised to operate in the country

NVAO is the only organisation that can award the legal status of accreditation.

Higher education institutions can however procure the support of quality assessment agencies. These agencies undertake external assessments and produce reports that NVAO can use in its accreditation procedures.

Legal framework

On 3 September 2003, the Treaty for the establishment of a bi-national accreditation organisation was signed by the competent ministers of the Netherlands and Flanders. Hence, the NVAO i.o. (in formation) was a fact. The Treaty assigns the tasks of NVAO, its form of administration and its supervision. On 1 February 2005, all legal formalities regarding the establishment of NVAO had been concluded and NVAO was formally established.

In the Netherlands, the tasks of NVAO are based on the Law regarding Higher Education and Research ("Wet op het hoger onderwijs en wetenschappelijk onderzoek").

In Flanders, the operation of NVAO is established by the Law regarding the Higher Education Structure ("Structuurdecreet").

Independence

Legislation grants NVAO an independent and autonomous position. NVAO has to operate within the system as it is given in the legislation.

A Committee of Ministers supervises the functioning of NVAO, but has no power over NVAO's operations, procedure, methodologies or decisionmaking.

NVAO employs rules that board and staff members will not be involved in the processing or decision-making of applications from institutions that they have been associated with in any form over a certain period.

Staff members of NVAO are directly recruited or appointed by NVAO. NVAO bears all labour costs of its work.

Funding

The Treaty stipulates that 60% of NVAO’s finances come from the Netherlands and 40% from Flanders. External reviews of programmes are financed by the institutions themselves. These costs are thus not accrued to NVAO.

The income gained from (initial) accreditation procedures are deducted from the amount assigned to NVAO from government funding.

Quality assurance procedures

Main procedures

Accreditation

  • Target institutions:
    • All higher education institutions
      • Target programmes:
        • All higher education programmes


Quality Assurance Procedures
The first step in the accreditation procedure is the self evaluation. The institution (the programme) is responsible for carrying out a self-evaluation of the programme(s) concerned. This process is concluded with a self-evaluation report. The self-evaluation report contains a description and evaluation of the programme. This is done according to at least the standards (and criteria) of the relevant Dutch assessment frameworks for the higher education accreditation system or the Flemish accreditation framework.
The programme's different specialisations and/or locations, if present, are described and evaluated separately. In addition, the self-evaluation report indicates and substantiates the level and orientation of the programme.
The second step in the accreditation procedure is the external assessment by a panel of experts. Those experts will be responsible for the external assessment of the programme. They use the relevant assessment framework to assess the quality of the programme. The external assessment focuses on learning outcomes.
The panel secretary writes down their (objective) findings, (subjective) considerations and conclusions in their assessment report.
The third step in the accreditation framework is accreditation itself. The institution submits an application for accreditation of a programme to NVAO. NVAO uses the evaluation criteria in the accreditation framework to evaluate the assessment report and the overall conclusions expressed in it, the panel composition and the methodology used. This means that NVAO verifies whether the programme offers generic quality.

Quality audits

  • Target institutions:
    • All higher education institutions


Quality Assurance Procedures
NVAO convenes and appoints an audit panel. The audit panel is counselled by a NVAO process co-ordinator and supported by a certified secretary. The secretary and the process co-ordinator are not part of the panel.
The assessment process starts with an executive consultation between the management of the institution and the executive board of NVAO. This consultation focuses on the institution’s organisational structure regarding the education it provides. Based on this consultation NVAO draws up an “accreditation portrait”, which is communicated to the institution and audit panel.
A critical reflection will be written by the institution and addresses NVAO's standards.
The site visit comprises two components. As a rule, the audit panel starts off by visiting the institution for a day, followed by a second visit after two to four weeks. The institution and the panel may decide to divert from this set-up by mutual agreement.
The first visit has an exploratory nature. The audit panel gains insight into the ins and outs of the institution, the specific points for attention of the management of the institution and the satisfaction among students, teaching staff and other stakeholders.
At the end of the first visit, the panel indicates the audit trails to be conducted. Audit trails are studies pertaining to the implementation of policy and/or the management of problems,in which the audit panel follows the trail from the institutional level to the implementation level or vice versa.
After the site-visits the secretary of the audit panel writes an advisory report which includes the panel’s judgements for each standard and suggestions for improvement. The advisory report is the basis for NVAO’s decision. This decision can be positive, negative or positive with conditions.

Consequences of quality assurance and accreditation decisions

(Initial) accreditation is a precondition for programmes to receive the right to award a recognised degree and to receive public funding. Only students enrolled in accredited programmes have the official status of student and can thus receive study finance and other benefits.

Withdrawal of accreditation happens after a negative accreditation decision or when an accreditation period ends without renewal. This results in the deletion of the programme from the register of recognised programmes.

Validity of the decision(s)

A positive accreditation decision has a fixed period of validity. For the Netherlands this is six years while for Flanders this is eight years. In case of a negative decision, there is a possibility to get a temporary recognition during a recovery period.

A positive initial accreditation decision also has a fixed period of validity. For the Netherlands this is six years while for Flanders this is four years.

Publication policy

NVAO makes all assessment reports and (initial) accreditation decisions public. NVAO publishes on its website all (initial)accreditation decisions together with the accompanying documents (e.g. the assessment report). Any member of the public can consult our database and search on programme, institution, field of study, location, country, level and status (positive (initial) accreditation decision, negative accreditation decision, report rejected).

(Legal) appeal system

An institution can lodge an internal appeal against a NVAO decision. The ‘Commission for internal appeal’ then provides advice to NVAO on which decision to take concerning the internal appeal upon which NVAO will take a new decision.

If the subsequent decision is negative, the institution can take this further by lodging an external appeal against this NVAO decision with the Administrative Jurisdiction Department of the Council of State in either The Netherlands or Belgium.

Figures on Quality Assurance / Accreditation Procedures

NVAO takes around 800 (accreditation) decisions a year. All these decisions and underlying panel report can be found on NVAO's website.

International activities

Member of international quality assurance networks / organisations

External reviews, compliance with ESG

  • 2007
  • 2012 (in preparation)

NVAO is listed on the European Quality Assurance Register.


Accreditation procedures in another jurisdiction

Yes, but NVAO only operates outside the Netherlands and Belgium if recognised Dutch or Flemish higher education institutions (want to) award recognised degrees abroad. This can be either through joint programmes or via a branch campus.

Of course, NVAO also operates abroad when taking part in international projects.

Recognition of foreign qualifications

NVAO cooperates with DUO, the Dutch body that recognises academic titles, and Nuffic, the Dutch NARIC.

Agreements concerning the mutual recognition of accreditation

  • FH Council (FHR),
  • Polish Accreditation Committee (PKA),
  • Commision des Titres d'Ingénieurs (CTI),
  • Austrian Accreditation Council (ÖAR),
  • Organ für Akkreditierung und Qualitätssicherung der Schweizerischen Hochschulen (OAQ)

See also

External links