Netherlands: Quality assurance and accreditation

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In the Netherlands, the Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders (NVAO) is responsible for the accreditation of study programmes. The NVAO is a member of both the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) and the European Consortium for Accreditation (ECA).

The main task of the organisation is to monitor the quality of higher education in the Netherlands and Flanders. It does this on the basis of the tasks described in the Higher Education and Research Act (WHW) and in accordance with current international accreditation practice. The task description includes monitoring the quality of existing higher education study programmes and assessing the quality of new study programmes. Higher education institutions are not required to have accreditation, but only students registered for an accredited study programme are eligible for student grants and obtain a recognised degree. The higher education institution appoints a review committee (visitatiecommissie, VBI) itself to assess the quality of the study programme. It is compulsory for the committee to consult independent experts. The VBI bases its assessment on the criteria established by the NVAO for the accreditation and assessment of study programmes. On the basis of the report from the VBI, the NVAO takes a decision about the accreditation of a study programme, which is valid for 6 years.

Since January 2011, the Netherlands has a new accreditation system. Beginning 2011, higher education institutions can request the NVAO to conduct an institutional quality assurance assessment to determine the extent to which the institution is capable of guaranteeing the quality of the programmes it offers. Programmes offered by institutions that receive a positive evaluation still have to be accredited, but the accreditation procedure takes less time and is not as extensive. An overview of accredited bachelor’s and master’s programmes is available on the NVAO website.

Besides the NVAO website, the Central Register of Higher Education Study Programmes (Centraal Register Opleidingen Hoger Onderwijs, CROHO) can also be consulted if you wish to check if a programme is accredited. The CROHO register lists all the accredited programmes offered by both government-funded and approved higher education institutions. More information can be found on the website of the Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs (DUO).

Additionally, the Netherlands has an instrument that has the objective of guaranteeing the quality of the internationalisation of Dutch higher education: the Code of Conduct (Gedragscode Internationale Studenten). This code of conduct came into force in Dutch higher education with effect from 1 May 2006. An institution that signs the code of conduct undertakes to keep the rules stated in the code for ‘good practice’ in relation to the recruitment and admission of foreign students and the provision of information and education to foreign students. A national committee monitors compliance with the requirements stated in the code of conduct. A list of the higher education institutions that have signed the Code of Conduct can be found on the website of DUO, which acts as administrator of the Code of Conduct register.