In order to implement the Bologna principles in Flemish HE a new educational law was voted in 2003. This law was also the beginning of a new system of quality assurance in HE and introduced the concept of accreditation.
Accreditation is the formal recognition of a programme based on a decision of an independent quality assurance agency, the Nederlands-Vlaamse Accreditatieorganisatie (NVAO) (the official Dutch-Flemish Accreditation Organisation), which verifies whether this programme meets the pre-determined minimal quality requirements.
Accreditation is only one part of the quality assurance system of higher education in Flanders, Belgium, which comprises an internal part, an external part and the part where the formal decision is taken.
Internal quality assurance: self-evaluations
Programmes are evaluated by the higher education institution itself, which publishes a self-evaluation report.
External quality assurance: external quality assessment
The self-evaluation report is the starting point for the external quality assessment, which produces the assessment report. The external quality assessment is organised by VLIR (Flemish Interuniversity Council) and VLHORA (Council of Flemish University Colleges).
The formal decision: accreditation
Higher education programmes that have successfully completed the external quality assessment send their assessment report to the NVAO, which evaluates the thoroughness of the external assessment and accepts or rejects its findings. A positive accreditation decision by the NVAO results in the recognition of the programme and is kept or listed in the Higher Education Register for 8 years. If the programme is not accredited it will be deleted from the Higher Education Register and the higher education institution cannot award a recognised degree. Accreditation is a prerequisite of funding for degree programmes and study financing for students.
In the presentation the system will be expounded with more details, situated in an international environment, and advantages and pitfalls will be indicated.
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