Balancing Quality Enhancement and Accountability – Reforming the Dutch and Flemish accreditation system

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Author(s)Stephan van Galen, Mirjam Woutersen, Toon Martens, Hans de Jonge
In the coming years the Netherlands (2010) and Flanders (2013) will introduce a so-called institutional audit as part of a new two tier accreditation system. This new system aims to focus quality assurance and accreditation in higher education more exclusively on the content of the programme and is intended to reduce the administrative burdens of internal and external quality assurance processes. Essentially this revision of the accreditation system should increase academic ownership of quality assurance systems within higher education institutions and introduce a ‘light touch approach’ based on ‘high trust’ earned during 25 years of external quality assurance procedures in both countries. In these 25 years the system has undergone a profound shift from quality enhancement to accountability. The new two tier accreditation system is intended to steer back to a more quality enhancement led approach. The introduction of this new system means that external quality assurance and accreditation will be more open to creativity and diversity in higher education and will focus less on descriptions of procedures.
This paper provides an outline of the new accreditation system as well as an overview of how in both countries a general consensus was reached as to the principles underpinning this reform. The structural evolution of the accreditation system presented in this paper is the product of two years of intensive discussions within the Dutch and Flemish higher education sector involving a wide variety of stakeholders at almost every step of the way. The involvement of a large variety of stakeholders in this process is reflected in the authorship of this paper, representing perspectives from the Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders (NVAO), Leuven University College(KHLeuven) and the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU).
CategoriesQuality of HE » 2009 4th EQAF