International review of the NVAO

Friday, September 29, 2017 — In the performance of its functions, the NVAO is in substantial compliance with the European Standards and Guidelines (ESG) of the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA). A panel of international experts reviewed the NVAO last spring. The NVAO Board will now address the recommendations. This external review is important not only for the development of the organization, but also for the renewal of registration with the independent European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR).

The Accreditation Organisation of The Netherlands and Flanders assesses the quality of higher education in Flanders and the Netherlands. In carrying out its duties, the NVAO is subject to the European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance (ESG) which have been agreed upon by the Ministers responsible for higher education of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). They ensure a common vision on quality assurance and consistency across borders in the EHEA.

Reviewer gets reviewed

As an accreditation organisation, the NVAO is also reviewed to what extent its processes, decision-making and quality assurance system comply with the ESG. Last spring, the NVAO was reviewed by an international panel of ENQA. In its final report the panel concludes that NVAO is in substantial compliance with the ESG. The ENQA Board has prolonged ENQA full membership of NVAO for the next five years.

With this report in hand, the NVAO can now apply for renewal of registration with the independent European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR). Being on this register formally demonstrates that NVAO applies the European Standards and Guidelines to ensure the quality of higher education.

Anne Flierman, chairman of NVAO: "In the Netherlands, but more prominently in Flanders, the systems of quality assurance are undergoing important changes aimed at increasing the ownership and responsibility of students, teachers and institutions in quality assurance. The ENQA membership is important to underline the international recognition of NVAO during the implementation of the changes."

Complaint procedure

Only on one standard, the NVAO scores a partially compliant. While appeal procedures are in place and mentioned in all frameworks, a solid and formal comprehensive procedure on complaint handling is not present. The panel urges the NVAO to develop a complaint procedure as regards conduct or lack of professionalism and to open a section ‘Complaints and appeals’ at its website with appropriate formats for complaints and appeals. It has since been elaborated and is accessible through the website.

In addition, the NVAO Board will address all other recommendations. In some cases this requires consultation with the Dutch and Flemish authorities.

Ann Verreth, vice-chair NVAO: "As well as institutions, we also get to experience what it means to receive an external review panel. The panel looked at our organisation with great interest. Quite critical, but also fair. The efforts of our employees are for sure reflected in the review.”

All stakeholders appreciate the value of NVAO in particular as regards its independence in validating conclusions drawn by assessment panels. (ENQA-review)

NVAO is commended for the processes it has in place to ensure independence including the Code of Conduct and Internal Integrity Code. The professionalism and integrity of NVAO staff was highlighted by stakeholders during the review and apparent to panel members throughout the review process. (ENQA-review)