An institutional audit is a periodic, external, and independent assessment of the internal quality assurance in place at an institution. Internal quality assurance comprises both the quality culture and the internal quality assurance system of an institution. The audit serves to verify that the institution’s internal quality assurance system, in interconnection with its quality culture, safeguards the realisation of its individual vision of good education.
The second round of institutional audits commenced in 2017. The first round ran from 2011 to 2016.
The second round will be focused on assessing the robustness of the institutions’ quality assurance systems and the associated procedures, and whether a sustained quality culture has been established within the institutions. In that case, a positive score on all the standards will confirm trust in the institution. Institutional audits do not qualify the quality of the programmes; their quality is assessed separately.
The accreditation system is in keeping with the governance philosophy of the government, under which institutions are autonomous, enjoy confidence, and are held to account vis-à-vis the government and society. In a wider societal context, a tendency can be observed towards enhanced autonomy and ownership, but also towards transparency and accountability. The institutional audit ties in with this tendency and expressly takes an institution’s own ambitions, views, and choices as its points of departure, yet holds the institution to account regarding the realisation of its ambitions.
The key question to be answered by the panel is: “Is the institution’s quality assurance system safeguarding the realisation of its vision of good education, and is the institution continuously working on development and improvement?” The audit focuses on four coherent questions:
Institutions are not new to the concepts of quality culture and quality assurance systems. In order to meet the current requirements regarding transparency, the institutions have further developed and elaborated their internal quality assurance in a manner geared to their own culture, position, ambitions, and the expectations of stakeholders.
The organisation and successful completion of an institutional audit is a labour-intensive procedure which takes an average of one year.
For 2021, the NVAO rate for institutional audits (of recognised institutions) is EUR 38,500. For small (recognised) institutions providing fewer than four programmes, the rate is EUR 19,200.
Different rates apply for non-standard procedures. The costs of visits abroad, work performed by external experts, advisory work, or work associated with additional requirements will be invoiced additionally. Residual rates apply if applications for a new institutional audit are withdrawn.
Whether or not an institution holds a positive institutional audit decision is irrelevant to the assessment of a distinctive feature. The panel observes the criteria and guidelines applicable to the specific distinctive feature for which the programme intends to apply.
The assessment of the plans set down by government-funded universities within the context of the quality agreements may be incorporated into the institutional audit procedure as one of the “trails”. This obviates the need for a separate cycle. In such cases, the institutional audit panel also assesses the plan from the perspective of the quality agreements.
The main changes are:
The following has been added:
The following has been dropped:
The maximum timeframe for accreditation following an institutional audit is six years. NVAO may decide to grant a “conditionally positive” decision for a maximum term of two years. NVAO will process the institutional audit within six months after receipt of the self-evaluation report. Upon receipt of the draft NVAO decision, the institution may lodge an appeal (see under “Appeals”).
The panel assessment is based on the institution’s own views and choices, and thus does justice to the autonomy of the institution. In its assessment, the panel verifies whether such views and choices command sufficient support among staff and students, and in the social sphere. Subsequently, it verifies whether the views have been translated into an appropriate educational policy, which is pursued in an effective manner and whose results are systematically monitored. It must be transparent to the panel how the institution’s reflection on its evaluation results and its pursuit of developments in the societal context are resulting in improvements, adjustments and development. The institution must provide transparent information to students, employers, and other societal actors with respect to the quality of its programmes.
In the Netherlands and Flanders, the board of an institution may appeal a (draft) NVAO decision.