Dutch higher education programmes can present itself by applying for a special feature. A panel of experts will review the special characteristic independently or during the assessment of an existing or new programme. NVAO decides on whether or not granting the attribute.
The assessment of special features on a programma level is included in the quality assurance system, as these can contribute to the national and international profile of higher education programmes. Special features offer programmes the ability to present themselves on aspects that are not directly related to the level of programme itself, but, for example, have to do with the orientation, specific objectives or with the residential character of the programme.
Specific special features may be granted for:
For these procedures are specific frameworks drawn up by NVAO (small-scale and intensive education, entrepreneurship) or by external parties. In addition, programmes itself can provide a special feature. In that case, the panel uses the “Nadere uitwerking Bijzondere kenmerken” of NVAO. NVAO determines whether the granting of the special feature falls within its competencies.
A panel of independent experts will review the special feature during the regular assessment of an existing or a new programme or at a different time. When NVAO decides positive on granting a particular feature, the attribute will be included in the accreditation decision. When the programme wants to keep the special feature, the feature must be reviewed at the next visitation.
NVAO charges no fee for the assessment of a special feature in combination with a regular assessment of an existing or a new programme. The rate for a separate assessment of a special feature is described on the relevant pages of the website of NVAO. The rate in 2021 for extending a special feature is EUR 900.
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.
In the Netherlands and Flanders, the board of an institution may appeal a (draft) NVAO decision.