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ENQA NVAO review report approved after good assessment resultReport

The ENQA-panel, which visited in March 2022, judges that NVAO is fully compliant with the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area, the European standards for quality assurance. As a result, NVAO continues demonstrating its commitment to the European agreements as defined within the Bologna Process and continues with the process of renewing NVAO's membership in ENQA and registration in EQAR. The process is expected to be concluded by end 2022. NVAO sees this positive assessment by the review panel as the confirmation of its quality and is encouraged to continue the chosen path of quality improvement.

Because NVAO has previously undergone four successful ENQA reviews, the binational organisation has opted for a targeted review. The purpose of this targeted review is to focus on the recommendations from the last full review. In the targeted review, the ENQA panel also assesses the substantial changes that have taken place in the quality assurance system, such as, for example, the institutional review in Flanders. In addition, the panel pays attention to an enhancement area, a part within the organization in which the organization itself wants to develop further. For NVAO, this is the system for internal quality assurance. A self-evaluation report was drawn up based on conversations with employees, supplemented with information collected from external stakeholders. This served as an information base for the ENQA panel. This report describes NVAO's challenges in recent years, how the recommendations of the last ENQA review in 2017 were addressed and where there is room for improvement.

The assessment report clearly demonstrates how the Dutch quality assurance system is ready for a next step. The panel is satisfied with the introduction of a pilot for institutional accreditation, but states that further steps can be taken in the Netherlands, given the well-functioning system of internal and external quality assurance. NVAO is in favour of the introduction of institutional accreditation in order to meet the need for more trust and self-determination in institutions. In addition, NVAO believes that institutional accreditation can strengthen the involvement of staff and students in the process overall and thus place the responsibility for improving the quality of education where it should be. According to the panel, internal quality assurance has been well developed within the Dutch department and has been further improved positively in recent years. There is a great deal of internal and external fine-tuning and calibration. This has a positive influence on policy and implementation.

The panel recommends that the Dutch department should reconsider its position in relation to thematic analyses. According to the panel, the Dutch department can make a more active contribution to education policy in the Netherlands with its authority and knowledge. Thematic analyses can influence the debate in higher education. The department recognizes this and will discuss with the institutions and the Ministry how this can be given a proper place in the Dutch quality assurance system. In the elaboration, the Netherlands department will make further use of the existing collaboration with the Education Inspectorate and the Higher Education Efficiency Commission.

During the discussions with the Flemish department, the panel mainly focused on the further introduction and roll-out of the new Flemish quality assurance system since 2019. The panel is very satisfied with the responsiveness of the Flemish department, the short lines of communication with the higher education institutions and the involvement of all stakeholders. The panel also compliments the Flemish team on the first system-wide analysis. System-wide analyses provide insight into the state of affairs regarding particular aspects of education policy and makes this information available to the whole higher education community, to external stakeholders such as the professional field, and to society at large. The involvement of various stakeholders in this is very appealing to the panel. According to the panel, the overview reports provide good insight into the assessment activities of the Flemish department. The ENQA panel expressed real interest in the institutional review.  This approach of autonomy and responsibility for the institutions is highly praised by HE experts and has also been confirmed by the Flemish universities and universities of applied sciences. In the light of these positive experiences, the panel encourages NVAO to make these good practices visible in the Netherlands as well and to include them in the current discussions about the Dutch quality assurance system. The panel made no recommendations for the Flemish department.

Membership of ENQA requires all members to undergo an external assessment at least every five years to confirm that they operate in accordance with the European standards. To demonstrate this, quality assurance organisations are published in the European Quality Assurance Register (EQAR). EQAR is the official instrument established by the education ministers of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). This external assessment is a condition for renewing the registration.

“As a quality assurance organisation, we focus daily on the quality of courses and institutions. From time to time, it is good to also have your own quality being subject to assessment. This ENQA review has done that for us and we are very pleased with the result. This shows us once again why NVAO has a good reputation both nationally and internationally.” – Wouter Duyck, Vice-chair NVAO.