'Better insight into quality of degree programme is desired'

Why do some programmes need more than one assessment to be reaccredited by the NVAO? And what kind of improvements are most effective? These kinds of questions are impossible to answer at the moment, the Inspectorate of Education says.

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The vast majority of higher education programmes offer a consistently high level of quality, the Inspectorate writes in the new State of Education. The performance of individual programmes is recorded in the NVAO’s visitation and accreditation reports, which are publicly available.

But there’s no national overview of the challenges faced by degree programmes, and of how they’re changing and developing. Nor would it currently be possible to create such an overview – not even for the NVAO.

The data from the accreditation system is often not suitable for this purpose. Moreover, much of the data that could be used isn’t sufficiently accessible. The results of programme assessments are laid down in separate reports and decisions, but the NVAO currently archives them in a way that renders them inaccessible for further analysis. Decisions can’t be sorted by period or type, for instance.

As a result, it’s impossible to answer all kinds of important questions. What are the most common problems among programmes that aren’t immediately reaccredited? And what kind of improvements are most effective in securing reaccreditation? Have the problems that programmes face changed over the years? Is there a difference between the issues in higher professional education and at universities?

Public trust

Answers to those kinds of questions are important for policymakers, but also for the Inspectorate itself, as it has to supervise the accreditation system. Incomplete data “will eventually be detrimental to public trust in higher education”.

The Inspectorate believes this issue deserves more attention, especially now that there are discussions about the introduction of institutional accreditation. This would make it possible for higher education institutions that meet certain requirements to have their programmes assessed by self-appointed experts. Critics fear that this would make the accreditation system even less transparent.

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