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The Netherlands: New higher education accreditation system implemented

The new assessment frameworks for the Dutch higher education accreditation system announced on 6 December 2010 have entered into force as of 1 January 2011 and will be administered by the Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders (in Dutch, Nederlands – Vlamsee Accreditatieorganisatie, or NVAO). The aim of the new approach, which was developed with an eye to aligning more effectively with broader European guidelines for addressing quality, is to move the focus of accreditation from quality assurance to quality enhancement.  

The new system – which in its entirety is comprised of six different assessment frameworks – places emphasis on programme level accreditation rather than on assessment of entire institutions. However, upon request, the NVAO will conduct a quality assurance process at the broader institutional level. Positive outcomes at the institutional assessment level subject programmes at these same institutions to less onerous assessment procedures, given their association with institutions that have already been determined to be of sufficient quality. Assessment decisions are based on a four-tier scale:  unsatisfactory, satisfactory, good and excellent, with decisions open to appeal through an established process.

Fundamentally, the new system aspires to ensure that institutional quality assessments “bolster an institution-wide internal quality culture”. Further, by working to facilitate a focus on improvements in the “substantive quality” of the education provided, the hope is to achieve a “proper balance… between assessing programmes on the one hand and quality improvement on the other”.