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  • Netherlands Quality Agency

    Self-Assessment Report

    ENQA Review

    Netherlands Quality Agency (NQA)

    Catharijnesingel 56-6

    P.O. Box 8240

    NL – 3503 RE Utrecht

    © Netherlands Quality Agency (NQA)

    November 2017

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    Table of contents Page

    Introduction 5

    Development of the SAR 6

    1. Dutch system of higher education 7

    1.1. Higher education in the Netherlands 7

    1.2. Universities of Applied Sciences 8

    1.3. Higher Education in numbers 8

    2. System of quality assurance higher education 10

    2.1. Historic context of the system 10

    2.2. Assessment framework 11

    3. Netherlands Quality Agency 13

    3.1. Brief NQA history 13

    3.2. SWOT analysis 14

    4. NQA’s higher education quality assurance activities 15

    4.1. Assessments of degree programmes 15

    4.2. Research evaluations 16

    4.3. EVC audits 17

    4.4. International degree programme assessments 18

    4.5. NQA hallmark for study programmes 18

    4.6. Certification of internal audit processes 18

    4.7. Other NQA activities 18

    5. NQA’s quality assurance processes and their methodologies 20

    5.1. Assessments of degree programmes 20

    5.2. Research evaluations 22

    5.3. EVC audits 25

    5.4. International degree programme assessments 26

    5.5. NQA Hallmark for study programmes & Certification of internal audit

    processes

    26

    6. NQA - Internal Quality Assurance 27

    7. ESG Part 3: Compliance chapter 29

    7.1. Activities, policy and processes for quality assurance (ESG 3.1) 29

    7.2. Official status (ESG 3.2) 31

    7.3. Independence (ESG 3.3) 33

    7.4. Thematic analysis (ESG 3.4) 34

    7.5. Resources (ESG 3.5) 36

    7.6. Internal quality assurance and professional conduct (ESG 3.6) 37

    7.7. Cyclical external review of agencies (ESG 3.7) 39

    8. ESG Part 2: Compliance chapter 40

    8.1. Consideration of internal quality assurance (ESG 2.1) 40

    8.2. Designing methodologies fit for purpose (ESG 2.2) 43

    8.3. Implementing processes (ESG 2.3) 45

    8.4. Peer-review experts (ESG 2.4) 47

    8.5. Criteria for outcomes (ESG 2.5) 49

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    8.6. Reporting (ESG 2.6) 52

    8.7. Complaints and appeals (ESG 2.7) 53

    9. Information and opinion of stakeholders 56

    9.1. Evaluation of degree programme assessments 56

    9.2. Account evaluations 57

    9.3. Consultations with the NVAO 57

    9.4. ISO audit (9001) 57

    10. Current challenges and areas for further development 59

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    Introduction NQA is a Dutch based quality assurance agency with a clear focus on Universities of

    applied Sciences in The Netherlands. It’s solid key objective is to assess degree

    programmes of universities of applied sciences. With this ENQA review NQA wants to

    show its level of compliance with the ESG standards. Next to the assessments of

    degree programmes, NQA offers several other (evaluative) services. Amongst others,

    this includes research evaluations and EVC audits.

    In the first two chapters of this SAR the Dutch system of higher education (chapter 1)

    and the system of external quality assurance (chapter 2) are addressed. The following

    four chapters focus on NQA starting with a brief introduction, including a SWOT-

    analysis (chapter 3), an overview of the NQA’s higher education quality assurance

    activities (chapter 4), its quality assurance processes and their methodologies

    (chapter 5) and in chapter 6 it’s a description of NQA’s internal quality assurance.

    After these chapters, NQA shows its level compliance with the ESG standards. Chapter

    7 concerns ESG Part 3, followed by ESG Part 2 in chapter 8. The SAR concludes with

    two chapters that provides information and opinions of stakeholders (chapter 9) and a

    chapter on current challenges and areas for further development.

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    Development of the self-assessment report (SAR)

    For the develoment of the self-assessment report a team of two staff members was

    appointed. These two project managers started with an orientation on the European

    Standards and Guidelines and talked with a Dutch ENQA member to obtain more

    insight in the procedure and their experiences of the review process.

    The self-assessment report follows the structure of ENQA’s Guidelines for ENQA

    Agency Reviews (2016). As one of the two team members appointed for the

    development of the self-assessment report was on maternity leave, the other staff

    member took on a larger part in the writing process. In two feedback-rounds, the NQA

    director and the NQA staff members shared their input on a draft version of the

    report. As the content of the self-assessment report relies strongly on the processes

    and methodologies the staff members developed for our activities, their input is also

    embedded in that way. This regards for example NQA’s Guidebook for assessments in

    higher edcuation (updated yearly).

    Next to this document which in detail describes our methods of working regarding the

    assessments of degree programmes, internal policy papers as well as external

    documents such as the official assessment framenworks are used. Also, we included

    the results of several evaluations. The NQA director checked the final draft version,

    before sending it to ENQA. This current version of the self-assessment report takes

    into account the feedback from ENQA’s reviews manager.

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    1. Dutch System of Higher Education 1.1 Higher education in the Netherlands

    Higher education in the Netherlands is offered at two types of institutions: research

    universities and universities for applied sciences. Research universities include general

    universities, universities specialising in engineering and agriculture, and the Open

    University. Universities of applied sciences include general institutions as well as

    institutions in a specific field such as agriculture, fine and performing arts or teacher-

    training. Whereas research universities are primarily responsible for offering research-

    oriented programmes, universities of applied sciences are primarily responsible for

    offering programmes of higher professional education, which prepare student for

    specific professions. These tend to be more practice oriented than programmes

    offered by research universities (EP Nuffic, 2016).

    The figure below shows the structure of the Dutch educational system. The position of

    the universities (both: research and of applied sciences) is shown in this figure. It

    shows the three cycles within the higher education system (bachelor, master and

    PhD) as well as the requirements for access to higher education.

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    1.2 Universities of Applied Sciences

    As universities of applied sciences are the main clientele of NQA, it’s worth

    highlighting a few specifics of these universities. As being said, higher professional

    education is primarily offered by the universities of applied sciences. Within the higher

    professional education are seven sectors: agro & food, economics, health care,

    education, social studies, arts and bèta studies. Within these sectors, students can

    choose various educational profiles.

    Higher professional education is divided into two cycles. The first cycle lasts four years

    (240 EC) and students are awarded a bachelor degree (EQF level 6). The study

    programme in the first cycle is divided into a propedeuse (the first year) followed by a

    main programme of three years. The fourth year includes a final paper and/or a

    graduation project. A short cycle exists within the first cycle: the associate degree

    (AD). These AD-programmes last two years (120 EC). After obtaining an associate

    degree, students may choose whether to enter the labour market or to follow a

    corresponding bachelor programme.

    The second cycle in higher professional education usually lasts one to two years. This

    cycle leads to the professional master degree (EQF level 7). During the master

    programme, the students specializes further in carrying out a particular profession. A

    final paper and/or graduation project forms part of the programme, with the emphasis

    on applied research.

    1.3 Higher education in numbers

    To provide more insight in the higher education landscape, the below situated table

    shows the number of institutions (funded) and the amount of students. As NQA

    focusses its activities on universities of applied sciences, a further elaboration of these

    numbers is provided1.

    Number of institutions (government funded)

    Number of students

    Universities of Applied Science 37 446.638

    Research Universities 13 264.838

    1 http://cijfers.vereniginghogescholen.nl/index.htm and http://www.vsnu.nl/f_c_studenten_downloads.html

    http://cijfers.verenigingh