Accreditation is an external evaluation process based on specific, predetermined, internationally accepted quantitative and qualitative criteria and indicators that have been published in advance and are in line with the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG 2015).
Accreditation in a nutshell
The purpose of accreditation is the assurance of the quality of higher education, as well as the effectiveness and transparency of the overall functioning of institutions of higher education.
The HQA’s main mission is to provide regular quality accreditation for institutions of higher education both in respect of their internal quality assurance system and their study programmes taught in all three higher education cycles and offered by their academic units.
General principles of accreditation
- Accreditation is conducted for everyone involved based on common criteria and quality assurance processes, according to national legislation and our country’s commitments as a full member of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA).
- It is a fair process carried out under conditions of transparency and meritocracy by a recognised independent agency.
- It is evidence-based and conducted by independent experts.
- It leads to the decision of whether a programme of study complies with minimum accreditation criteria published in advance.
- Accreditation results are published and made available to all interested parties.
Benefits of accreditation
- Accreditation benefits students, parents, institutions of higher education themselves and employers, because it makes sure that students graduating from a programme of study have acquired a specific combination of knowledge, qualifications and skills (learning outcomes) reflected in accreditation criteria.
- It makes sure that a programme of study meets minimum quality criteria, as these are laid down in the European Higher Education Area, and
- Leads to upgrading the value of degrees awarded in Greece and guaranteeing their international recognition. It should be pointed out that Greece must compete with other countries on a Europe-wide level, in which the vast majority of programmes offered undergo accreditation.
- Accreditation enhances Greek graduate mobility and increases employment opportunities in jobs where possession of accredited degrees is a prerequisite for recruitment. It should be noted that possession of accredited degrees is currently a Europe-wide trend in the labour market and a basic rule for recruiting new graduates.
- Accreditation is the passport Greek graduates need to access postgraduate programmes in Europe and worldwide, many of which value the possession of an accredited degree.
- It is also a key prerequisite for ensuring extroversion in Greek institutions of higher education. A typical example is the International Hellenic University, which seeks to attract overseas students.
- Professional associations and chambers use accreditation as a proof that programmes are linked to their respective professional sector and to required professional qualifications.
- For employers accreditation is both a guarantee and an assurance that graduates have acquired the knowledge, qualifications and skills required for a specific job.
- Programme accreditation is a prerequisite for transnational collaborations in joint study programmes.
Study programme accreditation
Study programme accreditation shifts the focus away from “input” evaluation to evaluation of quality outcomes, namely “output” and, in particular, to achieving objectives and learning outcomes.
Accreditation is a pre-defined, reliable and useful process. Therefore it should be implemented consistently and published. It includes the following steps:
- Study programme accreditation proposal to be submitted by the institution
- Study programme external evaluation carried out by a panel of independent experts, which usually includes a site visit to the institution
- Submission to the HQA of the accreditation report resulting from the Study Program accreditation process
- Publishing the accreditation decision of the HQA
- Consistent follow-up of the Study Program operation by the IQAS (QAU)
The accreditation process makes sure that the study programme offered by the institution meets all quality standards of the HQA and the institution, and that the performance and skills of the students graduating from this specific course (learning outcomes) are consistent with the intended professional qualifications that are required by society and the labour market. Furthermore, it is certified that the study programme meets minimum quality criteria, as laid down in EHEA.
Accreditation is the passport students need to continue their studies in Europe and worldwide, and increases employment opportunities in Greece and abroad, since possession of accredited degrees is critical for graduates wishing to enter the labour market.
Accreditation of the internal quality assurance system
In every institution of higher education an internal quality assurance system (IQAS) designed to cover the full range of functions and activities of the institution is formulated and implemented.
In order to ensure and continually improve the quality of each institution’s teaching and research work, as well as to ensure the effective operation and performance of its services, the internal quality assurance system must be developed in accordance with international practices, especially those of the European Higher Education Area, and the principles and guidelines of the HQA. Responsibility for the organisation and implementation in each institution of higher education of an internal QA system is assigned to the Quality Assurance Unit.
The institutions’ IQAS is periodically accredited by the HQA. The general criteria for accreditation include:
- establishing clearly defined objectives and ensuring the continuous improvement of the quality of study programmes and support services of the institution,
- the process of policy planning, effective organisation and the decision-making process for continuous improvement of quality,
- the process of implementing the policy of continuously improving quality,
- the documented improvement of quality.
In this context, institutions must put in place a quality assurance policy as part of their strategic planning. This policy should expand and be aimed at the institution’s areas of activity and, in particular, at the fulfilment of quality requirements of the study programmes and other services offered by the institution. Also, the quality assurance policy should be widely published and implemented by all institutional stakeholders (teaching staff, students, administration and leadership).