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In the week beginning 31 October (week 44), AU will be visited for the second and last time by the accreditation panel, which will assess the university’s quality assurance system. At the same time, it is the final step on AU’s journey to being granted the much sought-after accreditation. But what is actually at stake?

2016.11.22 | Camilla Schrøder

Photo: Jesper Rais

On the face of it, institutional accreditation sounds like heavy administrative work and something that requires mountains of documentation. The employees at AU who are or have been involved in the work on documenting AU’s quality assurance system and focus on quality will probably agree on both counts.

But nevertheless, this work is very important. There is much at stake when the panel and the Danish Accreditation Institution pay AU a five-day visit in the week commencing 31 October.

“Right now, we’re in the midst of an exceptionally large task that requires and has required a lot of resources. But at a time when the issue of the universities’ independence is being debated, it’s important to focus on the perspectives rather than the paperwork. In the long term, accreditation will give AU more leeway for our quality assurance, more flexible processes and less bureaucracy – even though we will, of course, also be subject to a documentation requirement going forward,” says Pro-rector for Education Berit Eika.

Visit number two

The accreditation panel’s visit builds on a range of prior efforts. Back in April, AU submitted its self-evaluation report. The panel visited AU for the first time in June and, based on this visit, the panel identified six audit trails, which constitute different elements in the quality assurance, such as teaching evaluation.

This time around, the accreditation panel will take an in-depth look at 15 selected degree programmes, which in the coming week are to participate in meetings with the panel and answer questions within one or more of the six audit trails.

“This week, a number of degree programmes will enter into dialogue with the panel on quality assurance. Around 160 lecturers, managers and students have dedicated much of their time to preparation and meetings, and they deserve special recognition. Regardless of the outcome, they’ve made huge efforts to ensure that everyone at AU can offer degree programmes in future,” says Berit Eika.

A ‘conditional decision’ has consequences

The final decision is expected to be made in June 2017, and there are three possible outcomes: A positive decision means that AU can establish new degree programmes and course offerings once they have been prequalified. A conditional accreditation means that follow-up is necessary in certain areas where procedures have been shown to be less well-functioning, and that all new degree programmes and courses must still be accredited. Finally, a refusal means that the institution must not establish new degree programmes and course offerings, and that existing degree programmes must still be accredited in accordance with a rota plan.

Some may be wondering what will happen in connection with a conditional accreditation. Won’t it just be ‘business as usual’ at the university? And will students and lecturers even notice anything at all?

The answer is that the decision regarding AU’s accreditation has a huge impact on the near future – and it will have a direct consequence for some. Aarhus University is, for example, planning to launch a new degree programme in food technology next summer, and it will appear in the Coordinated Enrolment System (KOT). If AU ends up with a conditional accreditation next summer, this will mean that the degree programme cannot be established as planned.

“Naturally, this means that we can’t admit the students who have applied for a place on the degree programme. And that the lecturers who’ve planned a course of study are not going to lecture. If that happens, we’re prepared to handle the situation. We’ll just have to take note of the decision, roll up our sleeves and improve whatever the Accreditation Council has pointed out that needs improving,” says Berit Eika.

A conditional accreditation will mean that AU must agree on a process aimed at correcting the shortcomings in the quality assurance identified by the accreditation panel. Once the shortcomings have been corrected, a new assessment will be carried out. However, with solid quality assurance work and thorough preparation, everyone involved has done everything in their power to ensure that we get a positive accreditation in the first go.

The six audit trails:

  1. Annual status
  2. Knowledge base of degree programmes and students’ contact with the knowledge base
  3. Interaction between the Committee on Education/degree programme boards and boards of studies at ST and ARTS
  4. Teaching evaluation
  5. Degree programme evaluation
  6. Involvement of external stakeholders and ensuring relevance of degree programmes

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Administrative, Administration (Academic), All groups, Aarhus University, All AU units