Quality review in higher education in the Netherlands and in Belgium. Follow-up audit

Dutch speaking chamber on September 05, 2013

In 2008, the Dutch and Belgian SAIs published a common report on quality control within the Dutch and Flemish higher education systems and verified five years later whether their recommendations had been complied with. This follow-up audit showed that the processes known as “visitatie” (self-assessment followed by an assessment by external experts) and “accreditatie” (granted when the “visitation” report is positive) within the new system may focus more on intrinsic aspects of education quality than on processes and procedures. The risk that remains relates to the “visitation” commissions, which poorly justify their opinions. Besides, the differences between both Dutch and Flemish systems have increased: the decision-makers have begun to concentrate increasingly on national issues, partly due to certain incidents. In accordance with the draft law on the reinforcement of quality assurance in higher education, the Dutch-Flemish organisation granting the certificates known as “accreditaties” (Nederlands-Vlaamse Accreditatieorganisatie - NVAO) will be able to conclude agreements with the assessment agencies and decide upon who will sit in the “visitation commissions”. In other words, these commissions’ role is both reinforced and consolidated in the Netherlands, whereas Flanders wishes for the third time to introduce a system of self-assessment by the educational establishments. As the Belgian SAI points out, this could undermine the external assessment. Since both the Netherlands and Flanders consider that their higher educations are similar, they would be well-advised to have a quality control system that contributes to guarantee one single level and harmonise the two systems.