CURRENT REVIEWS

Cyprus Agency of Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Higher Education (CYQAA)

The review will evaluate the way in which and to what extent the Cyprus Agency of Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Higher Education (CYQAA) fulfills the criteria for ENQA membership and thus the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area. The evaluation is scheduled to finish February/March 2019.

Background and context
1.1 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in Cyprus
Higher Education in Cyprus is offered by public and private universities as well as by public and private institutions at non university level.

The competent authority responsible for all HEIs is the Ministry of Education and Culture (MOEC).

1.1.1 Public universities are established by law and they are financed primarily by the government. The University of Cyprus and the Cyprus University of Technology are conventional universities which have as their main goal to promote education and research. The Open University of Cyprus is a distance learning university which aims to provide access to higher education to adult learners and to promote lifelong learning. Before the establishment of CYQAA, public universities were not externally evaluated and accredited by a national quality assurance body. Now, public Universities are obliged by law to submit their programs of study for external evaluation-accreditation by CYQAA.

1.1.2 Private universities are autonomous to define their own goals and strategies. They have undergone external evaluation within the framework of the previous legislation, by the Evaluation Committee for Private Universities (ECPU) and they were provided with a licence to operate on the basis of a relevant decision by the Council of Ministers. They are established and financed by non-governmental institutions or founders. Private universities are obliged by law to submit their programs of study for external evaluation-accreditation by CYQAA.

1.1.3 Public institutions of higher education are non-university institutions which provide, primarily, vocational education and training. Before the establishment of CYQAA, these institutions, were not externally evaluated and accredited by a national quality assurance body.

1.1.4 Private Institutions of Tertiary Education are non-university institutions which offer a wide range of academic as well as vocational programs of study at the following levels:

  • Certificate (One Year, 60 ECTS)
  • Diploma (Two Years, 120 ECTS)
  • Higher Diploma (Three Years, 180 ECTS)
  • Bachelor Degree (Four Years, 240 ECTS)
  • Master Degree (One to Two Years, 90 or 120 ECTS)
  • PhD Degree (Three to Four Years)

It should be noted, that up until the establishment of CYQAA, programmatic external evaluation by the relevant national quality assurance body was not obligatory.

1.2 Quality Assurance in Higher Education
CYQAA is responsible to ensure the quality of higher education in Cyprus, and to support through the procedures provided by the relevant legislation, for the continuous improvement and upgrading of higher education institutions and their programs of study. One of the primary aims of CYQAA is to provide those conditions necessary for the creation of a quality driven culture.

Quality of higher education is an inseparable component of government policy to further develop higher education and establish Cyprus as an international and regional education centre. A pivotal moment for the accomplishment of the strategic goals of the MOEC was the establishment of the “Agency of Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Higher Education” (CYQAA) in November of 2015 [Law 136(I)/2015].

CYQAA is steered by a Council of eleven members, including its President. The Council is appointed by the Council of Ministers for a five-year period on the basis of recommendations from the Minister of Education and Culture. According to the legislation, eight council members are academics, at the rank of Professor or Professor Emeritus, who have experience in university administration matters and on issues of quality assurance in higher education. Two members of the Council come from professional organizations and one member is an undergraduate student representative. It is noted that the student representative’s term of office has a duration of two years.

The Agency assumed the responsibilities of quality assurance bodies which were previously operating in Cyprus: The Council of Educational Evaluation-Accreditation, the Advisory Committee on Higher Education, and the Evaluation Committee for Private Universities.

  • The Council of Educational Evaluation-Accreditation (SEKAP), was the competent authority responsible for the external evaluation and accreditation of programs of study offered by private, non-university HEI’s. It has to be noted that external evaluation and accreditation of programs of study was not compulsory and was sought for by HEIs on a voluntary basis. It should also be highlighted that according to the previous legislative framework the accreditation of programs of study had to be ratified by the Minister of Education and Culture.
  • The Advisory Committee on Higher Education (SETE) was responsible for the establishment of non-university public and private HEIs, as well for the examination of new programs of study offered by private non-university HEI’s. SETE acted as an advisory body to the Minister of Education and Culture. Its competency was limited to advising the Minister with regards to the registration of programs of study as well as the establishment of HEIs at non-university level and by no means this constituted the accreditation of the said programs and institutions.
  • The Evaluation Committee for Private Universities (ECPU), was the competent authority responsible for the external evaluation of private universities and their programs of study. ECPU’s decisions had to be ratified by the Minister of Education and Culture.

With the enactment of the new legislation and the establishment of CYQAA, prevailing approaches to quality assurance radically changed with the implementation of transparent procedures for external evaluation and accreditation equal for all. The most significant improvements provided for by the new legislative framework are:

  • The legal obligation for HEIs (public and private at university and non-university level), for external evaluation, both programmatic and institutional.
  • The compliance of the external evaluation standards and indicators with the European Standards and Guidelines (ESG).
  • The compulsory evaluation and accreditation of cross-border education, offered by local institutions in member states or third-party countries
  • Scrutiny of the preconditions for the provision, by foreign institutions, of cross-border education in Cyprus.
  • Examination of inter-institutional collaborations which lead to the award of joint degrees

Most importantly, CYQAA acts as a catalyst for the creation of a quality driven culture, through which HEIs are enabled to enhance their quality assurance procedures and mechanisms.

CYQAA has been an ENQA affiliate since April 2016 and is applying for ENQA membership.

CYQAA is applying for registration on EQAR.

Review process
The process is designed in the light of the Guidelines for ENQA Agency Reviews and in line with the requirements of the EQAR Procedures for Applications.

The evaluation procedure consists of the following steps:

  • Formulation of the Terms of Reference and protocol for the review;
  • Nomination and appointment of the review panel;
  • Self-assessment by CYQAA including the preparation of a self-assessment report;
  • A site visit by the review panel to CYQAA;
  • Preparation and completion of the final evaluation report by the review panel;
  • Scrutiny of the final evaluation report by the ENQA Review Committee;
  • Analysis of the scrutiny by the ENQA Board and their decision regarding ENQA membership;
  • Follow-up of the panel’s and/or ENQA Board’s recommendations by the agency, including a voluntary follow-up visit.

Review panel
The panel is composed of the following members:

  • Bernard Coulie, Full Professor and Honorary Rector, Université catholique de Louvain (UCL), Belgium – Chair, academic (EUA nominee)
  • Ewa Kolanowska, Self-employed/freelance higher education consultant, Poland – Secretary, quality assurance professional (ENQA nominee)
  • Sandra Marcos Ortega, Specialist in Quality Programs: Responsible for the Internal Quality System and International Affairs, Quality Assurance Agency for the University System in Castilla y León (ACSUCYL), Spain – Quality assurance professional (ENQA nominee)
  • Rebecca Maxwell Stuart, PhD student (Business Management/Higher Education), Heriot-Watt University, Scotland – Student (ESU nominee)

CYQAA’s self-assessment report is available here.

This review is being coordinated by Agnė Grajauskienė.