Accreditation Agency in Health and Social Sciences (AHPGS)

The review will evaluate the way in which and to what extent the Accreditation Agency in Health and Social Sciences (AHPGS) 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 April/May 2019.

Background and context

AHPGS is a German accreditation agency which was founded in 2001 by representatives of scientific organizations related to the community of nursing, health and social sciences. In the same year, it was also accredited by the German Accreditation Council (GAC). The agency AHPGS e.V. is organised in the legal form of a charitable association (VR 3481). From the beginning, it has been located in Freiburg, Germany. Currently, the association has 37 members, including members of various scientific specialty societies in the area of health and social science, the Assemblies of the Faculties of Social Work and of Therapeutic Pedagogy, the Conference for Deans and Directors in Nursing Sciences and higher education institutions.

A non-profit private limited company under German law (AHPGS Akkreditierung gGmbH) was founded by the AHPGS e.V. at the beginning of 2008 for liability reasons. AHPGS Akkreditierung gGmbH organises accreditation procedures at Higher Education Institutions on behalf of AHPGS. AHPGS e.V. is the sole shareholder of the AHPGS Akkreditierung gGmbH, which was entered into the Freiburg commercial register on March 5, 2008 with the number HRB 702141.

AHPGS was last accredited in 2014 by the GAC. Thus, AHPGS e.V. is authorised to award the seal of the German Accreditation Council. In 2009, it was first verified that AHPGS conforms to the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG) and the criteria for membership of the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA).

The composition and tasks of the bodies of the AHPGS e.V. are laid down in the agency’s by-laws. The AHPGS e.V. consists of a governing body appointed by the general meeting. The managing director of AHPGS e.V. is Mr. Prof. Dr. Jürgen von Troschke. He was appointed by the general meeting for a five-year period (until 2021). The responsibilities of the governing body include the appointment of members of the accreditation commissions of the AHPGS e.V. and the examination of complaints regarding the refusal of accreditation. Unless otherwise provided by the by-laws, the governing body also discusses and decides on any matters concerning the association. The AHPGS e.V. has two accreditation commissions: one commission for programme accreditation procedures and one for system accreditation procedures. The accreditation commissions are the decision-making bodies with regard to all accreditation procedures. AHPGS e.V. is the applicant of this external review. The governing body of AHPGS e.V. holds the power of representation, performs the tasks of the shareholder and constitutes the company general meeting of AHPGS Akkreditierung gGmbH.

In accordance with § 6 of the by-laws, AHPGS Akkreditierung gGmbH has two bodies: the general meeting and the management appointed by the general meeting and notarially certified in 2008. The managing director, Mr. Georg Reschauer, is in charge of the operational business of AHPGS Akkreditierung gGmbH. Thus, AHPGS Akkreditierung gGmbH concludes contracts with Higher Education Institutions.

Both AHPGS e.V. and AHPGS Akkreditierung gGmbH are recognised as non-profit organisations for German tax purposes.

The head office of both AHPGS e.V. and AHPGS Akkreditierung gGmbH, is located in Freiburg, Germany. The head office of the AHPGS e.V. is run by its respective managing director supported by a part-time employee. The managing director as well as all members of the governing body work on a voluntary basis.

Under the direction of the managing director of the AHPGS Akkreditierung gGmbH, the agency employs at present seven project officers (560 %) and two additional employees (150 %).

AHPGS is one of ten accreditation agencies that are accredited by the German Accreditation Council. As the only accreditation agency, the specific focus of AHPGS’ work is the external quality assurance in the area of health and social sciences through accreditation procedures at program and institutional levels (institutional audits and system accreditation).

In Germany, accreditation procedures and assessments for study programmes as well as institutions are based on the Rules for the Accreditation of Study Programmes and for System Accreditation (Resolution of the Accreditation Council of December 8, 2009, last amended on February 20, 2013) until the end of 2017.

Due to the reconstruction of the German accreditation system after the decision of the federal constitutional court which declared the North Rhine Westphalian rules of obligation to accredit to be unconstitutional, it was necessary to develop a legally compliant accreditation system for the future. There is no longer any accreditation of accreditation agencies foreseen by the GAC in this system. Instead, as stipulated in the sample regulation (KMK decision, December 7, 2017) a registration with the EQAR is required for reaccreditation purposes. The legal basis and key points of the new German accreditation system, formed on this sample regulation and the basis of the Treaty Regarding Study Accreditation of June 12, 2017, have been developed.

However, the concrete embodiment cannot be foreseen at this point in time. Starting with 2018, there are two accreditation systems in parallel in Germany: one following the “old law” for contracts drawn up before January 1, 2018, where decisions are taken by the accreditation commission of the respective agency, and another following the “new law” for contracts drawn up after December 31, 2017, where decisions are taken by the German Accreditation council.

AHPGS is accredited by the German Accreditation Council until 2019 and applied for reaccreditation on October 12, 2017. This application was necessary for the sake of formality. Aside from requesting an ENQA coordinating review, thus reconfirming our ENQA membership, AHPGS also seeks to reapply for registration on EQAR – as required by law.

In 2016, the Swiss Accreditation Council authorised AHPGS to conduct procedures of programme accreditation and institutional accreditation in Switzerland according to Swiss law (“Higher Education Act, HEdA”).

Since 2015, AHPGS has been entitled to carry out audits at universities and colleges in Austria in accordance with § 22 (2) of the Austrian Quality Assurance Act.

Furthermore, the AHPGS conducts its activity alongside various institutions of higher education in Germany and abroad.

Presently, the AHPGS has successfully accredited more than 1,155 national and international study programmes at about 120 higher education institutions.

AHPGS has been an ENQA member since 2009 and is applying for renewal of its membership.

AHPGS has been registered on EQAR since 2009 and is applying for renewal of registration.

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 AHPGS including the preparation of a self-assessment report;
  • A site visit by the review panel to AHPGS;
  • 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:

  • Andy Gibbs, Independent Consultant, Former Director of International Relations, School of Nursing, Midwifery, and Social Care, Edinburgh Napier University, United Kingdom – Chair, academic (EUA nominee)
  • Núria Comet Señal, Responsible for Internal Quality and Project Coordinator, Catalan University Quality Assurance Agency (AQU Catalunya), Spain – Secretary, quality assurance professional (ENQA nominee)
  • Stephanie Hering, Project Manager, Swiss Agency of Accreditation and Quality Assurance (AAQ), Switzerland – Quality assurance professional (ENQA nominee)
  • Samin Sedghi Zadeh, Student at Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, University of Turin, Italy – Student (ESU nominee)

AHPGS’s self-assessment report is available here.

This review is being coordinated by Milja Homan.