Agency for Quality Assurance and Accreditation Austria (AQ Austria)
The review will evaluate the way in which and to what extent the Agency for Quality Assurance and Accreditation Austria (AQ Austria) 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 September 2019.
Background and context
The Agency for Quality Assurance and Accreditation Austria (AQ Austria) was founded in 2011 as part of the restructuring of the external quality assurance system in Austria. As an essential component of the restructuring three former quality assurance organisations were merged and transformed into AQ Austria as a new sector-spanning and independent agency.
According to its legal mandate, AQ Austria is responsible for all post-secondary higher education institutions in Austria (public universities, universities of applied sciences, private universities (with the exception of university colleges of teacher education, the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) and the universities for philosophy and theology).
The agency’s remit comprises a large array of legally regulated functions in the field of external quality assurance, which encompasses the accreditation of higher education institutions and their programmes (private universities and universities of applied sciences), audits of the internal quality management systems (public universities and universities of applied sciences), consultancy and thematic analysis. Since 2014, the agency is also responsible for the notification of foreign study programmes offered in Austria.
In addition to its legal functions within Austria AQ Austria is also active abroad. It is recognized by the German Accreditation Council for conducting accreditation procedures in Germany, and also by the Kazakh ministry for conducting accreditation procedures in Kazakhstan. AQ Austria also collaborates with universities in other EHEA countries by way of offering programme accreditation and consultancy services.
The Agency for Quality Assurance and Accreditation Austria is incorporated under public law. Its bodies, their powers and composition are legally determined.
The Board of AQ Austria is the central independent decision-making body of the agency. This committee of experts is in particular responsible for all decisions regarding accreditation and certification, procedural guidelines and standards, supervision responsibilities vis-à-vis accredited educational institutions in Austria. Because of the various types of quality assurance processes, the Board possesses regulatory as well as non-regulatory competencies. The Board is made up of fourteen members, of that eight are academics (at least half of them must be foreign members), two are students (of the two one from abroad) and four members come from the professional practical field.
In addition to the Board, two bodies serve the main purpose of involving stakeholders, namely the General Meeting comprising 23 representatives of stakeholder organisations and the Governing Committee comprising 5 members from among the general Meeting.
The secretariat comprises 30 staff, and the annual budget is approx. 2.8 Million EURO.
AQ Austria has been an ENQA member since 2012 and is applying for renewal of its membership.
AQ Austria has been registered on EQAR since 2014 and is applying for renewal of registration.
This review, will evaluate the way in which and to what extent AQ Austria fulfills the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG). Consequently, the review will provide information to the ENQA Board to aid its consideration of whether membership of AQ Austria should be reconfirmed and to EQAR to support AQ Austria application to the register.
The review panel is not expected, however, to make any judgements as regards granting membership.
The panel is composed of the following members:
- Jon Haakstad, Senior advisor, Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education (NOKUT), (retired from the agency), Norway – Chair, quality assurance professional (ENQA nominee)
- Pedro Teixeira, Professor at University of Porto, Faculty of Economics, Director of the Centre for Research on Higher Education Policies (CIPES), Portugal – Secretary, academic (EUA nominee)
- Heli Mattisen, Director, Estonian Higher Education Quality Agency (EKKA), Estonia – Quality assurance professional (ENQA nominee)
- Anastasia Demydenko, B.A. student, Department of Politics and Government, Communications and CSEPS (Center for the Study of European Politics and Society), Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel – Student (ESU nominee)