Agency for Science and Higher Education (ASHE)

The review will evaluate the way in which and to what extent the Agency for Science and Higher Education (ASHE) 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 in January 2022.

Background and context

ASHE was established in 2004 by the Government of the Republic of Croatia as the only institution tasked with accreditation procedures in higher education and research in the Republic of Croatia. ASHE became only national body responsible for carrying out external evaluation in higher education and science in 2009, by the Act on Quality Assurance in Science and Higher Education.

ASHE is funded from the state budget. The mission of ASHE is to promote the importance of quality assurance in higher education and science with the aim of continuous quality improvement of higher education institutions, scientific organisations and the overall Croatian system of science and higher education and its recognisability within the European Higher Education Area and the European Research Area, while encouraging the society’s sustainable development.

ASHE performs external quality assurance procedures, professional recognition of foreign higher education qualifications, collecting and processing data on Croatian higher education, science and related systems, providing information and unifying data on the conditions of enrolment to higher education institutions in the Republic of Croatia, and supporting the activities of a number of national bodies. It is currently the only agency whose accreditation recommendations are accepted by the Croatian Government for Croatian institutions and programmes.

In 2015 ASHE launched an evaluation procedure in Slovenia, at the request of a private HEI as well as an evaluation procedure of the University of Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, in 2017. In year 2020 ASHE received legal interpretation of the national HE laws from Croatian Ministry of Science and Education and their support for ASHE to apply European Approach to evaluation of joint studies.

The external quality assurance procedures carried out by ASHE in higher education are initial accreditation and reaccreditation of study programmes and higher education institutions, and audit of higher education institutions. In addition to this, ASHE performs thematic evaluations.

Initial accreditation is an evaluation procedure carried out for the new HEIs, new study programmes by private higher education institutions (universities, polytechnics and colleges) and public polytechnics and colleges and also for the new scientific organizations established and/or financed by state. In this process the fulfilment of necessary accreditation criteria is checked.

Re-accreditation of higher education institutions is an external evaluation procedure carried out in five-year cycles and is mandatory for all public and private higher education institutions in Croatia. It assesses compliance with necessary requirements (academic threshold) and provides a quality grade. The goal of the re-accreditation is to determine whether the evaluated institution meets the necessary criteria prescribed by national standards and ESG.

Re-accreditation of postgraduate university (doctoral) study programmes is an external evaluation procedure which aims to ensure that the higher education qualifications that award the academic title of “doctor of science” (PhD) reflect study programmes of high quality that are internationally comparable. In addition to checking compliance with the legal requirements, the procedure includes an external quality assessment carried out by an international expert panel, and issuance of recommendations for each individual programme.

Audit of a higher education institutions is a systematic, periodic procedure used to assess whether the internal quality assurance system of a higher education institution is effective and developed according to ESG and the ASHE Audit Criteria. The purpose of audit is to encourage continuous development of HEIs’ internal quality assurance and quality culture. It is carried out in five-year cycle.

Thematic evaluation in higher education is carried out either on official duty and according to the annual plan of the Agency, or following a request from the minister, higher education institution, or student council of the higher education institution. Upon the completion of the procedure, a report is drafted by a panel of experts, containing the level of compliance with the subject of evaluation. In case of a negative review, the Agency can initiate a re-accreditation procedure on official duty, or at the suggestion of the Minister in charge of higher education (and science).

ASHE has been a member of ENQA since 2011 and is applying for ENQA renewal of membership.

ASHE has been registered on the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR) since 2011 and is applying for renewal of EQAR registration.

Review process

This review will evaluate the extent to which ASHE fulfils the requirements of Parts 2 and 3 of 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 ASHE should be reconfirmed and to EQAR to support ASHE application to the register.

Review panel
The review panel will soon be composed.

This review is being coordinated by Goran Dakovic.