The Slovak Accreditation Agency for Higher Education’s new accreditations has involved students in every accreditation for two years, which has not been the practice in the past. In this way, the current management of the Agency continues to reform accreditations by introducing European standards and guidelines, with the aim of improving the quality of education at higher education institutions.
In recent months, the Agency has evaluated 177 applications from higher education institutions for accreditation of new study programmes. They were reviewed by 67 expert review panels of the Agency’s Executive Board, constituted according to field and level of study. Each of the panels included a student, 42 students in total. Some also worked in more than one panel. Their dominant area of the evaluation was the protection of legitimate student interests, i.e. primarily student issues.
“In new accreditations, it is important to involve all stakeholders in higher education. These are students in particular, in addition to teachers and practice partners. It is students in particular that we pay special attention to,” said Robert Redhammer, chair of the Agency’s Executive Board.
“Not only do we require schools to involve their students in the evaluation and approval of degree programmes at the universities, but we also involve them directly in the evaluation of schools in our accreditations by the Agency, which was not the case in Slovakia before,” Redhammer added.
The essence of the ongoing accreditation reform is that the college itself also needs to develop its own effective quality “gatekeeping” mechanisms. It is not enough to rely on external accreditation by an Agency. The Agency requires student participation in both the evaluation and approval of individual study programmes at the university itself, in the improvement of educational conditions, and in collegial dialogue with teachers. It is not so much about student “functionaries” or “perpetual students”, but about actual, real students, perceptive, with insight and a sense of justice and fairness.
Today, universities have already adopted their own quality management regulations and are beginning to apply them. They are reviewing their curriculum offerings and are finalising the ‘compliance’ of their curricula with the quality standards arising from the European standards and guidelines.
The higher education institutions have so far abolished more than a thousand non-prospective study programmes, and many more will be abolished. From September, only complied study programmes that have been evaluated by students will be on offer. The Accreditation Agency will verify these facts from the end of this year, also with the participation of students.
Contact for media: zlata Petrusova, zlata.petrusova [at] saavs.sk; tel.: 0948/988 265