On Thursday, October 22, 2020, a meeting of members of the National Council of the Slovak Republic and members of the Executive Board of the Slovak Accreditation Agency was held on possible amendments to the Act on Quality Assurance in Higher Education.
Improving the perception of Slovak higher education institutions is in the common interest, the members of the Committee of the National Council of the Slovak Republic for Education, Science, Youth and Sports and the members of the Executive Board of the Slovak Accreditation Agency for Higher Education agreed
“Increasing trust in Slovak universities by improving their quality is one of the most important tasks for the future of Slovakia,” said Mr. Redhammer, chair of the Slovak Accreditation Agency for Higher Education.
“We believe that quality education at universities, the use of new knowledge and creativity can bring solutions to many of the social challenges we face. Therefore, even in this extremely challenging situation, we must not forget the steps aimed at improving the quality of universities,” said Mr. Vašečka, Chair of the Committee of the National Council of the Slovak Republic. The deputies and members of the council agreed on the common goal of increasing the quality of education in Slovakia and improving the perception of higher education institutions by society.
Higher education institutions in Slovakia are waiting for profound internal changes. The Slovak Accreditation Agency for Higher Education has published new Accreditation standards according to which the universities are to set up internal quality protection systems. At the same time, they must reconsider the offer of study programmes so that by the end of the academic year at the latest on 31 August 2022, they meet all the requirements of the standards for study programmes. This means that by this deadline they must suppress all study programmes that do not meet the standards.
“We expect that universities will strengthen the staffing of study programmes, which will give students more choice of subjects and schools more flexibility in providing them with better quality. We also expect that the study offer will be transparent for those interested,” added Mr. Redhammer.
The deputies also discussed with the members of the Executive Board the intended amendments to the Act on Quality Assurance in Higher Education, which should help changes in quality assurance. Legislative proposals have three areas: 1. streamlining the Agency’s internal decision-making, 2. allowing the Agency to initiate procedures on the Agency’s own initiative if non-compliance is suspected even before “compliance with new standards”, and 3. extending the time to prepare new study programs.
It is this range of adjustments that are critical for the responsible reassessment of the study programmes offered by the universities themselves. The intention is for universities to apply for accreditation of new study programmes only if they are unable to meet the accreditation standards by modifying their existing programmes. And they will need more time for this evaluation than originally calculated.
“I look forward to open and constructive communication and cooperation with the members of the school committee under the leadership of Mr. Vašeček, even in these difficult times. I am glad that the proposals for changes were “consulted” by the Agency, and our comments were taken into account,” said Mr. Redhammer “and I am also pleased with the positive attitude of the Ministry of Education “.
The members of the committee discussed not only the details of the new accreditations and accreditation standards but also expressed the views of the members of the Executive Board on reducing the number of universities or study programmes, as well as on the possibility of improving their internal management.
The discussion did not miss the issues related to the current emergency situation associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. MEPs were interested in ensuring quality education for students even during emergency measures and the needs of universities while ensuring smooth running. “Satisfaction of students and the quality of their education is also of interest to us, the deputies of the National Council of the Slovak Republic. We try to help with legislative changes, and we also invite the members of the Agency to discuss further planned changes in higher education legislation,” concluded the chair of the committee, Mr. Vašečka.
The new accreditation system brings a central perception of the quality of education at universities and the connection of creative activity to the results of students’ education. It is intended to ensure freedom and flexibility for universities and departments that demonstrate compliance with quality standards and, conversely, contribute to cleaning up the university environment from components that do not meet the required quality standards.