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Netherlands:Quality Assurance in Higher Education

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Overview Netherlands

Contents

Netherlands:Political, Social and Economic Background and Trends

Netherlands:Historical Development

Netherlands:Main Executive and Legislative Bodies

Netherlands:Population: Demographic Situation, Languages and Religions

Netherlands:Political and Economic Situation

Netherlands:Organisation and Governance

Netherlands:Fundamental Principles and National Policies

Netherlands:Lifelong Learning Strategy

Netherlands:Organisation of the Education System and of its Structure

Netherlands:Organisation of Private Education

Netherlands:National Qualifications Framework

Netherlands:Administration and Governance at Central and/or Regional Level

Netherlands:Administration and Governance at Local and/or Institutional Level

Netherlands:Statistics on Organisation and Governance

Netherlands:Funding in Education

Netherlands:Early Childhood and School Education Funding

Netherlands:Higher Education Funding

Netherlands:Adult Education and Training Funding

Netherlands:Early Childhood Education and Care

Netherlands:Organisation of Early Childhood Education and Care

Netherlands:Teaching and Learning in Early Childhood Education and Care

Netherlands:Assessment in Early Childhood Education and Care

Netherlands:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Early Childhood Education and Care

Netherlands:Primary Education

Netherlands:Organisation of Primary Education

Netherlands:Teaching and Learning in Primary Education

Netherlands:Assessment in Primary Education

Netherlands:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Primary Education

Netherlands:Secondary and Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Netherlands:Organisation of General Lower Secondary Education

Netherlands:Teaching and Learning in General Lower Secondary Education

Netherlands:Assessment in General Lower Secondary Education

Netherlands:Organisation of General Upper Secondary Education

Netherlands:Teaching and Learning in General Upper Secondary Education

Netherlands:Assessment in General Upper Secondary Education

Netherlands:Organisation of Vocational Secondary Education (MBO)

Netherlands:Teaching and Learning in Vocational Secondary Education (MBO)

Netherlands:Assessment in Vocational Secondary Education (MBO)

Netherlands:Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Netherlands:Higher Education

Netherlands:Types of Higher Education Institutions

Netherlands:First Cycle Programmes

Netherlands:Bachelor

Netherlands:Short-Cycle Higher Education

Netherlands:Second Cycle Programmes

Netherlands:Programmes outside the Bachelor and Master Structure

Netherlands:Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes

Netherlands:Adult Education and Training

Netherlands:Distribution of Responsibilities

Netherlands:Developments and Current Policy Priorities

Netherlands:Main Providers

Netherlands:Main Types of Provision

Netherlands:Validation of Non-formal and Informal Learning

Netherlands:Teachers and Education Staff

Netherlands:Initial Education for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Conditions of Service for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Initial Education for Academic Staff in Higher Education

Netherlands:Conditions of Service for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

Netherlands:Continuing Professional Development for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

Netherlands:Initial Education for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Netherlands:Conditions of Service for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Netherlands:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Netherlands:Management and Other Education Staff

Netherlands:Management Staff for Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Staff Involved in Monitoring Educational Quality for Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Education Staff Responsible for Guidance in Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Other Education Staff or Staff Working with Schools

Netherlands:Management Staff for Higher Education

Netherlands:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Higher Education

Netherlands:Management Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

Netherlands:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

Netherlands:Quality Assurance

Netherlands:Quality Assurance in Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Quality Assurance in Higher Education

Netherlands:Quality Assurance in Adult Education and Training

Netherlands:Educational Support and Guidance

Netherlands:Special Education Needs Provision within Mainstream Education

Netherlands:Separate Special Education Needs Provision in Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Support Measures for Learners in Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Guidance and Counselling in Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Support Measures for Learners in Higher Education

Netherlands:Guidance and Counselling in Higher Education

Netherlands:Support Measures for Learners in Adult Education and Training

Netherlands:Guidance and Counselling in a Lifelong Learning Approach

Netherlands:Mobility and Internationalisation

Netherlands:Mobility in Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Mobility in Higher Education

Netherlands:Mobility in Adult Education and Training

Netherlands:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Higher Education

Netherlands:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Adult Education and Training

Netherlands:Bilateral Agreements and Worldwide Cooperation

Netherlands:Ongoing Reforms and Policy Developments

Netherlands:National Reforms in Early Childhood Education and Care

Netherlands:National Reforms in School Education

Netherlands:National Reforms in Vocational Education and Training and Adult Learning

Netherlands:National Reforms in Higher Education

Netherlands:National Reforms related to Transversal Skills and Employability

Netherlands:European Perspective

Netherlands:Legislation

Netherlands:Institutions

Netherlands:Bibliography

Netherlands:Glossary

Quality of higher education
The government wants to further improve the quality of higher education in the Netherlands. It has decided to overhaul the student finance system so that more funding can be invested directly into improving the quality of and access to higher education. See section 14.3 for more information about the changes to student finance.

Responsible bodies


Under the Higher Education and Research Act (WHW) and the Education Inspection Act (WOT), the task of supervising higher education falls to the Education Inspectorate.

Quality
The institutions themselves bear primary responsibility for the quality of education provided. Quality assurance is provided through an accreditation system run by the Netherlands-Flanders Accreditation Organisation (NVAO). The government only recognises and provides funding to courses accredited by the NVAO. The Inspectorate supervises the overall functioning of the accreditation system.

The NVAO is a member of the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) – an umbrella organisation which represents its members at the European level and internationally, especially in political decision-making processes and in relation to stakeholder organisations. ENQA aims to maintain high quality standards in European higher education, and boost this quality where necessary.

The Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science is a governmental member of the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR). The EQAR is a register of agencies that review the quality of higher education institutions, such as the NVAO and QANU, which primarily assesses degree courses and research programmes offered by Dutch universities. QANU is also a member of ENQA.

Teaching and examination regulations
As far as teaching is concerned, the government lays down the framework within which institutions must operate; it is the responsibility of the administration of the higher education institution to expand on this framework in the teaching and examination regulations. These lay down for every course provided at the institution such matters as the syllabus, its quality, the main degree subjects and detailed regulations with regard to the content and organisation of the various examinations.

 

Approaches and Methods for Quality Assurance

External evaluation in higher education

Under the Higher Education and Research Act (WHW 1993), the task of supervising higher education falls to the Education Inspectorate, under the authority of the Minister of Education, Culture and Science. The Inspectorate supervises both individual institutions and the system as a whole, including the system of accreditation.

Tasks of the Inspectorate

  1. The Inspectorate evaluates and promotes the quality of the higher education system as a whole, and reports its findings in thematic reports,* its annual Education Report and in sectoral reports.
  2. The Inspectorate evaluates and promotes the quality of the Dutch system of accreditation. It does not oversee the NVAO, but rather monitors the functioning of the accreditation system in the Netherlands on the basis of a separate inspection framework (not yet published).
  3. The Inspectorate assesses and promotes financial regularity, efficiency and continuity at higher education institutions funded by the government.
  4. The Inspectorate may carry out extra inspections at individual institutions in response to serious complaints or signals it has received. Although the Inspectorate does not deal with complaints, they can be a signal of insufficient quality or poor compliance with legislation at the institution in question. Signals about possible shortcomings may also arise during inspection of the higher education system.
  5. The Inspectorate advises the Minister on applications from legal entities seeking to join the system of recognised higher education.
  • One of the Inspectorate’s tasks is to review and promote the quality of the higher education system. To this end it conducts sector-wide studies on key themes. The topics of these theme inspections are announced in the Inspectorate’s annual work plan. The Inspectorate integrates its theme inspections and studies initiated by the Ministry in an informative agreement with the Association of Universities in the Netherlands and the Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences. A key issue in the next informative agreement will be reducing the administrative burden associated with inspections.

The Inspectorate supervises higher education institutions’ compliance with legislation, especially with regard to:

  • registration, admission and information;
  • teaching and examination regulations;
  • study load;
  • examination procedure and award of degrees;
  • quality assurance and governance;
  • participation in decision-making, and legal protection;
  • annual reporting by government-funded and non-government-funded institutions.

Generally, the Inspectorate focuses on a particular aspect of the law or conducts a check of compliance at a particular institution, for instance in response to signals of repeated violations of the law. The Inspectorate also examines the way in which the executive board and supervisory board ensure compliance with legislation.

Finally, the Inspectorate addresses specific higher education themes in its theme inspections. Inspections may also be conducted at the Minister’s request. One of the themes being investigated in 2014 is the quality of teaching staff in higher education.

Cooperation between the Inspectorate and the NVAO
The Education Inspectorate and the NVAO have agreed on a cooperation protocol to create a structured, effective and coherent system of external supervision and quality assurance for the higher education sector. The protocol sets out how the two bodies work together in carrying out their statutory tasks.

The Inspectorate monitors higher education institutions’ compliance with legislation, financial regularity and continuity, as well as the quality of the higher education system as a whole. The NVAO is responsible for assessing the quality of individual programmes and quality assurance at higher education institutions. The competence to investigate the quality of teaching is vested exclusively in the NVAO.

The NVAO may initiate an investigation in cases where the quality of a course or programme is at risk. If an institution appears to not fully comply with legislation, it is the Inspectorate that launches an investigation. Thanks to this protocol, the NVAO’s and the Inspectorate’s investigations are complementary, thus preventing duplication of efforts or inspections.

In the Netherlands the NVAO assesses programmes at government-funded institutions (universities and institutions of higher professional education) and recognised private institutions. The NVAO maintains a database of accredited higher education programmes and courses in the Netherlands and Flanders. The accreditation decision and the assessment report of every accredited programme can also be accessed through the database. The database does not replace the official register, the Central Register of Higher Education Study Programmes (CROHO; site only in Dutch available).

Accreditation
An accreditation system was introduced in the Netherlands in 2003. Accreditation is a ‘formal and independent decision, indicating that an institution or programme meets certain predefined quality standards’. Higher education programmes must be accredited in order to receive funding or recognition from the government. Institutions’ boards are responsible for ensuring timely accreditation from the Netherlands-Flanders Accreditation Organisation (NVAO). Both new and existing courses have to be accredited.

Institutions’ boards initiate the accreditation procedure themselves by asking a review and assessment board (VBI) to assess the quality of a particular programme or course. The VBI visits the institution and considers the self-evaluation before drawing up a report. The NVAO carefully examines the VBI’s assessment and, if it accepts the VBI’s conclusions, issues an accreditation decision. The NVAO does not conduct assessments itself. The NVAO maintains a list of recognised VBIs.

The accreditation system compromises six types of assessment:

  1. an assessment of institutional quality assurance. This concerns the institution as a whole;
  2. a short assessment of a course or programme, based on a limited number of criteria, conducted at institutions with a satisfactory assessment of institutional quality assurance;
  3. a full assessment of a course or programme, based on a comprehensive list of criteria. This has to be performed at institutions with a negative assessment of institutional quality assurance or those that failed to request such an assessment;
  4. a short assessment of a new course or programme, based on a limited number of criteria, conducted at institutions with a satisfactory assessment of institutional quality assurance;
  5. a full assessment of a new course or programme, based on a comprehensive list of criteria. This has to be performed at institutions with a negative assessment of institutional quality assurance or those that failed to request such an assessment;
  6. an assessment to check whether an institution or programme is distinctive.

More information about the assessment frameworks can be found here (only in Dutch available).

In turn, the Inspectorate monitors the operation of the accreditation system by means of:

  • systematic research into the system’s operation;
  • analysis of the NVAO’s work, notably its assessments of the quality of courses and  how they are arrived at.

The Inspectorate publishes the results of these inspections in its annual Education Report or in separate reports (only in Dutch available).

Internal evaluation in higher education

The boards of higher education institutions are responsible for the quality of their teaching and for the system they use to guarantee that quality. Such a system must include internal evaluation, or self-evaluation. An internal evaluation of a course must cover all the topics, aspects and criteria set out in the assessment frameworks drawn up by the Netherlands-Flanders Accreditation Organisation (NVAO) and the review and assessment boards (VBIs). If courses are offered in different modes (full-time, part-time, or dual courses combining working and learning), each should be described and evaluated separately.

In the self-evaluation, the institution must also give its assessment of the level (Bachelor’s or Master’s) and orientation of the course (higher professional education or university), and the grounds on which it bases its assessment. It must also indicate whether the course is aimed at first-degree candidates or postgraduates.

Institutions’ system of quality assurance may include:

  • clearly formulated course objectives;
  • a monitoring system from which it is possible to see whether the objectives are indeed being achieved. This includes a properly functioning system for recording students’ progress and the keeping of records on success rates and the number of students who drop out;
  • evaluation. This is the final and most important link in the process of quality assurance. A distinction is made between internal evaluation (by the staff concerned) and external evaluation (by external experts).

Internal evaluations may look at the following areas:

  • teaching;
  • exit qualifications;
  • content;
  • teaching process;
  • success rate and parameters;
  • services to the community;
  • the institution’s policy.

The supervisory board is responsible for monitoring compliance with statutory requirements and for the form of the quality assurance system.

Evaluating teaching staff in higher education

The Education Report contains the Inspectorate’s evaluation of teaching staff in higher education. The evaluation may be based in part on students’ satisfaction ratings. On average, students at HBO institutions in the Netherlands give their teachers a score of 3.6 out of five. University students give teaching staff a 3.7.

Students at HBO institutions particularly value their teachers’ knowledge about professional practice, while university students most value expertise. Students were less positive about availability, didactic skills, involvement and feedback (source: National Students’ Survey, only in Dutch available).

The Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) has established a basic teaching standard (BKO) for higher education. The certificate, which can be attained by teaching staff at universities, gives proof of didactic competence. In 2007, 983 lecturers and professors, out of a total population of about 8,000 academics involved in teaching, were BKO-certified. By 2011 the number had increased to more than 2,200 out of a population of about 8,800. A similar standard (BKB) was introduced for institutions of higher professional education.