Accreditation and Quality Control
Accreditation of degree programmes A degree programme leads to a bachelor’s, master’s or PhD degree. The system of accreditation in higher education aims to guarantee that study programmes meet the highest standards. The law – the Accreditation of Higher Education Act 2002 – requires that all degree programmes offered by universities and universities of professional education be evaluated against a specific set of criteria. Programmes that meet the criteria are accredited (i.e. officially recognized).
Higher education in Holland enjoys a worldwide reputation for its high quality. This is achieved through a national system of regulation and quality assurance. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (www.minocw.nl) is responsible for legislation pertaining to education. See also www.qa-in.nl. If you look for an international programme or course in the database at www.studyin.nl, you will notice that the status of individual programmes is indicated by icons.
The accreditation of programmes is an ongoing process, which began in 2003, and it will take several years before all existing and new programmes have been reviewed and accredited. In the meantime it has been decided that those programmes which have been approved under the old system of quality assurance are also granted the status of accredited programme. Institutions may also offer bachelor’s, master’s or other programmes that have not been accredited by the NVAO, but by a body in another country. For example a master’s programme offered by a Dutch university of professional education, but validated by an accredited British university.
Quality control of specialized courses A specialized course does not lead to a degree, but to a certificate or diploma. As these courses do not lead to a bachelor’s or master’s degree, they cannot be submitted for accreditation by the NVAO. The fact that a specialized course has not been accredited does not therefore mean that it does not meet quality criteria. The quality of specialized courses that are part of an accredited master’s programme is assured through the accreditation of the main programme. For other sorts of specialized courses, a procedure is currently being prepared so that institutions are able to declare that the course meets a minimum set of quality criteria.
Accredited programmes will be listed in the Central Register of Higher Education Programmes (CROHO). Responsibility for accreditation has been allocated to the Netherlands-Flemish Accreditation Organization (see www.nvao.net). Students will be awarded recognized degrees only after completing an accredited degree programme. Only degree programmes can be accredited by the NVAO.
22 Study in Holland
The Dutch way of teaching
Respect for each individual’s opinions and convictions is a national virtue that gives strength to the fabric of Holland’s diverse and plural society. This is the foundation of the teaching method used at the Dutch educational institutions.
Brenda Madrazo Gonzalez (24), Mexico
Holland provides more opportunities
Research Master in Human Geography and Planning, Utrecht University
Holland is a good option for someone who wants to study in Europe. Holland and the UK are recognized as prime places for programmes taught in English. However, the UK is very expensive, so Holland provides more opportunities. What’s more, there are almost no two-year master’s programmes in the UK, whereas in Holland there are many. In this regard, I find two-year master’s programmes much more attractive. In one year, you barely have time to settle down, make friends, do research, write a thesis and get ready to leave. In two years, you can experience the full cycle much better, and you can take more advantage of being abroad. Holland also offers good opportunities to get scholarships, which is not only really helpful, but essential. My programme is quite interesting and I’m enjoying it very much. I looked hard to find an English-taught master’s programme that precisely combined geography and planning, and this is the only one. So I was quite sure I wanted to study in Utrecht. Only the Christmas break is disappointing. Usually you get papers or exams to do, so it’s not a real break in which you can go back home to visit family and friends. For the rest, it is nice that you can decide for yourself how to manage your time. However, I find that making plans with Dutch students is more difficult since they totally rely on their agendas, which are already full for the next coming weeks! There is not much room for spontaneity. This country is fascinating, definitely a place to experience. I like people’s sense of proximity, efficiency and movement, especially in terms of going from one city to another for an event on the same day. I’ve been travelling around a lot and every city has something to offer. Moreover, there are many cheap flights to other places in Europe, so Holland provides a great opportunity to see Europe.