Facts and Figures
AQAS – Agency for Quality Assurance through Accreditation of Study Programmes – is an independent non-profit organisation, supported by more than 90 member institutions, both higher education institutions (HEIs) and academic associations. AQAS was founded in 2002 and has accredited more than 5.400 degree programmes at universities and universities of applied sciences so far, including numerous programmes outside of Germany. In October 2008, the German Accreditation Council granted permission to AQAS to accredit quality assurance systems of higher education institutions as well.
Background: the German accreditation system
In Germany, independent, non-governmental agencies are responsible for carrying out accreditation procedures of study programmes or HEI quality assurance systems. These agencies operate on a non-profit basis, and as they are not funded by the state, they charge the HEIs for the costs of accreditation. At present, there are 10 active agencies which, in turn, have to be accredited and re-accredited by the German Accreditation Council. The latter was established by the Länder (states) of the Federal Republic of Germany in order to define standards for accreditation processes and to ensure that accreditation occurs according to reliable, transparent, and internationally accepted criteria. AQAS was successfully reaccredited in 2007 and 2012.
An interdisciplinary agency
The activities of AQAS in accreditation are not restrained to specific academic disciplines or degrees. AQAS carries out accreditation procedures for study programmes in all academic disciplines. Additionally AQAS has a large experience in accrediting teaching degree programmes.
Structure of AQAS
The following chart shows the organisational structure of AQAS. In order to guarantee independence and a high level of quality of internal procedures AQAS operates through various commissions and internal units with different tasks.
The General Assembly represents all member institutions and meets once a year to – amongst other responsibilities – biannually elect the Management Board. The Management Board takes all strategic decisions, reports to the general assembly once a year, appoints the members of the accreditation commissions and deals with complaints and appeals. In both accreditation commissions, there are members from HEIs, representatives of professional practice, students as well foreign experts. The accreditation commissions define all processes for accreditation procedures, formally open accreditation procedures, nominate the expert groups, take decisions on accreditation on the basis of the expert groups’ reports and deal with complaints and appeals, if necessary.
The operational part of the accreditation procedures (coordination and organisation) takes place in the Head Office located in Cologne. At present, there are two managing directors, 14 consultants, seven administrative employees and five student assistants working for AQAS. Download PDF
AQAS’ support in the accreditation procedure
AQAS offers information and support at all stages of the accreditation procedure, such as consultations at the beginning of an accreditation procedure and guidelines on how to produce the accreditation application. AQAS gives continuous feedback throughout the whole accreditation procedure. Panels of experts are individually chosen for each accreditation procedure. The experts are nominated by the AQAS accreditation commission. An AQAS consultant will accompany the panel during their visit to the HEI and will prepare the group for their task. The HEI is invited to make suggestions for the academic profile of the panel of experts. After the site visit a report will be written as a basis for the decision of the accreditation commission. The report is sent to the HEI for comments before it is forwarded to the accreditation commission. Once the accreditation procedure is finished, AQAS informs the HEI about the results. If required, appeal procedures are in place at all stages in the process.
AQAS is an institution involved in the creation of the European Higher Education Area. We are a full member of the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA), which represents various European organisations validating or developing quality assurance in HEIs. Therefore, AQAS is committed to act according the “European Standards and Guidelines“, approved by ENQA in 2005.
AQAS is also a founding member of the European Consortium for Accreditation (ECA). In 2004, all members signed a “Code of Good Practice” to ensure fair and transparent accreditation procedures. AQAS is listed in the European Quality Assurance Register (EQAR).
Internationality is included in AQAS’s work on the operational level as well: In the accreditation commissions and expert panels, frequently there are international members. AQAS successfully cooperates with various foreign accreditation agencies, especially when accrediting joint degree or double degree programmes. Special guidelines are available for these procedures. Representatives of foreign accreditation bodies can also participate in accreditation procedures as observers, if the HEI agrees.
Accreditation in international contexts
AQAS provides accreditation procedures not only for German HEIs but also for universities abroad. AQAS has coordinated accreditation procedures of joint and double degrees offered jointly by German universities with international partner institutions (e.g. between HEIs in Germany and China, France, Kazakstan, the Russian Federation, Jordan, Turkey, and Laos), but also programmes entirely provided by non-German universities (a detailed list of reference projects can be provided upon request).
When operating outside of Germany, AQAS follows the “European Standards and Guidelines” as criteria in the accreditation procedure. Upon successful completion of these international procedures, the AQAS seal is awarded, confirming that the program under review is in compliance with the European Standards and Guidelines.