How our quality assurance works
Central to this quality cycle is the three-yearly strategic plan. It acts as a framework for planned management and future-oriented study programme policies. In this framework, the study programme formulates its longer-term objectives and identifies a limited number of priorities. The study programme can also explicitly indicate how it responds to the central or faculty educational policy.
The faculties are responsible for continuous monitoring of the strategic plan. The central bodies review the strategy plan every three years. This is done internally through the follow-up meeting and externally through the peer review. The sequence when the cycle starts (internal follow-up meeting first or peer review first) is set out in the calendar (download at the bottom of this page).
The peer review (every six years) focuses on discussing, monitoring, and possibly revising the strategy plan. The study programme engages in dialogue with internal peers and external experts to obtain substantive feedback on the profile, the programme, and the final level of the programme of study. The outcome of the peer review is not a judgement, but takes the form of a report with recommendations. The programme updates its strategy plan based on this input.
The Education Quality Council takes a formal decision 6 months after the Peer Review about the quality and functioning of a programme on behalf of the institution's management. This decision is the final component in the quality cycle and indicates the degree of confidence in the policy-making capacity of the study programme. A formal guarantee decision takes one of three forms. “Good", “Satisfactory with recommendations" or "Unsatisfactory".
In between two peer reviews, the progress of the strategic plan is discussed during an internal follow-up meeting with the Vice Rector for Education and Student Affairs (OS). Here, the focus is on central policy issues and the adequacy of support from OS. The follow-up meeting results in a number of bilateral agreements on further support and possible revision of the strategy plan. Support at any point in the quality cycle is available from Education & Student Affairs and tailored to the strategic plan and needs of the study programme. That support is provided as much as possible from an interdisciplinary perspective, with combined use of quality assurance instruments (focus discussion, benchmarking, fieldwork survey, etc.) and initiatives from educational professionalisation and innovation.
In addition to being transparent about its quality assurance system, VUB is also transparent about the quality of its study programmes and publishes Public Information about this for each programme.
Our quality cycle dissected...
The central process in the quality cycle and in the functioning of the course councils is the strategic plan. The three-yearly strategy plan urges study programmes to formulate longer-term objectives and identify a limited number of priority topics around which a programme intends to work over a three-year period. The strategic plan also allows for the explicit indication of how the programme responds to the central or faculty educational policy.
The quality assurance tools (focus discussion, benchmarking, fieldwork survey, etc.) are utilised based on the priorities defined in the strategy plan. The support offered by Education and Student Affairs is also customised according to the study programme's strategic plan.
The strategic plan serves as a framework for planned management and future-oriented educational policy. It is the basis for the various core processes in the cycle. Discussion, monitoring, and possible revision of the strategic plan are the focus of the 6-yearly Peer Reviews, the interim follow-up meetings with Education and Student Affairs, and the formal assessment of the quality of individual study programmes by the Educational Quality Council.
Between 31 March and 31 October 2021, a first strategic plan has been submitted by all course councils. Education and Student Affairs provides a template and support for this purpose. The faculty approves the strategic plans in advance and sends these to the Vice Rector for Education and Student Affairs.
The strategic plan is then discussed for the first time with a panel of experts (within the framework of the Peer Review) or with Education and Student Affairs (during the interim internal follow-up discussion), depending on the timing set in the calendar of Peer Reviews and follow-up discussions. The relevant Faculty is responsible for the interim follow-up of the plans.
Six-yearly Peer Review
From the academic year 2021-2022 onwards, the renewed quality cycle will start with six-yearly Peer Reviews, the planning of which is set out in a calendar. We emphasise dialogue with peers in the Peer Review. The purpose of the Peer Review is to obtain substantive feedback on the profiling, the programme and the final level of the programme. The study programme is therefore the result of dialogue with internal peers and external experts related to the professional field.
During the Peer Review, plans for the future (i.e., the strategic plan) are also discussed. In preparation for a planned Peer Review, a course council evaluates its strategic plan (what action has been taken, what is still planned, have other priorities arisen,...) and, if applicable, draws up an adjustment of the strategic plan for the coming three-year period. The evaluation of the current plan and any proposals for revision are presented during the Peer Review.
The outcome of the Peer Review is not a judgement, but takes the form of a report with recommendations with which the study programme can set to work. Based on the input and the recommendations of the Peer Review panel, the programme updates its strategic plan if necessary.
In parallel with the possible adjustment of the strategic plan, the quality assurance officer writes a proposal for public information. This identifies the strengths and development opportunities of the study programme. The possibly updated strategic plan and public information are discussed and approved at a course council meeting. Both documents are submitted to the Education Quality Council together with reports of the course council from the past year (including the report of the approval of the strategic plan and the public information).
In consultation with Education & Student Affairs, course councils can also opt for a visitation of the study programmes for which they are responsible by an external quality assurance and/or accreditation body. These study programmes simply follow the quality cycle, but external visitation takes the place of the Peer Review.
Education Quality Council
The Education Quality Council has been mandated by the Academic Council to periodically formally assess the quality of individual study programmes and to record this assessment in a quality assurance decision. The purpose of the Education Quality Council (KRO) is thus to take a formal decision on behalf of the institution's management about the quality and functioning of a study programme. With this, the institutional board assumes final responsibility for the quality of the study programmes. This formal decision is the final component in the quality cycle and indicates the degree of confidence in the policy-making capacity of the programme.
Education Quality Council
Quality assurance decision
The KRO takes its decision on the basis of a dossier of the programme. This dossier consists of existing documents:
- the report of the recent Peer Review (or, if applicable, a recent report of an external review body),
- the strategy plan,
- the proposal of public information,
- programme-related data from central monitoring instruments, and
- the reports of the course council of the last year.
The KRO deliberates on the basis of this dossier. A representative of the faculty concerned is heard if the faculty so requests. The KRO takes a formal quality assurance decision which can take three forms: “Good", "Satisfactory with recommendations" or "Unsatisfactory":
Quality assurance decision 'Good’ - If the KRO establishes that the quality of educationis actively monitored by the responsible programme council, the KRO awards a positive decision, 'Good'. Thus, the KRO confirms its confidence in the study programme. The programme can continue its planned policy and can therefore continue to implement the strategy plan without substantial revision. The KRO can make suggestions if required. The public information is submitted to the Academic Council and published on the website. An interim follow-up meeting with Education and Student Affairs is planned three years after the Peer Review has taken place (see c) and a new Peer Review is planned.
Quality assurance decision ‘Satisfactory with recommendations” - If the KRO determines that the quality of education is being actively monitored by the responsible programme council but, on the basis of the information collected, feels that urgent action is needed, a study programme receives a positive decision with conditions 'Satisfactory with recommendations'. The KRO then includes specific recommendations in the strategy plan that must be addressed by the study programme as a priority. These priority recommendations are also included in the public information that is approved by the Academic Council before it is published. During the internal follow-up interview after 3 years, the study programme is expected to provide an evaluation of the implementation of the strategy plan with a focus on the priority recommendations, as well as an updated strategy plan for the next 3 years. The results of the follow-up interview are submitted to the KRO. The KRO takes a new 'Good' or 'Unsatisfactory' quality assurance decision based on this. If the decision is "Good", a Peer Review is scheduled three years after the internal follow-up, and if it is "Unsatisfactory", binding measures are imposed.
Quality assurance decision 'Unsatisfactory’ - If the KRO determines that the quality of the study programme is insufficiently monitored by the relevant programme council, the KRO takes the decision 'Unsatisfactory'. The KRO proposes one or more of the following mandatory measures to the Academic Council:
- A guidance committee is appointed, consisting of internal and possibly also external experts, who draw up an improvement plan together with the study programme and supervise the implementation of that plan. The internal supervisory committee reports on progress to the KRO. The KRO takes a new quality assurance decision within two years at the latest.
- The study programme is screened in the next year by an ad hoc panel of external experts. The result of the external review is submitted to the KRO, which makes a new quality assurance decision based on this within 2 years of the first decision.
If, according to the KRO, there is a major substantive quality problem that affects the value of the diploma awarded, the study programme is temporarily frozen.
Education Quality Council
The KRO has the following members:
- Chairman: Prof. Dr. Em. Yvette Michotte (until the end of 2022)
- 4 ZAP members, not members of the Academic Council (appointed by the Education Council):
- Prof. Dr. Gustaaf Cornelis (MILO/LW)
- Prof. Dr. Nikolaos Deligiannis (WE/IR)
- Prof. Dr. Marie-Anne Guerry (ES)
- Prof. Dr. Eric Kerckhofs (LK)
- 1 ATP member with educational expertise: Dr. Céline Cocquyt
- 1 AAP/BAP member (appointed by the Education Council): Dr. Arne Van Antwerpen (AAP, WE)
- 1 student (appointed by the Student Council)
- 2 external members (on the proposal of the Vice Rector for Education and Student Affairs)
- Secretary: Mr Wim Van Gorp (OS)
- Acting Member Head of Department for Quality Assurance and Educational Professionalisation: Dr. Steven Van Luchene
Education Quality Council
The Education Quality Council is responsible for:
- periodically determining the quality of the individual study programmes on the basis of the various elements of the VUB quality cycle;
- recording the findings of each study programme in a formal quality guarantee decision and a proposal for public information to the Academic Council;
- proposing binding measures to the Academic Council if the quality of a study programme is unsatisfactory;
- advising the Academic Council on questions of revision of already published public information;
- proposing themes for university-wide analyses to the Academic Council;
- carrying out an urgent quality assessment at the request of the Vice Rector for Education.
- reflecting regularly on the quality cycle of VUB and making possible revision proposals to the Academic Council.
Internal follow-up meeting
Between two Peer Reviews, an internal follow-up meeting is scheduled with Education and Student Affairs. The planning is delineated in the calendar.
The purpose of the internal follow-up interview is to discuss the progress, in consultation with the Vice Rector for Education and Student Affairs, of the strategic plan with a focus on support from Education and Student Affairs. The aim is to ensure that support remains well aligned with training priorities. There may also be an examination of whether and how themes from the central policy (e.g., Brussels in education, community engaged learning, blended learning, interdisciplinarity,...) are reflected in the strategic plan. In preparation for the internal follow-up meeting, the study programme takes stock of the implementation of the strategic plan over the past three years and, if applicable, draws up an adjustment of those plans for the coming three-year period.
The outcome of the internal follow-up meeting is not an assessment, but takes the form of bilateral agreements on further support from the OS and on the possible adjustment of the strategy plan. The public information can then be updated at the suggestion of the study programme. The updated public information is then endorsed by the Academic Council before publication.
What is public information?
The information on our educational quality is publicly available. The relevant information is collected in these pages to provide a clear picture of how quality is ensured and monitored.
In addition, each individual study programme has publicly accessible information that reflects the quality of the programme. We call this 'public information'. This information sheet contains concise descriptions of the study programme's strengths and mentions priority actions and development opportunities.
Public information on the study programme
Specifically, you will find the following information on the sheet:
- the date of publication or of the last update of information
- a timeline of the quality cycle of the study programme: date of the last peer review/external visit, date of the last focus discussion with students, date of the last benchmark, date of the last professional field survey, date of the next peer review/external visit
- a link to the website of Educational quality where more information on the VUB quality cycle can be found
- a brief description of the strengths of the study programme
- a brief description of the development opportunities of the study programme
- a brief description of priority action points on which the study programme is or will be working.
Where can the public information be found?
The public information sheet can be found on the programme page of the relevant study programme, via the 'quality tab'.
The Flemish Quality Assurance System for higher education assigns a crucial role to information about the quality of education that must be made public. Universities and colleges of higher education are given more autonomy than before to guarantee the quality of their own study programmes, but this is balanced by a clear duty of accountability: each institution is required by decree to be transparent about the quality of its study programmes. A sufficient amount of correct information on the quality of education must be made publicly available for each study programme. In the words of the Explanatory Memorandum to the Quality Care Decree:
"Transparency within the system and towards broader society is an essential part of the quality assurance system. The obligation for institutions to make information on the quality of study programmes public is one of the qualityfeatures. Thus, making information public will also be subject to constant review in the new system."
How does public information come about?
Public information is drawn up as soon as the report of a peer review or an external review committee is available, according to this roadmap:
- The quality assurance officer prepares a first draft.
- The quality assurance officer sends the draft to the course council no later than three working weeks after the finalisation of the report of the peer review/the external review committee.
- The course council discusses and finalises the draft for public information and submits it (as part of the programme dossier) to the Education Quality Council (KRO).
- The Education Quality Council discusses and finalises a final version of the public information and provides the final text to the Academic Council.
- The Academic Council ratifies the text and has the public information published by OS.
The public information is updated as standard after three years, based on the mid-term follow-up interview between OS and the educational institution. In addition, course councils can ask the KRO to update the public information on their own initiative. Such a request consists of a brief but motivated explanation of the requested changes. The KRO then takes a decision on the changes, which are ratified by the Academic Council.
What sources is the information based on?
The tone of the text is constructive. The stated strengths, development opportunities, and action points can be traced back to at least one of the following sources:
- previous public information
- the report of the peer and its possible discussion in the course council;
- the SWOT analysis carried out by the study programme in preparation for the peer review;
- the results from the student and/or the most recent focus discussion with students and the possible discussion thereof during the course council meeting;
- the results from the latest benchmarking, professional field survey and/or alumni questionnaire and the possible discussion thereof during the course council meeting;
- reports of the course council;
- the (draft) strategic plan of the study programme