Symposium Accountability and promoting quality in higher education

Does accreditation meet the objectives and how can it be improved? How can we best assess and improve higher education? To stimulate debate about improving the present system of accreditation, Leiden University is organising an international symposium on 3 June on international trends and developments in accreditation.

Improving feedback and dialogue

Increasing attention is being paid in international circles to improving education. The development and organisation of accreditation systems is also the subject of academic study and a number of international publications have already appeared on the issue. There are several important themes in this debate: the increasing emphasis on accountability; the balance between accountability and improvement; strengthening the support from important stakeholders; improving feedback and dialogue; and stimulating confidence. The Netherlands is one of the countries in Europe that is at the forefront of the accreditation of education. Many programmes in higher education have now undergone their second assessment. And on the basis of the experiences of previous years, questions are now being raised about whether the present system meets the objectives, and how the system can be further improved. This symposium aims to make a contribution to the discussion.


13.30 ‑ 14.00 Welcome and reception
14.00 - 14.15 Short introduction to the symposium, Prof.dr.S.E.Buitendijk, Vice-Rector Magnificus, Leiden University
14.15 - 15.00 Balancing Accountability and Trust: Mission impossible? Prof.dr. Bjorn Stensaker, University of Oslo

Abstract: In recent decades a number of accountability measures have been established in various European higher education systems. While such initiatives are legitimate, there are also potential costs and unintended effects associated with such measures. Not least, is evidence that accountability measures intended to build trust may have paradoxical effects. Hence, finding a good balance between accountability and trust can be seen as a fundamental challenge in many countries. In this presentation, various current accountability mechanisms will be analyzed more closely, and a more multi-dimensional approach to accountability in Europe will be put forward.

15.00 - 15.45 Quality: indicators, indications and quality improvement Dr. Don Westerheijden, CHEPS, University of Twente

Abstract: Quality assurance is strongly influenced by the need for external accountability. Measurable indicators are therefore paid greater attention than more relevant, though ‘softer’, indications of quality of education. Could the recent introduction of institutional audits and limited programme accreditation counter this situation and create room for quality enhancement? Which indicators would be relevant (and measurable) in order to achieve that aim? This presentation will address these questions, and will give a critical review of the current quality assurance system in the Netherlands.

15.45 - 16.15 Break
16.15 - 16.45 Dutch accreditation process: a study of the methodology and the personal experiences of academic staff, Prof.dr. S.E. Buitendijk

Abstract: In an evaluation study at Leiden University, members of the academic staff were questioned extensively and in a structured manner regarding their personal experiences with the accreditation system in higher education. Further, a detailed methodological analysis was carried out of the assessment process itself. The study has shown that the present method of accreditation does not sufficiently inspire improvement in teaching quality and that the assessment process raises a number of questions from a methodological perspective. This session will address the possible implications of these findings for the Dutch accreditation system in higher education.

16.45 - 17.15 Panel discussion
17.15 – 18.00 Drinks

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Accountability and promoting quality in higher education: two sides of the same coin?


Tuesday June 3rd 2014, 1.30 pm – 5.15 pm


Universiteit Leiden, Academy building, Klein Auditorium, Rapenburg 73, Leiden

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Last Modified: 26-05-2014