Overview of QA Bodies
Agency of Quality Assurance in Higher Education
Quality assurance in higher education in Albania is carried out through the Agency of Quality Assurance in Higher Education (AQAHE) and the Accreditation Board (AB).
AQAHE is the one and only institution in the country which oversees and assesses the quality in higher education. It’s a central public institution sponsored by state budget and its own revenues. AQAHE is independent in composing and consenting its own procedures, criteria and review forms, in selecting review experts and teams, composing the content and results of academic quality review reports.
AQAHE is guided by internal instructions and the Quality Code of Higher Education, which is being updated with the European standards and guidelines in the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). Its goal is a) quality assurance in higher education through external, objective and independent review, b) safeguarding of quality standards, c) promotion and enhancement of quality in HEIs and their study programmes.
AQAHE’s main competences include:
- external quality review for the first and recurring accreditation of HEIs and the study programmes they offer;
- supervision, review of academic quality and its compliance with the quality standards of HEIs and study programs offered by them previous to the first accreditation and subsequently;
- initial review in the framework of setting up and/or reshuffle of HEIs and study programmes enquired by the ministry responsible for education;
- initial review and recognition of study programmes offered in Albanian accredited HEIs by foreign HEIs from countries of European Union, United States of America, Canada and Australia;
- regular - once in three years - review of the teaching quality in HEIs and its unceasing examination through the National Students’ Survey in line with its instructions;
- review of internal quality systems (auditing) in HEIs in compliance with the standards for quality assurance in the EHEA;
- thematic, analytical and comparative reviews of HEIs and/or study programmes in the context of higher education policies, autonomously or by demand of the ministry responsible for education.
The Accreditation Board
In addition to AQAHE the Accreditation Board (AB) is set up and performs as a collegiate decision-making body and impartial in its activity. The Accreditation Board is made up of eleven members out of which three between five are foreign citizens. The Chair and all members of AB have at least ten years’ experience in academic and research institutions in the country and beyond, along with scientific grade/academic title or at least five years’ experience in the field of quality assurance in higher education.
The Accreditation Board is the successor of the Accreditation Council established for the first time according to previous Law 9741 date 21.05.2007 “On Higher Education”.
Based on the relevant decision of Council of Ministers the Accreditation Board is composed by 11 members from which a minimum of 5 and a maximum of 11 shall be foreign experts. The head and members of this board shall have an experience of at least 10 years on academic research institutions both national and foreign ones and are selected and appointed to duty by the Prime Minister based on proposal of the Minister responsible for Education.
The new Law on higher education and scientific research no 80/2015 provides the AB the power to reach the final decision on the accreditation of HEIs and the programs they offer, contrarily to the law of 2007 which stipulated the final decision power to the minister of education.
The duties and responsibilities of the Accreditation Board as stipulated in the relevant Decision of Council of Ministers are:
- Examination of final external review reports towards first and cyclic accreditation, institutional accreditation and study programmes accreditation, and takes the definitive (positive or negative) decision for their accreditation. Duration and terms of accreditation validity are subject to the level of compliance with the quality standards and could not be longer than six years. Official accreditation certificate is issued within one month after final decision has been taken.
- Scrutiny of preliminary review reports when opening and/or reshuffling of HEIs and their study programmes, and suggests to the minister responsible for education final positive or negative decisions to this regard.
- In case of joint study programmes being offered jointly by Albanian and foreign HEIs, or offered by branches of foreign HEIs performing their activities in the Republic of Albania, the AB when deciding on their accreditation, considers the foreign accreditation in its origin country.
- The AB decisions are governed by the Code of Administrative Procedures in the Republic of Albania. AB decision is final and to be respected. The decisions of AB may be appealed by the affected party in accordance with the deadlines provided for in the legislation in force.
- Approval of the specific selection criteria for national and international review experts, as well as consent of those experts’ annual listing to be engaged in particular and short-term teams according to their academic fields based on AQAHE and ENQA’s/EQAR’s listings.
- Assessment of instructions about internal and external quality processes, compiled and proposed by AQAHE in addition to AQAHE’s internal performing guideline.
- Acknowledgement of National Students’ Survey (NSS) approach and tools about the teaching quality submitted by AQAHE besides the analysis of NSS final statements ahead of their publication.
- Consent of accreditation certificate model and form prepared by AQAHE, etc.
- Upon HEI’s request, the AB indorses the external quality review by a foreign agency, member of ENQA (Article 15/3 Law 80/2015)
- AQAHE and AB are financed by the state budget and the revenue resulting from AQAHE’s doings: review fees, trainings income, earnings from services offered, as well as any other legal sources. External quality review fees to be paid by HEIs are settled on by decision of Council of Ministers. AQAHE may utilise up to 90% of its earnings and the income using scheme is endorsed by the Ministry of Finance.
- AQAHE works together with all stakeholders of the European area of quality assurance, particularly with QAA (Quality Assurance Agency) and CHE (Centre for Higher Education), it is associated member of ENQA (European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education), full rights member of CEENQA (Central and Eastern European Network of Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education) and of INQAAHE (International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education).
(Source: Eurydice, page updated 28 March, 2019)