External quality assurance
Since the signing of the Bologna Declaration in 1999, when the European Union decided to adopt the Bachelor-Master structure, many European countries have switched to quality assurance systems. Following the example of many other European countries, an accreditation system was introduced in the Netherlands to determine whether study programmes satisfy basic quality criteria.
Accreditation in the Netherlands
In the Netherlands, accreditation (“the issuing of a quality mark indicating that certain standards have been met”) is a condition for the financing of a Bachelor or Master programme by the government, for the right to issue certified diplomas and a condition for the conferment of student grants. In light of the internationalisation of academic study and the jobs market, accreditation provides for (comparable) quality assurance of study programmes in higher education. The Netherlands has chosen to conduct accreditation at the level of degree programmes for a number of reasons, one of which being to improve the international profile of high education because that impacts favourably on the exchange of students and their preparation for the international jobs market.
The Dutch-Flemish Accreditation Organisation (NVAO) is an external agency that was established to safeguard the quality of higher education in both the Netherlands and Flanders. Programmes are required to be accredited every six years. Accreditation is issued based on a report made by a review and assessment board (VBI). This report is based on a programme visitation. The institution sends this report at least a year before the current accreditation period expires to NVAO which checks to see whether the report satisfies the requirements. NVAO then decides whether to issue accreditation.
In the 2002-2003 academic year, Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management (ESHPM) introduced the Bachelor-Master system, starting with the Health Sciences and Health Policy & Management (BMG) Bachelor programmes and, a year later, in September 2003, the Health Care Management (Zoma) and Health Economics, Policy & Law (HEPL) Master programmes. The Health Sciences programme (BMG) has received a positive accreditation assessment from a review and assessment board, the Quality Assurance Netherlands Universities Foundation (QANU). In addition to the Bachelor programme, the Zoma and HEPL Master programmes were also positively assessed. Erasmus University then submitted these reports to NVAO, which decided to issue accreditation to all initial degree programmes offered by ESHPM. ESHPM is accredited up to and including 2017 for all of its initial programmes.