Higher education quality assurance is the responsibility of the following bodies:
Academic Information Centre (AIC) – Quality Agency for Higher Education (AIKA) ensures licensing of study programmes, accreditation of HEIs and study fields, quality monitoring and improvement.
AIC is a full member of
- the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education – INQAAHE (since October 2015),
- the Central and Eastern European Network of Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education – CEENQA (since May 2016),
- European Consortium for Accreditation – ECA (since June 2017),
- CHEA (Council for Higher Education Accreditation in the United States) International Quality Group – CIQG (since January 2018) and
- the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education ENQA (since June 2018).
As a result of ENQA evaluation, by the end of 2018, AIC has been included in the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education – EQAR.
Higher Education Quality Assurance Council ensures strategic management and planning of the organisation of licensing of study programmes, accreditation of HEIs and study fields by AIC.
Ministry of Education and Science (MoES) during the licensing of study programmes or the accreditation of study fields, at the request by AIC, provides information on HEIs, which are included in the State and MoES registers. Following the receipt of a copy of the decision made by the study accreditation or licensing commission, it provides AIC with a license or, as the case may be, a certificate of study field accreditation, as signed by the minister of education and science.
Council of Higher Education (CHE) examines the application of a HEI on its accreditation, makes the decision on the accreditation of HEI or its refusal, and forwards the decision to MoES for the approval, as well as approves the methodology for the assessment of HEIs, as developed by AIC, and publishes the methodology on its website. CHE is an independent organisation, the 12 members of which are approved by the Parliament (Saeima) for the term of four years.
Latvian Council of Science, at the request of Academic Information Centre, submits a report on doctoral study programmes submitted for licensing, as provided for in the Law on Scientific Activity.
Approaches and methods for quality assurance
External quality assurance
Licensing of study programmes
“the granting of rights to a higher education institution or a college or their branches to implement a specific study programme”.
The procedures for licensing are laid down in Regulations Regarding Licensing of Study Programmes. A license is required for the implementation of any study programme. The HEI has to submit the application for licensing to AIC in compliance with the methodology for licensing of study programmes. Licensing of study programmes is carried out by three study field or industry experts approved by AIC, who visit the respective HEI and prepare a joint report. Based on this report, the Study programme licensing commission makes the decision on licensing or refusal to issue a license.
In case of affirmative decision, the HEI receives a license signed by the Minister for Education and Science. If a decision on the refusal to license a study programme is taken, the HEI is entitled to submit an application for licensing of a study programme in the corresponding study field only after it has eliminated the deficiencies detected by the Study quality commission.
Accreditation of Study Fields
According to the Law on Higher Education Institutions, the accreditation of a study field is:
“an inspection with the purpose of determining the quality of the resources of a higher education institution or a college and the ability to implement a study programme corresponding to a specific study field in accordance with laws and regulations. The accreditation of the study field of HEI gives the HEI the right to issue a state recognised diploma of higher education for successful completion of a study programme corresponding to the relevant study field”.
The procedures for accreditation of study fields are laid down in the Regulations Regarding Opening and Accreditation of Study Fields and the Methodology for the assessment of study fields.
To initiate the accreditation of a study field, the HEI has to prepare an application, by attaching information on the HEI and study programmes relevant to the study field, as well as the self-assessment report of study field. After the examination of the respective documentation and following the accreditation visit at the HEI, an expert group consisting of five experts has to prepare a joint report based on which the Study Accreditation Commission has to make the decision on the accreditation (or the refusal of accreditation) and its period.
A study field is accredited:
- for six years;
- for two years – if a non-conformity of resources and abilities of the HEI with the requirements of laws and regulations are detected during the process of accreditation of the study field, but drawbacks may be eliminated within the scope of the time period of the study field accreditation. During this time period, the HEI has to eliminate the detected deficiencies and provide a report on their elimination.
Study accreditation commission may also recommend the HEI to close an individual study programme corresponding to this study field. After the Study Accreditation Commission has made the decision, an accreditation form for the study field signed by the minister of education and science has to be issued to the HEI.
Accreditation of Higher Education Institutions and Colleges
As provided for in the Law on Higher Education Institutions, accreditation of a HEI is the:
“assessment of the work organisation and quality of resources of a higher education institution or a college as a result of which it is granted the status of a state recognised higher education institution or a college”.
A HEI is entitled to issue state recognised diplomas for the completion of the relevant study programme if the following conditions have been fulfilled:
- The relevant HEI is accredited.
- The relevant study programme is accredited.
- The constitution of the higher education institution or the by-law of the college has been approved by the Parliament (Saeima) or by the Cabinet of Ministers respectively.
Similarly as in accreditation of study fields, the HEI has to prepare an application. An expert group consisting of seven experts examines the respective documentation and following the accreditation visit at the HEI prepares the joint report. The decision on accrediting (or refusing an accreditation of) the HEI has to be taken by the Council of Higher Education (CHE). After receiving the decision by CHE regarding the accreditation, the HEI receives the accreditation form signed by the Minister for Education and Science.
If the HEI does not ensure the study base, information base as indicated in the accreditation, as well as quality of studies in conformity with the requirements of the Law on Higher Education Institutions or, significant violations of laws and regulations have been detected in the activities of the HEI, the Minister for Education and Science has the right to issue an order on an extraordinary accreditation, revocation or cancellation of the period of accreditation or the accreditation of the HEI.
Internal quality assurance
External and internal quality assessment is closely interrelated, as self-assessment reports are analysed by accrediting study fields and education institutions.
According to the Law on Higher Education Institutions, HEIs have to implement their internal quality assurance system, within the scope of which:
- A policy and procedures for assuring the quality of higher education have to be established.
- Mechanisms for the creation of their study programmes, internal approval, and monitoring of activities and their periodic inspection have to be developed.
- Criteria, conditions, and procedures for the evaluation of student results enabling reassurance of the achievement of expected learning outcomes, have to be developed and made public.
- Internal procedures and mechanisms for assuring qualifications and work quality of the academic staff have to be developed; and
- HEIs have to ensure that information regarding student results, graduate employment, satisfaction of students with their study programme, work effectiveness of the academic staff, available study funds and their disbursement, essential indicators of HEI’s activities is compiled and analysed.
The content and structure of a self-assessment report have to comply with the requirements laid down in the Regulations on Accreditation of Higher Education Institutions and Colleges. Furthermore, the report has to be prepared in compliance with the guidelines developed by Academic Information Centre.