Quality assurance in higher education is governed by the act on quality assurance in higher education and the act on higher education. The current legislation requires that higher education institutions assure the quality of their activity by implementing an internal system of quality and external evaluation by an independent institution.
Higher education institution
In accordance with the act on higher education, the higher education institution is responsible for the quality assurance of the education provided. It does so by means of creating an internal system of quality and annual reports.
Ministry of Education, Science, Research, and Sport
The Ministry of Education, as a state administration body, participates in quality assurance in higher education. Within its competence, the ministry:
- Creates, updates, and publishes the long-term goals of the Ministry of Education every year
- Creates and publishes an annual report on the state of higher education every year,
- Discusses and assesses long-term goals of higher education institutions,
- Checks compliance with generally binding legal regulations in higher education,
- Checks management of public higher education institutions’ funds and private higher education institutions’ funds.
The Slovak Accreditation Agency for Higher Education
External quality assurance of higher education is within the competence of the Slovak Accreditation Agency for Higher Education (hereinafter only ‘Agency’).
- The agency is a public body which:
- determines on the scope of higher education institutions' qualifications required for higher education institutions in the Slovak Republic,
- issues standards for the internal quality assurance system of higher education, standards for degree programs and standards for habilitation and inaugural procedures. The draft standards have the opportunity to be heard by the public before they are formally adopted,
- assesses applications for state approval to operate as a private higher education institution,
- decides on the granting (or not granting) of appropriate accreditations under the law.
The Agency's mission is to improve the quality of education through modern tools that are harmonised with the European Standards for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ESG 2015). It has replaced the activities of the existing Accreditation Commission (which acts as an advisory body to the Government of the Slovak Republic) in assessing applications of higher education institutions, and also takes over the competence of the relevant decisions of the Minister of Education Science, Research and Sport of the Slovak Republic.
Accreditation activities follow accreditation standards, which are published by the agency.
The Agency is (among others) obliged
- to apply for membership of the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education by 31 December 2022,
- and for enrolment in the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education,
- to apply the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education to be assessed at least every five years.
Approaches and methods for quality assurance
Approval of the act on quality assurance in 2018 created a legislative and institutional framework for the implementation of systems of quality assurance in higher education in compliance with the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG).
The responsibility for the quality of the education provided was transferred to the providers themselves, i.e. higher education institutions. Changes are implemented through the internal system for quality assurance in higher education; the efficiency increases with external evaluation at the expert level. Higher education institutions need to have a functional internal system of quality. The goal of the internal system of quality is to assure quality of all activities by means of defining higher education institution’s quality assurance policies and procedures.
Higher education institution’s policy for quality assurance includes tools, organisation, allocation of responsibility, level of actors’ (e.g. students’) engagement, manner of introduction, use, monitoring and assessment of the quality assurance system.
The areas of quality assurance include study programmes, criteria and rules of students’ evaluation, quality of higher education teachers, educational process, material and information sources for educational support, collection, analysis, use and disclosure of information.
The Agency assesses the internal system of quality which is a part of the evaluation of higher education institutions.
A public, private and foreign higher education institutions are by Act on higher education obligated to elaborate, to submit to the ministry of education and to publish an annual report on their activities. Public higher education institutions are also obligated to publish an annual report on their management on a yearly basis. This also applies to private higher education institutions if they have received a subsidy from the state budget.
Slovak Accreditation Agency for higher education, as an independent institution, is responsible for assessing the quality assurance of the higher education provided.
The agency pursues its activity mainly through procedures initiated upon the higher education institution’s request or upon the request of an applicant for state permission, or on its own initiative.
External evaluation (accreditation) usually takes place in four stages:
- assessment of applications, application documentation, and available information,
- assessment on the spot – by visiting the higher education institution,
- processing of the evaluation report by the executive board’s working group (if granting accreditation or assessing the internal system is concerned, the report also includes the higher education institution’s statement) and
- agency’s executive board’s statement or decision.
For the purpose of assessing a specific application, the agency forms working groups out of persons listed in the list of assessors (zoznam posudzovateľov). The composition of work groups depends on the study programme to be assessed or the higher education institution’s activity on one hand and on the qualification, experience, and competencies of assessors registered in the list of assessors on the other. At least one student is appointed to each working group (except for the assessment of accreditation of the inauguration and habilitation procedure). The agency carries out continuous quality checks of assessors. Rules for creating working groups are defined by the internal regulation ‘Guidelines for Registration and Deregistration of Assessors and the Creation of Working groups’ (Zásady na zápis do zoznamu posudzovateľov, vyradenie z tohto zoznamu a vytváranie pracovných skupín).
The working group will create an evaluation report for the application or a request, based on which the agency makes a decision or gives a statement. The working group bases its evaluation report on the expert assessment of the documentation, information acquired by visiting the higher education institution, available data, and consultation with interested persons. In the evaluation report, the working group also states facts, which served as the basis for the group’s conclusions, documentation assessment procedure, the assessment of the degree of compliance with individual standards, the shortcomings found, recommendations for the participant of the procedure, a proposal for the agency’s decision or statement, and names and surnames of working group members.
Agency’s working groups evaluate compliance with the standards and measures for assurance of the internal system compliance and they can impose the following remedies
- remedy of deficiencies which cause non-compliance of the internal system or its implementation with the standards for the internal system,
- suspension of the study programme,
- order to cancel the study programme,
- cancellation of the study programme,
- restriction on the creation and alteration of study programmes.
Agency can impose several remedies simultaneously. In cooperation with professionals and interested parties, the agency created and published accreditation standards in compliance with the ESG European Standards and Guidelines.
Accreditation standards include:
- Standards for the internal system of quality assurance (Štandardy pre vnútorný systém zabezpečovania kvality),
- Standards for the study programme (Štandardy pre študijný program) and
- Standards for the habilitation and inauguration procedure (Štandardy pre habilitačné konanie a inauguračné konanie).
Standards refer to a set of requirements that are to be met in order for the relevant accreditation to be granted.
The processes of assessing study programmes, internal systems of quality, habilitation procedures, and inauguration procedures are based on the Methodology of the Evaluation of Standards (Metodika na vyhodnocovanie štandardov) and are elaborated in the guidelines for the administration of the agency’s accreditation procedures.
In assessing the internal system of the higher education institution, the Agency shall evaluate the level of compliance with each standard, indicating any weaknesses and recommendations identified.
The study program standards focus mainly on the level of:
- spatial, material, technical, information and personnel provision of study programs,
- creative activities of the higher education institution in the relevant field of study,
- taking into account the latest knowledge from the relevant field of study,
- requirements for successful completion of study according to the study program,
- graduates, in particular through the achievements of higher education and their compliance with the required level of the national qualifications framework;
- requirements for filling posts of university teachers and others.
On the basis of the results of the assessment, the Agency will decide whether or not the internal system of the higher education institution and its implementation comply with the standards.
The higher education institution is obliged to request the agency to assess the institution’s internal system at least once every six years. The agency continuously monitors compliance with standards for the internal system at least once every two years.
The agency continuously monitors the compliance of the implementation of each study programme with the submitted application for accreditation of the study programme and the standards for the study programme.
National Council of the Slovak Republic, 2002. Act no. 131/2002 Coll. on higher education and on the change and supplement to some acts (Zákon č. 131/2002 Z.z. o vysokých školách a zmene a doplnení niektorých zákonov) (last accessed 30/12/2022).
National Council of the Slovak Republic, 2018. Act no. 269/2018 Coll. on quality assurance in higher education and on change and supplement to act no. 343/2015 Coll. on public procurement and on change and supplement to some acts as amended (Zákon č. 269/2018 Z.z. o zabezpečovaní kvality vysokoškolského vzdelávania a o zmene a doplnení zákona č. 343/2015 o verejnom obstarávaní a o zmene a doplnení niektorých zákonov v znení neskorších predpisov) (last accessed 30/12/2022).
Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport of the Slovak Republic, 2011. Directive no. 46/2011, which defines the form and date of submitting the annual report on the higher education institution’s activity and the annual report on higher education institution’s management (Smernica č. 46/2011, ktorou sa určuje forma a termín podávania výročnej správy o činnosti vysokej školy a výročnej správy o hospodárení vysokej školy) (last accessed 30/12/2022).