Short-cycle higher vocational education
The higher vocational colleges or providers of short-cycle higher vocational education programmes are in the domain of the Ministry responsible for education. The National Institute for Vocational Education (CPI) provides development related and counselling support, while the National Council of Experts for Vocational education and/or the Committee for Accreditation of short-cycle higher vocational study programmes and higher vocational colleges are involved in the accreditation and evaluation procedure. The supervision of their operations is the responsibility of the school inspectorate.
The Higher Vocational Education Act and the evaluation criteria of the Slovenian Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (SQAA) specify quality in higher vocational colleges. By law, higher vocational colleges have to set up relevant committees to monitoring and assure quality. Furthermore, it specifies that the National Council of Experts for Vocational Education appoints the Committee for Accreditation of short-cycle higher vocational study programmes higher vocational colleges. The external evaluation of higher vocational colleges is the responsibility of the SQAA and its council. The Association of higher vocational colleges is competent in overseeing the development of a single system for quality assurance. If SQAA or the school inspectorate determines that a higher vocational college does not meet the standards of quality anticipated, they can initiate an early reaccreditation of the school.
The quality assurance system in higher education includes:
- accreditation of higher education institutions (HEIs) and study programmes
- internal evaluation, and
- external evaluation of HEIs and study programmes.
The accreditation of higher education institutions and study programmes is of supervisory nature. It examines whether all regulative and other formal requirements for the institution of HEI or introduction of a study programme have been met.
The new Higher Education Act of 2016 introduced the external evaluation of HEIs. It is the essential to the accreditation renewal. The external evaluation of study programmes remains as part of the external evaluation of higher education institutions. It is carried out on a sample of study programmes.
One had to improve the accreditation and evaluation procedures in Slovenia to achieve full compliance with European standards, set the venue for Slovenia joining the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) and entering the European Quality Assurance Register (EQAR). By the law of 2009, one established the independent Slovenian Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (SQAA), which became operational in May 2010.
The internal evaluation procedures are the responsibility of higher education institutions. All have in place the quality assurance committees and develop annual reports. Together with students, institutions assess the attainment of objectives, provision of study programmes, institutional management, teaching, research, etc. They publish self-evaluation reports on own website.
With the Fiscal Balance Act (sl, 2012) the correspondingly amended Higher Education Act enabled universities to amend and improve study programmes more swiftly, and thus achieve a more efficient and improved provision of education. The accreditation procedures for the amended compulsory components of the universities’ study programmes have been amended in such a way as to allow that the procedure is carried out through the senate of the university member institution and ends before the university senate. The universities thus no longer need to acquire the approval of the SQAA, but have only to notify the SQAA of the adopted changes within 30 days following their adoption. This amendment of the procedure started to apply for the independent higher education institutions with the new Higher Education Act of 2016. The relevant amendments to the study programmes come into effect with the following academic year, but only if approved by the competent bodies of the higher education institution and sent to SQAA. The SQAA has to receive the notification before the public call for enrolment or for public higher education institutions before the Government of the Republic of Slovenia consents to the call for enrolment.
Short-cycle higher vocational education
The head teacher or director of a higher vocational college and the quality evaluation and assurance committee are responsible for the quality development of the school. The assembly of lecturers appoints the quality evaluation and assurance committee. The committee includes representatives of lecturers and students. The committee defines contents, methods, subjects, instruments and measures of self-evaluation. It cooperates with the external evaluation bodies and groups, as well as monitors the employment possibilities of graduates, recommends improvements based on the employer responses, and set up proper surrounding for the implementation and development of quality educational provision at the school.
The Association of Higher Vocational Colleges (Association HVC) represents colleges when they cooperate with the relevant professional councils, the committee for the accreditation of higher vocational study programmes, ministries, higher education institutions and international associations. The Association HVC sets up a special quality assurance committee to organise mutual support in assuring quality at HVC, hold annual consultations or discussions about quality, as well as to develop the autonomous system of quality certification.
The Council of experts of the Republic of Slovenia for vocational education and the Committee for the accreditation of higher vocational study programmes and short-cycle higher vocational study programmes is competent in accreditation of relevant study programmes. The council of experts appoints the accreditation committee. The committee then develops background material for study programmes, reviews, assesses the proposed new study programmes, and recommends them for adoption to the Council of Experts. It approves the evaluation of a study programme according to ECTS and the outcome of the internal evaluation reports of higher vocational colleges. The committee includes representatives of lecturers, the government, employers, trade unions, students and experts in the study field.
The Slovenian quality assurance agency for higher education (SQAA) carries out evaluation activities for short-cycle higher vocational and higher education. It carries out regular external evaluations of short-cycle higher education providers every five years. Furthermore, it can carry out exceptional evaluations at any time after the classification of the accredited programme, upon the request of the school or competent ministry of education. The SQAA council can also initiate exceptional evaluations upon reports of other relevant stakeholders (e.g. students in the study programme). The outcome of the external evaluation includes information about compliance of study programmes with statutory standards, progress of schoolwork and the delivery of study programmes.
The School inspectorate of the Republic of Slovenia (school inspectorate) is responsible to monitor the implementation of rules and regulations that specify the organisation and educational activities, in the field of higher vocational colleges.
The Slovenian quality assurance agency for higher education (SQAA) is responsible for the external quality assurance in higher education. The SQAA is an independent institution. It adheres to the principles of professionalism, impartiality, regularity and political neutrality.
The main responsibility of the agency is to carry out accreditation and external evaluation. The agency council is responsible for the adoption of the corresponding criteria and procedures, and the appointment of experts for accreditation and evaluation tasks. The agency publishes its decisions and prepares annual reports and analyses. It also maintains records and carries out the role of an advisory body. It collaborates with higher education institutions and short-cycle higher education providers, as well as international institutions and other bodies for quality assurance in higher education. Furthermore, it provides for the compliance of its activities with European guidelines and international principles.
The agency is a member of the ENQA, CEENQA, and the European consortium for accreditation (ECA), and on 19 October 2013, the relevant board of the register decided to enter the agency in the EQAR.
Higher education institutions (HEIs) are responsible for the internal (self)evaluation of higher education institutions and study programmes. By law, the university rector and/or dean of the member university or independent higher education institution is responsible for setting up, maintaining and improving quality. Once a year, they report to the relevant senate. According to the internal criteria, one specified the quality assurance is the responsibility of all bodies of the higher education institution, special quality committee, and in a broader context, all the staff and students.
Approaches and methods for quality assurance
Short-cycle higher vocational education
The internal quality assurance system in higher vocational colleges (HVC) includes all processes important for the quality functioning of the college, implementation of study programmes and constant quality improvement. HVCs plan their activities consistently and in detail. They monitor the implementation of plans on a regular basis. HVCs adopt a quality procedure manual, which defines the procedures of self-evaluation, the powers and methodology of work as well as measures for monitoring and improving the quality of work.
All HVC bodies (quality committee, lecturers’ assembly, strategic council, HVC council, external evaluators) examine self-evaluation reports. Annual self-evaluation includes the evaluation of study processes, evaluation of teaching staff (prepared by students and employers), evaluation of integration in the environment, employment opportunities for graduates, analysis of achievements and improvement proposals. The self-evaluation reports are published and made available to public.
The accreditation of new study programmes is the responsibility of the National council of experts for vocational education. The council of experts has a standing committee for accreditation of short-cycle higher vocational study programmes and higher vocational colleges. It reviews the study programme according to relevant background reference adopted (sl .pdf). The council of experts and the Minister responsible for education take the final decision on the programme. It includes the decision on the allocation of the programmes. Upon the programme's accreditation, one appoints the lecturers. A HVC wishing to deliver the programme have to acquire the verification with the Ministry responsible for education. This means that it has to be on the register of higher vocational education providers. The verification comprises a review the staff, as well as spatial and other material conditions for the implementation of the programme.
The delivery of the new study programme can start only after the study programme receives:
- accreditation by the relevant council of experts
- approval by the Ministry responsible for education, and
- if the provider is on the relevant register and meets the requirements as proven by the verification procedure.
The external evaluation of higher vocational colleges is the responsibility of the Slovenian quality assurance agency for higher education (SQAA) and its council. The agency’s council appoints a group of experts for the evaluation of HVC. The group must include at least one foreign expert and one student. Foreign experts are evaluators of a foreign agency registered at EQAR or experts for quality evaluation in higher education. The group of experts visits the HVC and acquires the necessary documentation. An evaluation report is prepared under different fields of evaluation in accordance with the criteria for the external evaluation of HVCs, taking into account the observations from the school examination, submitted documentation and the self-evaluation report of the HVC. The areas of evaluation are:
- participation and inclusion in the local community
- material and human resources, and
- in-house system of quality assurance.
The external evaluation procedure’s outcome is the decision of the agency’s council on whether the legally prescribed standards laid down in the criteria are met.
By law, a HVC has to be reaccredited after five years. Sooner, on the recommendation of the SQAA or school inspectorate, if it is established that the HVC does not meet the anticipated quality of study.
The inspection of higher vocational colleges is the responsibility of the school inspectorate. It provides supervision of
- delivery of education programmes, educational activities
- compliance of organisation and implementation of educational activities with the relevant regulations
- exercising rights of learners and education staff
- honouring legal obligations that apply to staff, and
- keeping pedagogical documentation.
The school inspectorate can recommend to the Ministry responsible for education the initiation of the reaccreditation if it detects grave violations. The inspectorate supervises the issuing of official documents and eligible use of funds.
The internal quality assurance of HEIs and study programmes is the responsibility of individual higher education institution (HEI). There are no common national recommendations for internal evaluation. In defining the criteria for evaluation, the HEIs cooperate with the SQAA and consider European standards and guidelines. Accreditation criteria specify the fields that must be covered by the self-evaluation. Each HEI has internal rules, which govern the services and bodies responsible for the implementation of self-evaluations, the procedures and criteria of self-evaluation, planning of evaluations, analysis, and development of self-evaluation reports.
In the procedure of internal evaluation, one monitors the educational, research, artistic and professional activities, and the operation of accompanying services.
Findings and recommendations of self-evaluation reports have the consultative nature and they are reference in developing the action plan for the next academic year or strategy planning for future. The SQAA council examines the HEI’s self-evaluation report and external evaluation report before it reaches the decision on renewing the accreditation of the HEI.
One has set up the procedures of accreditation and external evaluation to supervise if the requirements for providing higher education activities and quality in higher education institutions are met.
The SQAA examines in the accreditation procedures if the relevant standards of quality in HEIs or study programmes had been reached. HEIs cannot carry out educational activities unless they have a valid accreditation of HEI. Without a valid accreditation, the study programme is not recognised officially.
Accreditations in higher education:
- First accreditation of HEI
- Accreditation of a study programme
- Renewal of accreditation of HEI, and
- Accreditation of amendments to HEI (a51.š Article Higher Education Act, en).
The first and all later renewed accreditations can only be awarded to a HEI for five years.
The external evaluation is an overall examination of the HEI’s operations and delivery of study programmes. The procedures of external evaluation are divided into regular evaluation of HEIs, targeted evaluation of HEIs or study programmes, and evaluation of a sample of study programmes. Regular and targeted evaluations are compulsory to the procedure of renewing the accreditation of the HEI. The accreditation of the sample of study programmes has the consultative nature and its outcome are recommendations to HEIs for improvement in quality. In the external evaluation procedure, the SQAA council appoints a group of evaluation experts. The group has to include at least one foreign expert and one student. Foreign experts are evaluators of non-domestic agencies on the register of EQAR, or quality assessment experts.
The first accreditation of a higher education institution (HEI) and accreditation of a study programme is for the HEI first instituted. The procedure is initiated at the proposal of instituting entity. The SQAA council appoints a group of experts to assess if the requirements specified indicatively by law and in detail with the Criteria for the accreditation and external evaluation of HEIs and study programmes have been met. According to the criteria, the HEI has to participate and be included in the local community, have a mission and strategy of HEI in place, sufficient academic staff, enrol students to meet the demand and assure employability of students, meet material requirements, and have a quality assurance strategy. The group of experts develops the report about the HEI meeting the criteria for the first accreditation. It examines the supporting documentation and the rooms in which EHI plans to pursue its activity. If the institution requirements have been met as specified by law and criteria, the SQAA council awards the accreditation to the HEI for a period of five years. It awards the accreditation for a study programme indefinitely.
The renewal of the accreditation of HEI or study programme is a procedure one carries out every five years. It begins with an external evaluation. The outcome is the decision on the accreditation renewal. If one does not find any major faults or inconsistencies in operations of the HEI or its quality assurance system, the SQAA council renews the accreditation of the HEI for five years.
The accreditation of amendments to HEI is the responsibilty of SQAA. It applies for
- transformation into another type of HEI
- split up of HEIs, or
- change in location of the study programme delivery or introduction of a new location.
The regular evaluation of HEI is periodic. The HEI has to apply for a decision on the renewal of accreditation with the SQAA every five years. In the scope of this procedure, everything one assesses and reviews everything that had been examined in the first accreditation. One assesses the progress according to the Criteria for accreditation and external evaluation of HEIs and study programme. In the procedure of external evaluation, the expert group carries out two visits of several days to the HEI. At the end, the group develops an evaluation report. The evaluation report includes the assessment of meeting the criteria for accreditation and external evaluation of HEI, as well as other elements specified by the SQAA council. The final evaluation report of the expert group is one of the element of the decision of the SQAA council on the renewal of the HEI accreditation.
The targeted evaluation of HEI or study programme can be initiated by the SQAA council in own or received initiative if it suspects rightly major faults or inconsistency in operation of the HEI or quality assurance system. The procedure is the same as regular evaluation of the HEI. The outcome of the targeted evaluation is the decision by the SQAA council on the renewal of accreditation for the HEI or the council finds that the delivery of the study programme is correct.
The sample evaluation of study programmes seeks to provide guidance to the HEI in developing self-evaluation and improving quality of study programmes. The SQAA council specified the sample of study programmes for the next academic year and a plan according to which the agency will evaluate. The sample includes every year two percent or more of current accredited study programmes. The outcome of the sample evaluation is the recommendation to HEIs for improvement of self-evaluation, delivery, modernisation or quality of the study programme in its entirety.