First institutional review has resulted in a good report

Date: 11 September 2017

Introduction: External commission is particularly positive about University of Antwerp during institutional review: "This university really knows where it wants to go."

The University of Antwerp’s very first institutional review has resulted in a good report for the university. The external commission was positive about the quality of the educational policy being pursued. “This is proof that our approach works”, was the reaction at UAntwerp. “We tell a coherent story, one that our teachers and students also believe in.”

The Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders (Dutch: Nederlands-Vlaamse Accreditatieorganisatie; NVAO) carried out a thorough inspection of all Flemish universities and university colleges in 2016 and 2017. Each institution was visited by an external commission, and countless interviews were conducted with policy staff, professors, students, alumni and representatives from the field. In this way, the accreditors were able to build up a picture of the standard of educational policy in Flemish higher education.

As part of the institutional review, a formal assessment is also made. “The University of Antwerp received a positive final assessment across the board”, says Prof. Ann De Schepper, Vice-Rector for Education at UAntwerp. “That means the NVAO has entrusted us with the responsibility to audit our own programmes in the coming years, a system that will replace the well-known ‘visitations’ of the past. We’re allowed to carry out the inspections ourselves from now on, but we’ll definitely continue to make use of external expertise too.”

Student support

The commission spoke with more than 200 representatives from all corners of the academic world at the University of Antwerp. They praised the university’s long tradition of high-standard quality assurance, as well as its approachable character and first-rate student support and involvement. According to the commission, these are among the university’s unique selling propositions.

“This positive assessment is proof that our approach works”, says De Schepper. “We’ve been saying for years that when it comes to student support, for example, we stand out. That’s now been confirmed by an independent body. The commission also noted that our educational policy vision extends far beyond the rectorate: lecturers, staff and students also know what we want to focus on and support us in that.”

Distinct emphases

In the report of its final assessment, the commission writes that UAntwerp “really knows where it wants to go”. De Schepper explains: “The review has shown that our university has a coherent story to tell. The faculties believe in that story completely, but also have the freedom to define their own particular emphases. And if a problem is flagged up anywhere in the organisation, that will actually be followed up on.”

UAntwerp has been focusing on certain strategic policy areas for some years now. The commission praised this system, but has also asked the university to concretise those policies more quickly. “We’re taking that advice seriously”, says the vice-rector. “We have immediately allocated extra resources and taken steps that will allow us to focus on topics like sustainability and diversity more closely.”

The next institutional review is scheduled for 2020.