Re-accreditation committee requires extra efforts from FASoS

Over the past academic year, various study programmes of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences entered the procedure of renewal of accreditation carried out by QANU on behalf of the Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders (NVAO)The following programmes were assessed:

Bachelor European Studies

Bachelor Arts and Culture

Master European Studies

Master European Public Affairs (EPA)

Master European Studies: European Studies on Society, Science and Technology (EEST)

Master Media Studies: Media Culture

Master of Arts and Culture (3 tracks: Art, Literature and Society; Politics and Society; and Arts and Heritage)

The programmes were evaluated on three sets of criteria, or standards: (1) the intended final qualifications, (2) the study environment, and (3) the examination process and the final qualifications achieved. In other words, the assessment procedure dealt with the following questions: what are students expected to gain from the programme, how did FASoS design its programmes in order to achieve this goal and how does the programme test the students’ knowledge and skills?

The MA ESST was evaluated positively on each of the three standards. The other six programmes received a positive evaluation on the first two standards but not on the third standard. In which respects did these programmes fall short? In many of our programmes students can graduate after writing a report on their internship, including a written reflection on this experience. The commissions felt that many of these reports were not substantial enough in terms of their size. Moreover, based on their reading of a sample taken from our students’ theses and reflective reports, the commissions felt that too many of them received grades that were too high.

This particular outcome of the evaluation did not take the faculty by surprise. Several changes were implemented in the past academic year in a number of areas already, in order to eliminate weaknesses previously identified by the faculty in the final paper assessment. The reflective internship report has been replaced by an internship thesis, which must meet all the requirements of a scientific research thesis. Furthermore, the minimum number of ECTS for a thesis has been raised, so more hours can be spent on research, which is likely to raise the quality of a thesis. In the past academic year, the Bachelor’s programmes have already implemented a sample system involving a second thesis reader. In the next academic year (2014-2015), the faculty will ensure that all theses are assessed by two readers, independent of each other.

As a matter of fact, the commissions acknowledged the progress achieved in these areas already. However, the commissions have to operate within the strict parameters of the NVAO, which implies they have little room for maneuvering. Due to the NVAO’s specific new instruction to look at the final paper assessment as a critical factor, many other programmes at the national level received a negative result on standard 3 (the examination process and the final qualifications achieved, specifically with regard to final papers). Nationwide, the various commissions produced a total of 27 negative evaluations. This sizable number can also be explained in part with reference to a fairly new tool: it is now possible for commissions to hand out ‘yellow cards’. In case of a negative evaluation on standard 3, a programme will no longer immediately lose its accreditation, but it will be assigned a specific period of time to improve on its performance.

Apart from paying attention to the third standard, the three visitation commissions highly praised both the content and organisation of our study programmes, notably their excellent focus and exemplary teaching materials, which are presented by a qualified and enthusiastic staff (standard 1 and 2). Also, within standard 3 there was praise for the quality of the course tests and the functioning of the examination commission. All three commissions expressed their trust that the programmes will successfully solve the points of criticism with regard to the assessment of their students’ final theses in the upcoming period.

Please note that you will soon receive an invitation for a re-accreditation information session which will take place in the Turnzaal after the Easter break.

Should you have still have questions after reading the information above you can submit them via the following email address: accreditation-fasos@maastrichtuniversity.nl

 

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