Accreditation (university)

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Accreditation ( Latin: accredere "to believe") describes the legal process in which one generally recognized authority certifies the fulfillment of a special (useful) quality to another. The accreditation in the higher education sector is a transnational and cross-university procedure for the assessment of study offers in bachelor's and master's degree courses of state or state-recognized universities.

Meanings of terms

  1. The accreditation of all study programs was imposed on German universities from around 2001 as an accessory to the so-called Bologna process by some state legislators. It represents an external element of the quality assurance system that was also newly introduced at universities on this occasion . The core of the controversial procedure is the assessment of quality, e.g. B. of the courses by private business accreditation agencies against payment. These consult experts (external university professors and students from other universities as well as representatives of professional practice).
  2. Alternatively, the term refers to the registration and approval of clubs and student associations . This meaning is no longer dealt with in the following.



  1. Ensure the quality of teaching and studies in order to contribute to the development of the faculty ;
  2. Increase student mobility;
  3. improve the international comparability of degrees (nota bene: accreditation does not yet guarantee international recognition);
  4. Make it easier for students, employers and universities to find their way around the newly introduced Bachelor / Master and Magister courses;
  5. Increase the transparency of the courses.

Accreditation Council and Accreditation Agencies

In Germany , by resolution of the Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs on December 3, 1998, a transnational accreditation council was set up. Its task is to assess and accredit agencies, which in turn accredit study programs that lead to the qualifications Bachelor / Bachelor and Master / Magister, which are introduced to a large extent within the framework of the Bologna Process . The agencies and the degree programs they accredited bear the quality seal of the Accreditation Council in the event of a successful assessment.

The following agencies are entitled to award the Accreditation Council's seal of quality to degree programs accredited by them with the qualifications Bachelor / Bakkalaureus and Master / Magister:

Apart from AKAST, all of these agencies are also allowed to carry out system accreditations .


  1. The university submits an application for program accreditation and sends a self-documentation according to the specifications of the accreditation agency. It includes a description of the study program (objectives, desired degree, basic structure), a module handbook (overview of all modules in the study program) and other documents.
  2. After a formal preliminary examination, the accreditation agency puts together a team of experts, which usually consists of professors and students from other universities as well as representatives of professional practice and is accompanied by a consultant from the agency in the process.
  3. The experts prepare on the basis of the self-documentation as well as a usually 2-day inspection at the applicant university, in the context of which discussions with the university management, the course management, students and lecturers as well as other parties involved (e.g. library, administrative staff, course advisory service, quality management) ), a report on the study program to be accredited. On this basis, they make a recommendation for or against accreditation or for accreditation with certain conditions (currently by far the most common case).
  4. The university receives this report without the recommendation and can comment on it.
  5. The so-called accreditation commission of the agency makes the decision on the basis of the expert report and the statement of the university. If this accreditation decision is made “without conditions” or if the stated conditions (e.g. closing gaps in examination regulations) are met within the set period, the course is considered to be accredited for a certain period of time. In the case of initial accreditation, this period is currently five years, in the case of reaccreditation, seven years.

The third case, the failure of the accreditation, is extremely rare (less than one percent of the procedures); official statistics are not yet available due to a lack of publication requirements. It is also possible to suspend the accreditation process for a maximum of 18 months so that the university can make significant changes to remedy the deficiencies in the degree program during this period and then reapply for accreditation.

The entire program accreditation procedure (from submitting the self-documentation to the accreditation decision) usually extends over a period of six to nine months.

costs of the process

The accreditation of a single course usually costs 10,000 to 15,000 euros. With some accreditation agencies, universities can become members of a sponsoring or sponsoring association, they then receive a discount on the accreditation costs, are involved in certain decisions (e.g. selection and appointment of SAK members) and in many cases can also take part in advice on further development of the accreditation principles. Cost savings can be achieved through the joint accreditation of related courses ( cluster accreditation ), which is currently the most frequently applied for.

The cost of accreditation is a hotly debated issue, both direct costs, i.e. H. the costs invoiced by the agencies, as well as the other costs arising from the accreditation process in the universities. With regard to costs, alternatives to program accreditation have been discussed since 2005 ( process accreditation, system accreditation).

In federal states that do not provide additional funding for accreditation, these costs are borne by the teaching equipment. To what extent quality improvements can be achieved through accreditation is controversial. It can be observed that universities do show successful accreditations for individual subjects and use them as a marketing tool, this is especially true for private universities. In the course of the procedure, especially during the on-site inspections as part of the initial accreditation, there is often a special focus on questions of study and teaching, so that at least one potential impetus for dealing with the quality of study and teaching can be assumed in the accreditation process.

Up to 2012, over 360 million euros had been spent on the accreditation of study programs in Germany.

Content criticism

Critics such as the German University Association consider the current accreditation procedure to be "expensive, bureaucratic, slow, inefficient, legally dubious and hostile to autonomy".

Legal criticism

Accreditation takes place by documenting compliance with formal minimum standards, which are, however, imposed from outside on the universities that are actually independent in matters of teaching according to the Basic Law. It is also controversial whether an effective accreditation of a study program already exists when the accreditation procedure has been completed at all, or only when a positive accreditation is granted after the procedure. In addition, it should be noted critically that the alignment of the accreditation to minimum requirements does not necessarily serve to improve quality.

The compatibility of the accreditation obligation with the Basic Law , in particular with Article 5 Paragraph 3 as well as with the democratic principle standardized in Article 20 Paragraphs 1 and 2 and Article 28 Paragraph 1 is questioned. This is done in part with reference to the so-called materiality theory, according to which decisions that are of essential importance for the general public or usually significantly affect fundamental rights must be made by the parliamentary legislature . Furthermore, the principle of proportionality is cited as a central argument for the fact that the accreditation requirement does not meet the requirements of the Basic Law. The Arnsberg Administrative Court has submitted the question of constitutionality to the Federal Constitutional Court. The Federal Constitutional Court found the unconstitutionality.

With the decision of the Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs in 2017, the procedure, which the Federal Constitutional Court ruled as inadmissible, with the interstate study accreditation treaty, which entered into force on January 1, 2018, was changed to the extent that the authority to decide on the accreditation of study programs was transferred to the Accreditation Council. For this purpose, the accreditation agencies submit a recommendation to the accreditation council after their assessment of the study programs, on the basis of which it then makes a decision.

Institutional accreditation

In addition to program or system accreditation for the study programs offered, private universities must also be accredited as an institution by the Science Council. Above all, it is checked whether the university is capable of teaching and researching according to recognized scientific standards. In addition, the equipment of the university (material and personnel) and its financing are checked.


In Austria , accreditation is required for courses at private universities and universities of applied sciences (holders of university of applied sciences courses). The accreditation procedures are carried out by the Agency for Quality Assurance and Accreditation Austria . Every institution needs an institutional accreditation and a program accreditation for all courses it operates . While program accreditation is granted for an indefinite period and only has to be re-applied for if a new course is set up, institutional accreditation is only granted for six years at a time ( § 23 or § 24 HS-QSG ).

At private universities, accreditation is granted for twelve years after twelve years of existence. At universities of applied sciences (holders of university of applied sciences courses), an audit procedure must be carried out after twelve years of existence, which must be repeated every seven years. With the positive completion of the audit process, which can be carried out by the Agency for Quality Assurance and Accreditation Austria or any other agency recognized by the Federal Ministry of Science and Research , the University of Applied Sciences (the provider) continues to be considered accredited ( Section 23 (9) HS-QSG ).

State universities are not subject to an accreditation process, but according to the Higher Education Quality Assurance Act, the internal quality management process must be subjected to an audit process (in accordance with Section 22 HS-QSG ). The Austrian Accreditation Council has repeatedly called for the creation of an accreditation requirement for postgraduate university courses at state universities, but without success.

United States

In the USA , which is considered the country of origin of accreditation in the education sector, it should be noted that there are two forms of accreditation there. In addition to the form commonly used in Europe, which is called national accreditation there, there is also what is known as regional accreditation . Since in the United States neither the federal government nor the governments of the individual states have the legal authority, as is usual in Europe, to state a college or high school , this recognition is carried out by the regional accreditation agency responsible for the respective area of ​​the country. This type of accreditation does not refer to an individual course, but to the respective institution as a whole. Most national accreditation agencies in the US require a university to be regionally accredited as a prerequisite for national accreditation for a degree program offered by that institution. Another difference to the situation in Europe is that all American accreditation agencies are organized as non-profit companies .


  • Falk Bretschneider, Johannes Wildt (Hrsg.): Handbook for the accreditation of study programs: an introduction for universities, politics and professional practice (=  GEW materials from universities and research. 110 ). 2., completely revised Edition. Bertelsmann, Bielefeld 2007, ISBN 978-3-7639-3290-0 .
  • Susan Harris-Hümmert: Evaluating evaluators: an evaluation of education in Germany . VS, Verlag für Sozialwiss., Wiesbaden 2011, ISBN 978-3-531-17783-0 (Oxford, Univ., Diss., 2009).
  • Mario Martini : Accreditation in higher education law - institutional accreditation, program accreditation, process accreditation. In: WissR. 41 (2008), pp. 232-252.
  • Kathia Serrano-Velarde: Evaluation, accreditation and politics: for the organization of quality assurance in the course of the Bologna process . VS, Verlag für Sozialwiss., Wiesbaden 2008, ISBN 978-3-531-15843-3 .
  • Marco Siever: Quality assurance through program and system accreditation in the German university system: with special consideration of the legal situation in Baden-Württemberg (=  publications on university law. Volume 2 ). Kovač, Hamburg 2011, ISBN 978-3-8300-5787-1 (Tübingen, Univ., Diss., 2011).

Web links

United States

Individual evidence

  1. Order of the Federal Constitutional Court of February 17, 2016 - 1 BvL 8/10 - Rn 2
  2. Communication from George Turner, August 30, 2013.
  3. ^ Resolution of the Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of December 3, 1998 (PDF)
  4. Agencies. Accreditation Council Foundation, accessed on January 18, 2020 .
  5. Accreditation Council: Rules for the accreditation of study programs and for system accreditation from December 8, 2009 i. d. F. of February 20, 2013 (PDF file; 235 kB)
  6. Marion Schmidt: Under observation. In: Financial Times Germany. November 30, 2012.
  7. DHV press release of March 31, 2009
  8. Ute Mager: Is the accreditation of courses at universities constitutional? (No longer available online.) Formerly in the original ; accessed on August 12, 2019 .  ( Page no longer available , search in web archives )@1@ 2Template: Toter Link / In: Verwaltungsblätter Baden-Württemberg. 2009, pp. 9-15.
  9. Susanne Meyer: Is the accreditation system unconstitutional? In: Neue Zeitschrift für Verwaltungsrecht , 16/2010, pp. 1010-1013, (1011 f. With extensive evidence)
  10. Administrative Court Arnsberg, 12 K 2689/08
  11. Margarete Mühl-Jäckel: Is the accreditation procedure unconstitutional? Guest post on, August 8, 2010.
  12. Decision 1 BvL 8/10 of the B VerfG v. February 17, 2016, press release of the BVerfG
  13. Further development: KMK decides on a new and uniform foundation for the accreditation of study programs . ( [accessed January 14, 2018]).
  14. Uwe Schwien: Everything about accreditation in higher education . Society for Private Higher Education, accessed June 27, 2013.
  15. Position paper of the Austrian Accreditation Council ( Memento of September 27, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF file; 31 kB)