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Term Definition

Approval of courses, qualifications, or diplomas from one (domestic or foreign) higher education institution by another for the purpose of student admission to further studies. Academic recognition can also be sought for an academic career at a second institution and in some cases for access to other employment activities on the labour market (academic recognition for professional purposes). As regards the European Higher Education Area, three main levels of recognition can be considered, as well as the instruments attached to them (as suggested by the Lisbon Convention and the Bologna Declaration): (i) recognition of qualifications, including prior learning and professional experience, allowing entry or re-entry into higher education; (ii) recognition of short study periods in relation to student mobility, having as the main instrument the ECTS (European Credit Transfer System); (iii) recognition of full degrees, having as the main instrument the Diploma Supplement.


The process by which a (non-) governmental or private body evaluates the quality of a higher education institution as a whole or of a specific educational programme in order to formally recognize it as having met certain predetermined minimal criteria or standards. The result of this process is usually the awarding of a status (a yes/no decision), of recognition, and sometimes of a license to operate within a time-limited validity. The process can imply initial and periodic self-study and evaluation by external peers.


Credit accumulation is the process of collecting credits for learning within degree programmes. In a credit accumulation system a specified number of credits must be obtained in order to complete successfully a study programme or part thereof, according to the requirements of the programme. Credits are awarded and accumulated only when the successful achievement of the required learning outcomes is confirmed by assessment. Learners can use the credit accumulation system to transfer or “cash in” credits achieved from work-based learning/different programmes within and between educational institutions. Credits are also transferable between programmes in the same institution, between different institutions within the same country, or intentionally (often with certain limits about the proportion of the total that can be transferred). Credit gained by a student in a given higher education institution may be recognized in another institution, depending upon the commonality in terms of level and context. The process allows learners to study individual units and modules without immediately achieving an academic award, and also allows for the award of interim awards where students do not complete a full programme leading to the award of a degree. In every case it is the institution that will award the degree that decides which credits earned elsewhere can be accepted as part of the work required for the degree.


1. The process of the systematic gathering, quantifying, and using of information in view of judging the instructional effectiveness and the curricular adequacy of a higher education institution as a whole (institutional assessment) or of its educational programmes (programme assessment). It implies the evaluation of the core activities of the higher education institution (quantitative and qualitative evidence of educational activities and research outcomes). Assessment is necessary in order to validate a formal accreditation decision, but it does not necessarily lead to an accreditation outcome.

2. A technically designed process for evaluating student learning outcomes and for improving student learning and development as well as teaching effectiveness.


The process of reviewing an institution or a programme that is primarily focused on the accountability of the latter, evaluating/determining if the stated aims and objectives (in terms of curriculum, staff, infrastructure, etc.) are met.


1. The document prepared following a quality assessment peer review team site visit that is generally focused on institutional quality, academic standards, learning infrastructure, and staffing. The report about an institution describes the quality assurance (QA) arrangements of the institution and the effects of these arrangements on the quality of its programmes. The audit report is made available to the institution, first in draft form for initial comments, and then in its final, official form. It contains, among other things, the description of the method of the audit, the findings, the conclusions of the auditors, and various appendices listing the questions asked. In Europe, the document is often called an “evaluation report” or an “assessment report”. 2. Such a report may also be prepared about an accreditation agency, describing its quality assurance arrangements and the effect of these arrangements on the quality of the programmes in the institutions for which it is responsible.

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