How good is the university I have chosen in a national comparison? Are there minimum standards for teachers and teaching content? How are international students looked after?
These questions may not play the first role for the university of your choice abroad, but they can be decisive for a successful study abroad. The quality assurance of a university is important for the recognition of foreign study achievements or degrees at the home university.
Quality assurance at universities varies greatly from country to country. The specific quality assurance measures are closely related to the respective higher education system in a country. If you are interested in a semester abroad or a complete degree abroad, you should deal with the quality assurance of the universities and the quality standards of the target country.
The three main procedures for recording the quality assurance of universities are accreditations, university rankings and university associations.
Accreditations as a common procedure for quality assurance at universities
One of the most common quality assurance procedures at universities is accreditation. An accreditation proceeds according to the following principle:
A private-sector accreditation agency or independent experts from an official accreditation agency in the respective country assess a university, institute, course or subject according to certain criteria. In the event of a successful assessment, the accreditation agency awards a temporary quality seal.
This type of external evaluation of a university, an institute, a course of study or a subject creates more transparency in the national and international comparison of the quality of studies and teaching. The comparability of courses and degrees promotes student mobility around the world.
The quality seals of the accreditation agencies are recognized as a quality assurance criterion, especially in economics subjects. In other subjects, especially the humanities or art and design, there is little demand for accreditation.
Function of university rankings
In addition to the accreditations, university rankings serve as a further point of reference in terms of quality assurance at universities abroad. University rankings offer the opportunity to find out about the quality of study and teaching at the university of your choice.
University rankings have their origins in the USA. However, there are now ranking lists for universities, individual institutes, subjects or certain categories around the world. A university ranking is a static evaluation of data records from the participating universities. On the basis of the data, universities are allocated to list positions according to a respective evaluation criterion, such as the number of graduates with top marks in a subject area.
This placement within a ranking list can illustrate the quality of study and teaching at universities. However, the meaningfulness of the individual ranking results depends heavily on the indicators under which the university’s data were viewed.
University network as a criterion for quality assurance at universities
A further point of reference for the quality assurance of universities and a help with the choice of a high quality university for a semester abroad or a full study abroad offer university associations. A university association is an association of universities, on a national or international level. The aim of such a network is to promote scientific exchange and research.
In the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain in particular, the universities that are members of an important university association are often particularly well regarded. A list of the most important national university associations worldwide:
- Group of Eight (Australia)
- Australian Technology Network (Australia)
- Russell Group (UK)
- Ivy League (USA)
There is also an international university network, Universitas 21, which comprises 27 universities from different countries. A study visit to such a university means in most cases high-quality academic experience and a very good reference for your résumé.