In 2004, ZEvA developed and introduced the procedure of system assessment in order to further simplify accreditation procedures, especially in view of higher education institutions or large faculties that were first implementing a Bachelor/Master structure on a comprehensive scale. The procedure usually starts with a separate assessment of all issues that concern the entire higher education institution or faculty and have an impact on all study programs. The results of this first assessment form the basis for the following cluster or program accreditation. In this way, accreditation procedures become more reliable and at the same time less expensive and time-consuming.
System assessment is particularly advisable if the structural features of the study programs and quality assurance procedures are decided upon at central level, that is, by the leaders of the institution or the faculty, or for the accreditation of cross-faculty programs consisting of two or three subjects (e. g. teacher training). In such cases the implementability of study programs and their relevance to professional practice can only be adequately evaluated if all faculties and academic disciplines involved are taken into account.
For system assessment, a peer group is assembled consisting of at least two renowned representatives of higher education institutions with leadership experience, one quality assurance expert and one student who is or was actively involved in the work of the institution’s self-governing bodies. The peers formulate recommendations to the higher education institution, which are also made known to the Standing Accreditation Commission (SAK) and forwarded to the program accreditation reviewers. During program accreditation the reviewers monitor to what extent the higher education institution has implemented the proposed measures. In order to grant sufficient time to the institution to accomplish this task, a period of at least six months should lie between system assessment and the start of the first program accreditation.