The accreditation of new study programmes, especially Bachelor and Master programmes, was introduced in 1998 following resolutions by the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK) and the Standing Conference of State Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (KMK). In order to implement this new procedure, the Accreditation Council was founded, which originally had the task to, among other things, accredit accreditation agencies. These agencies thus gained the right to carry out accreditation procedures in Germany and to award the Accreditation Council’s quality seal.
Since January 1st, 2018, a new system of programme and systems accreditation was implemented in Germany, based on an Interstate Treaty between the German federal states and a corresponding Specimen Decree, to be ratified by the individual federal states. Since then, higher education institutions apply for accreditation directly at the Accreditation Council, while the agencies carry out the assessment procedure.
On February 4, 2000, ZEvA was the first agency to be authorized by the Accreditation Council for the accreditation of study programs. However, the agency has been conducting program accreditations since 1998. The purpose of program accreditation is to ensure the adherence of Bachelor, Master and further education programs to minimum academic content standards and to evaluate their educational function and feasibility, especially with regard to the requirements of the employment market. Program accreditation serves to ensure the quality of Bachelor and Master programmes and to make the extensive range of courses offered by higher education institutions more transparent. Also, it provides the basis for the national and international recognition of degrees.
In view of all this, ZEvA has developed programme accreditation procedures based on legal requirements, the criteria of the Accreditation Council (before 2018) and the Specimen Decree of the federal states (since January 2018). These procedures are aligned with international standards and are continuously adapted to changing regulations and new insights gained through international dialogue.
ZEvA also offers the option of bundling several closely related study programs in the context of cluster accreditation. If all or most of the study programs offered by a higher education institution or a larger faculty are to be accredited, cluster accreditation is usually preceded by system assessment.
Currently, all Bachelor and Master programmes run by public and private universities and universities of applied sciences, as well as Bachelor programs offered by universities of cooperative education can be accredited with the quality seal of the Accreditation Council. ZEvA also accredits PhD programs, yet without awarding the quality seal. The ZEvA Commission (ZEKo) is responsible for all accreditation procedures. Among the commission’s members are renowned higher education teachers from universities and universities of applied sciences in Germany and abroad, as well as professionals, experts for quality assurance and representatives of the student body. Also, the commission develops decision policies for related issues (and updates them if necessary). In this respect, the program accreditation department of ZEvA functions as the executive office of the ZEKo and is responsible for the organization of accreditation procedures. The project officers in charge coordinate the accreditation procedure, participate in the on-site visit and present the assessment results to the ZEKo.
Appeals to all decisions may be directed to the ZEvA Appeals Commission within a period of one month. Higher education institutions may also lodge complaints regarding procedural errors or irregularities. Based on the recommendation of the Appeals Commission, the Standing Accreditation Commission may revise its decision or prompt the agency to repeat the review procedure completely or in parts.