Institutional accreditation - university exam

Institutional accreditation – university exam

As students, we are used to regularly writing exams and having to take oral or practical performance assessments. We can only continue our studies if we successfully manage them. The university is in a similar situation. In this blog post you can find out who oversees the university, what accreditation entails and what I have to do with it as a student representative.

Since 1460, teaching has been taking place at the University of Basel. This makes it the oldest university in Switzerland. Many famous faces passed through its gates, including Erasmus von Rotterdam, Friedrich Nietzsche and Jacob Burckhardt. Since then, the university has grown; the number of students and PhD students has increased from a good 5,000 in 1980 to 13,000 today. It has developed into a research-oriented comprehensive university that also enjoys a good reputation internationally.

But the quality of teaching, science and research at a university does not arise by itself. A university is much more like a gigantic machine made up of innumerable cogs that must be carefully linked to ensure smooth functioning. Whether all these gears are present and sufficiently oiled is checked at seven-year intervals as part of the accreditation process.

In addition to institutions (e.g. university, technical school), courses or programs can also be accredited. In the case of institutional accreditation, passing the accreditation procedure is a prerequisite for the university to continue to be called a university and to have access to public funds. This procedure, which the university has been preparing for since 2018, is on the agenda again this spring.


I open the mailbox and pull out a thick envelope with the university logo. I’ve been waiting for this. The envelope contains the so-called “self-assessment report”: an almost 80-page, neatly bound booklet that forms the basis of the upcoming accreditation procedure. But why exactly does this end up in my mailbox?

In order to be accredited, an institution must register for the procedure at least two years in advance. If they meet all the requirements for accreditation, the process begins. In a complex process, the institution then creates this self-evaluation report. In this report, they must comment on the various quality standards (“Quality Assurance Strategy”, “Management”, “Teaching, Research and Services”, “Resources” and “Internal and External Communication”). It should explain which structures already exist and how they work, but also respond self-critically to possible improvements and present concrete action plans.

The university’s own assessment takes place in the next step during the face-to-face visit. In the case of institutional accreditation, this usually takes two and a half days. During this time, a team of external experts visits the university. In preparation for the procedure, they read a self-assessment report.

They conduct countless interviews on the spot with people from all groups in the university. These so-called groups include professors (group I), assistant professors and research associates (II), doctoral students/postdoctoral students (III), non-teaching staff (IV) and students (V). People from each faculty were selected to participate in these discussions. I had the honor of representing the students of the Faculty of Medicine on this day. As part of the preparation, I also read the self-evaluation report. Preparation meetings will soon be held before the big day takes place in early April.

Did it pass or not?

After the on-site inspection, the expert team will write a professional report. Here, all evaluated aspects are elaborated in great detail; it is explained which requirements have been met and where improvement is still needed. Conditions can also be imposed, which the institution must fulfill, as a rule, within two years. The University may comment on this report after receiving it. It mainly serves to clarify possible misunderstandings. The final decision on accreditation is made by the Swiss Accreditation Council and the accreditation report is published. The process is transparent and can be followed by anyone who is interested.

An on-site visit has not yet been carried out at the University of Basel. If you are subsequently interested in what was discussed about institutional accreditation, what the University of Basel is particularly good at and where there is still room for improvement, you can read about it in the accreditation report published on the website in the course term.

Nuria Zellweger

When Núria is not busy with medicine or clinical research, she likes to be with friends, travel or compete or practice new genres. On her days off, she is drawn to the mountains or to the city for a relaxing coffee. Serotonin levels can also be increased by extended evenings spent cooking with friends, music and a good book.

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