New quality agency stirs up ranking fears in Spain

October 25, 2002

Spain has set up a national agency for accreditation and quality evaluation in a bid to make the country's higher education system more competitive and to bring it a step closer to conformity with the Bologna process.

The Spanish government has said the agency, to be known as Aneca, will be independent. But the choice of a senior member of government as its head has caused some to doubt this.

Agency director Ismael Crespo was director-general of universities at the ministry of education.

Francisco Michavila, director of the Unesco chair of university management at Madrid's Technical University, said: "Evaluation is a good thing but it has to be seen to be independent. With Crespo as new director, political independence is not so clear."

The new agency will act in four areas. The first is evaluation of academics, which will take two forms: evaluation of staff applying for non-tenured contract posts and evaluation of the research and teaching performance and administrative capacity of academics already in post.

A second area will be evaluating the results of universities' own quality programmes to measure institutional quality.

The third area will be certification of quality.

Participation in these three areas will be voluntary.

The fourth process, accreditation, will be compulsory for the programmes of all state and private universities, including foreign ones with campuses in Spain.

Evaluation will be carried out by peer review and the results made public. But the education ministry stresses that the results would not be unified to provide a league table of universities.

"Aneca will provide transparent and exhaustive information but not a ranking," a ministry official said.

But publication of any performance indicators is likely to prove controversial in Spain.

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