Procedure of institutional accreditation 2021
Under Switzerland’s new Higher Education Act (HEdA), schools of higher education wishing to obtain the protected title of “university” and receive federal funding must be accredited by the Swiss Accreditation Council by end-2022.
This accreditation process entails making sure that the school under review meets 18 quality standards in five areas (quality management, governance, teaching & research, facilities, and internal and external communications). This is done in two steps: first, a self-assessment completed by the school; and second, an evaluation by independent experts. Once these steps are completed, the Swiss Accreditation Council decides whether to grant accreditation, grant conditional accreditation, or refuse accreditation. At EPFL, we have been granted conditional accreditation.
The accreditation process at EPFL
The EPFL Direction set up a Steering Committee in 2018 to oversee the accreditation process at our School and commissioned the Swiss Agency of Accreditation and Quality Assurance (AAQ) to coordinate the various tasks required.
During the self-assessment step, which lasted two years, EPFL reviewed all our organizational processes and developed standardized files to formally document each one. EPFL also performed SWOT analyses to identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for each quality standard. This information was used to draft an initial self-assessment report which was reviewed by 55 people who were not involved in the drafting process.
These reviewers’ comments were incorporated, and the report was presented to the EPFL Assembly for consultation on 21 June 2021. The final version of the report (i.e., the version approved by the EPFL Direction) was sent to the AAQ on 3 September 2020. You can view the self-assessment report here.
The AAQ’s experts read the report carefully and interviewed members of the EPFL community: Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD students, faculty members, scientific and technical staff, school and college deans, Steering Committee members and the EPFL Direction.
The experts spotted weaknesses in how EPFL communicates to members of its community on its quality assurance efforts. They therefore recommended to the Swiss Accreditation Council that EPFL be accredited conditionally, with this shortcoming to be remedied within the next two years. The Council followed the AAQ’s recommendation.
You can download the expert report and findings Report EPFL 2021.
The EPFL Direction would like to thank everyone who was involved in the accreditation process and undertakes to resolve the issues raised by the Council point by point. It has asked the new Quality Assurance Committee to outline an action plan in this regard; the Committee will make it a priority to improve our School’s quality-assurance-related communications.
Previous self-assessment reports were peer-reviewed (Quality Audit 2018, Quality Audit 2014). The audit results are available here.