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Audit of higher education institution

At the session held on 16 December 2022, the Croatian Parliament passed the Act on Quality Assurance in Higher Education  and Science, which regulates the internal quality assurance and quality enhancement of higher education institutions and research institutes, the external quality evaluation of higher education institutions and research institutes, and the organisational structure and competences of the Agency for Science and Higher Education.

The new Act (Official Gazette 151/22) replaced the Act on Quality Assurance in Science and Higher Education (Official Gazette 45/2009 on 30 December 2022, so the latter is no longer in force.

Pursuant to the new Act, the Agency for Science and Higher Education will no longer be conducting audits of higher education institutions.

The Agency will complete all audit procedures initiated pursuant to the Act on Quality Assurance in Science and Higher Education (Official Gazette 45/09) and other regulations adopted in accordance with this Act.

The first cycle started in 2010 and finished in 2016, covering all public universities and polytechnics.  The second cycle started in 2018 and it covers colleges and higher education institutions that express the wish to undergo the procedure.

The scope of the evaluation

The evaluation includes the entire internal quality assurance system of the higher education institution, the analysis of established procedures and quality assurance mechanisms, and whether they support the HEI’s mission, overall development and all its activities. The evaluation includes an assessment made by an expert panel according to a three-point scale for each of the five evaluated elements:

  • Quality Policy,
  • Planning and management,
  • Implementation and monitoring,
  • Evaluation,
  • Improvements, innovations, impact.

 Procedure and Documents

ASHE carries out the audit procedure in accordance with the annual plan adopted by the Accreditation Council, which is published on the Agency’s website. The audit procedure can also be carried out at the suggestion of a higher education institution. 

The Agency carries out the procedure on the basis of the following documents:

Audit Ordinance  (PDF / doc)

Audit Criteria (PDF / doc)

Audit Manual (PDF )

ESG

The higher education institution submits its documentation for the audit procedure, which includes the latest report on the internal audit of the HEI’s quality assurance system. The submitted documentation is evaluated by an expert panel which drafts a report on the basis of information and evidence collected during the visit to the higher education institution. The report contains the assessment of the quality by each element of evaluation and the overall assessment of the development stage of the evaluated quality assurance system with recommendations for quality improvement.

Figure: Audit diagram

 

  

Outcome of the procedure 

Conclusion of the Accreditation Council

The final report of the expert panel and the HEI’s official statement are submitted to the Accreditation Council which passes a conclusion on the adoption of the final report. If the expert panel determines that the internal quality assurance system of the higher education institution is at least in the developed phase with regard to the Audit Criteria, the expert panel recommends to the Accreditation Council, upon the adoption of the final report, to issue a certificate stating the development of the internal quality assurance system. 

Certificate

Based upon the Accreditation Council’s Conclusion, the Agency issues a certificate containing the level of development and efficiency of the HEI’s quality assurance system for a period of five years.

Complaints and appeals

If the higher education institution finds that the expert panel did not conduct the audit procedure as defined by the Audit Ordinance, or is not satisfied with the audit outcome, it may lodge a complaint. New facts and new evidence that were not presented until the end of the site visit cannot be presented in the complaint. The Agency’s Complaints Committee considers the complaint and submits a written opinion to the Accreditation Council. The Accreditation Council considers the opinion of the Complaints Committee and makes a decision on the final adoption of the final report.

Follow-up

The higher education institution produces and submits a two-year action plan of improvements based on expert panel's recommendations. After a six-month follow-up phase, the higher education institution submits a follow-up report on the activities that have been carried out, including an analysis on their effectiveness.  Based on this report, the expert panel drafts a conclusion on the effectiveness of activities carried out during the follow-up phase. The conclusion of the expert panel is submitted to the institution, and published on ASHE website. At this stage, a final meeting is organised with the management of audited HEI, which is attended by one member of the expert panel and ASHE coordinator, in order to discuss the effectiveness of the follow-up activities.

Two years after the final audit report is adopted, the higher education institution submits a report on the implementation of the two-year action plan, and presents its experiences at the meeting of the CroQAnet network.

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