AQ Austria has issued the Decree on the Accreditation of Private Universities 2019 (PU-AkkVO) that specifies binding procedural rules and decision criteria.
The decree came into force on 1st February 2019. All pending requests for accreditation are processed based on the former Decree on the Accreditation of Private Universities (PU-AkkVO) which was valid from 1 July 2015 to 31 January 2019.
The procedural rules are almost identical for institutional as well as programme accreditation and comply with the principles of the ESG (PDF). Thereby, AQ Austria ensures international recognition of the Austrian quality assurance system and encourages international recognition of degree programmes.
As the AQ Austria acts as authority in accreditation procedures, there are furthermore the Austrian administrative procedural rules and regulations to be considered.
The private university (or private university in the course of formation, respectively) files an application documenting that all criteria are met. After AQ Austria formally verified the filed application and, if necessary, requested modification, an expert panel is appointed to evaluate the institution and/or the degree programme(s). As a rule, the agency conducts an on-site visit for this purpose. During talks with representatives of all areas within the applicant institution, the expert panel members (reviewers) assure themselves of the institution's and its studies' quality and that the prerequisites for accreditation are met.
The reviewers subsequently write a report, which, together with the institution's comment on the review report, is the basis for the Board's decision on accreditation. In its decision, the Board is independent and not bound by any instructions. After the competent minister approved the accreditation decision, AQ Austria subsequently publishes a report on the outcome including the Board's decision as well as the grounds for the decision and the review report. The accreditation procedure in detail (PDF)
Criteria (§ 15-20 Decree on the Accreditation of Private Universities 2019 (PU-AkkVO)) include the requirements for institutional and programme accreditation (section 8 PUG, section 24 HS-QSG) and furthermore standards for the assessment of the quality at an HEI and its degree programmes regarding qualification goals, study concepts, personal resourcing, premises and equipment, as well as an HEI's internal quality assurance.
Changes of one of the following items affect the core accreditation requirements of an accredited private university or the accredited degree programme, respectively, and therefore require the AQ Austria's permission according to section 12 Accreditation regulation for private universities:
1. changes of the name of the legal entitiy of the private universtiy or of the name of the private university itself;
2. modifications to the curriculum, if they result in significant changes oft the profile, the name or the study mode of the degree programme, changes of the total workload (in ECTS credits), the duration (in semesters) or of the language and/or the exact wording of the academic degreee to be awarded (including its abbreviation);
3. changes of the site or the sites at which the degree programme is offered
4. amendments to the statute by the addition of guidelines for habilitation procedures following the approval of a doctoral programme by administrative decision.
As changes to the curriculum or organisation of studies (e.g. transition of on-campus to distance study courses) can influence the achievement of the qualification goal, it is recommended to notify AQ Austria in advance in order to clarify relevance to accreditation.