· Switzerland: National principles - Federal and Cantonal law - Directives
The Swiss Confederation's competencies include support for cantonal universities, oversight and financing for the Ecoles Polytechniques Fédérales, and regulation and cofinancing for specialized institutes of higher education, professional training, and continuing education. The Confederation is also responsible for encouraging research through competitive instruments, encouraging innovation, and international cooperation related to training, research, and innovation. The Confederation supports the cantons regarding grants. The Confederation and the cantons coordinate their efforts, steering the Swiss educational sphere through joint projects.
The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation SERI is at the heart of the Confederation’s efforts regarding education, research, and innovation. It carries out its assigned tasks in cooperation with the cantons, partners from the business world, institutions of higher education and their units, and institutions and bodies charged with promoting research and innovation. It is the interlocutor for national and international institutions in its area of competence.
Swissuniversities, made up of Rectors from Swiss institutions of higher education, is the joint policy body regarding such institutions. It structures and guides the evolution of training and research.
The Swiss constitution charges the Confederation and the cantons to work together to ensure the quality of higher education in Switzerland. To that end, the Higher Education Act (HEdA) has provisions for mandatory institutional accreditation. This is a prerequisite for the right to use the reserved designation “university”, “university of applied sciences” or “university of teacher education”.
The Swiss Accreditation Council is the joint body for the Confederation and the cantons for accreditation and ensuring quality in Swiss higher education institutions, and the accreditation body for accreditation procedures as set forth in the HEdA.
Institutional accreditation has the goal of increasing the national and international visibility of institutions of higher education, serving as an informative and decision-making tool, reinforcing the positive image of institutions of higher education, and improving the international recognition of diplomas.
To carry out accreditation procedures for institutions and programs, the Swiss Agency of Accreditation and Quality Assurance (AAQ) was created in 2015, replacing the former Organ of Accreditation and Quality Assurance (OAQ) created in 2001. This body is a member of "the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher education", ENQA.
In addition to this legal framework related to education, federal and cantonal legal and regulatory provisions governing public administrations and universities also apply.
EUROPE: BOLOGNA AND ENQA
Since the 1990s, the progressive globalization of higher education systems, the reforms related to the Bologna accords in 1999 (Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctorate structure) and the implementation of the European Credit Transfert and Accumulation System (ECTS) have encouraged universities to formalize their quality systems to improve the services they offer.
With the support of the European Parliament and the European Commission, the European higher education and research sphere is strengthened by European associations of universities and higher education institutions (EUA and EURASHE), students (ESU), and the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA), which make up the “E4 Group”. The European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR) is another major actor in the field.
The ISO 21001 standard is currently coming into being.