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Kim Beerden: 'The programme accreditation was good for the team spirit.'

Accreditations. All study programmes have to deal with them and once every six years they cause a good amount of tension. How do you survive the assessment panel? And how does an accreditation proceed in times of corona? Chair of education Kim Beerden recently coordinated the accreditation for the research master in History and talks about her experience.

As chair of education, you were ultimately responsible for the accreditation for the research master in History. What does an accreditation actually involve?

'An accreditation involves a lot of work. As chair of education, you start by writing a self-evaluation report. This is a booklet with information about the programme in which you explain, among other things, your vision of the study programme. The writing process of the self-evaluation report is supported by the faculty, and policy officers Margje Kamerling and Job Weststrate really helped me.'

Kim Beerden

'Next, the self-evaluation report is read by the assessment panel - the panel that has to form an opinion about the quality of the study programme - and then the panel comes by to talk to various panels; we had a student panel, a lecturer panel, an alumni panel. The board of examiners, colleagues from the faculty and the faculty board are also involved. As you can see, it is quite an undertaking.'

What went better than expected during the process?

'The willingness of colleagues to help, the atmosphere was very good. One of the positive outcomes of the process was that it was very good for the team spirit of the study programme, because you put in the effort together. That was nice to see. The high level of support from the faculty also helped enormously. When I, for example, provided  Margje with the names for the panels, she arranged the scheduling of the meetings. That help was essential.'

Were there also things that disappointed?

'What was disappointing was the amount of time everyone had to invest. Certainly also because the effort lecturers put into it, was added to their regular work, which has already increased because of the switch to online education. For me, writing the self-evaluation report in particular took up a lot of my time, it is a huge amount of work.'

'The self-evaluation report is written based on experiences, reports and conversations with colleagues. The aim is to present the study programme as correctly and transparently as possible. But it was wonderful to see that, despite the work pressure, everyone was still willing to give it their all. It is so important to properly pass the accreditation.'

This year is an unusual one, given the corona measures. What impact did this have on the accreditation process?

'That impact was significant. The assessment panel is an international committee, so not everyone was able to fly to the Netherlands. That is why, coordinated with the faculty, we opted for a hybrid form, in which the panels were present in a small room in Leiden, one by one, and the assessment panel spoke to the others panels via Teams. This was possible within the corona restrictions at that time [end of September, ed.]. Of course we had hoped for the accreditation to completely take place on campus, but we were very satisfied with this alternative approach.'

Do you have any advice for study programmes that still have to complete the accreditation?

'Yes, make use of all the help offered by the Educational Advice and Quality Assurance department. Margje's and Job's help has been very important. A second tip is: communicate to the panel, in advance, the alternative choices you have had to make because of corona. We were unable to place international students in the student panel this time because of the entry bans, for example. If we had not communicated this in advance, the panel might have thought: 'Weird, why are there no international students present? But through transparent communication to the panel by means of an update or an insert sheet in the self-evaluation report, you keep them informed of all considerations.'

The research master in History went through the accreditation on 28 and 29 September. At the end of January, the study programme will receive the results of the accreditation.

What are programme accreditations?

Every six years, a study programme is accredited. This means that the quality requirements of the programme are tested by an external panel. If the quality is found to be satisfactory, the programme may be continued. If the quality of the study programme is found to be insufficient, this may lead to a recovery process or the compulsory dismantling of the study programme. In 2021, the Faculty of Humanities will again conduct a number of visits. The programmes that will be visited are the research master programmes of Latin American Studies, Asian Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, African Studies, Linguistics, Arts, Literature and Media and Classics and Ancient Civilizations.

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