Academic accreditation in Switzerland
The OAQ carries out accreditation procedures for universities as stipulated in Art. 7 of the Cooperation agreement between the Federal Government and University Cantons on Matters Relating to Universities of 14 December 2000 (SR 414.205). The revised Guidelines for academic accreditation has been in force since 1 September 2007.
Accreditation is a formal and transparent process that uses defined standards to examine whether institutions and/or programs offered at university level comply with minimum quality requirements. Accreditation increases the national and international visibility of university performance and can provide students, representatives of universities, politicians, employers and the general public with guidance and an aid in making decisions. The purpose of accreditation is moreover to achieve international recognition and to improve the comparability of degrees.
In Switzerland, unlike in other European countries, the accreditation system operates on a voluntary basis. In accordance with the Cooperation Agreement between the Federal Government and the University Cantons, accreditation may be granted to public or private institutions or programs at university level. In line with international regulations and practices, the procedure consists of three stages: a self-evaluation carried out by the university unit is followed by an external appraisal by an independent group of experts. The decision on whether to grant accreditation is made by the SUK/CUS following a recommendation by the OAQ. The decision is based on all the available documentation (self-evaluation report, experts' report, opinion from the university) and may be "yes", "no" or a "yes under conditions". Unconditional accreditation is valid for seven years. Universities which have not yet started operating or which only recently began operating can apply for preliminary accreditation. This expires after three years. Private applicants undergo preliminary evaluation by the OAQ on the basis of a published list of criteria. If the candidate passes the preliminary evaluation, the OAQ proceeds to the accreditation process. If the candidate fails, the SUK/CUS rejects the application for accreditation. The accreditation decisions reached by the SUK/CUS may be submitted to independent arbitration for appeal.