Ms. Doris Herrmann, over the last four years, AQAS, implicitly you, have become familiar names on the educational market in the Republic of Moldova. When did you hear for the first time about the Republic of Moldova?
Thank you for your kindness. Of course, I have heard about the Republic of Moldova before, but before I got involved in the TEMPUS project „Development of Quality Assurance in in Higher Education in Moldova” (QUAEM) I had no knowledge about the educational system of Moldova. So when the project started it was a learning process for all partners involved, I suppose.

Within the TEMPUS project “Development of Quality Assurance in Higher Education in Moldova” (QUAEM) and subsequent collaboration with the Ministry of Education, AQAS conducted the external evaluation for the accreditation of 15 Bachelor’s Degree Programs in 5 Moldavian universities. Have you made any conclusions valid for all those who were evaluated?
First of all I would like to emphasise that it was a pleasure for the AQAS team to carry out these accreditation procedures because it gave us the chance to get a deeper insight in several Bachelor programmes offered by the universities in Moldova. It has to be stated that a lot has been done to improve the quality of the study programmes during the QUAEM project.
But AQAS learned that there are some challenges which became obvious in different study programmes at different universities, so that there seems to be a need for changes on the level of all universities or on the level of the national educational system. The panels of experts which have been invited by AQAS to evaluate the study programmes came to the conclusion that many programmes are solid concerning the content delivered but that it wasn’t up-to-date compared to the scientific discussions in HEI in other European countries. They also criticised that the descriptions of the learning outcomes are not specific enough and give too little information to the students. The mobility of staff and students as well as the internationalization of the programmes should be strengthened. Another issue which was discussed by some of the panels of experts is that the number of PhD holders involved in teaching is relatively small and that therefore the output of scientific research is relatively little. But to solve these problems changes on the national level should be implemented and the problem can’t be solved on short notice.

At the moment, all the decisions of AQAS Accreditation Commission were positive - ACCREDITATION. Should we think that all students in the evaluated programs benefit from studies compatible with the German/European ones?
Nearly all study programmes got a positive accreditation decision because the concept and the content were considered to be solid by the panel of experts. The international experts confirmed with this evaluation that the programmes provide a qualification suitable for the Bachelor level according the European Qualifications Framework. For students in some of the accredited study programmes in Moldova there might be nevertheless a gap if they intend to enter a master programme in Germany. Two potential reasons for this might be a lack of „modern topics” in the curricula and the limited knowledge of the English language and therefore the missing capability to read scientific literature from the Anglo-American-region. Both issues were mentioned by different panels of experts. If you only take these issues as an example it shows that there is still a difference between study programmes in Moldova and in Germany/other European countries. But this doesn’t mean that programmes in Moldova aren’t suitable for the national needs or that the students don’t have the capability to compete with students in other European countries.

Another important activity, in which you were involved, along with colleagues from EKKA and NVAO quality agencies, is the one of being a member of the Competition Committee for selecting members to the Governing Board of ANACIP. How would you rate the selection process and if you have any suggestions for future selection processes?
For me it was an honour that I was asked to join the Competition Committee for selecting the board members of ANACIP. It was very interesting to cooperate with colleagues from Estonia and from Belgium/the Netherlands. Because of modern communication devices we managed to discuss the qualification of the different candidates for the board membership of ANACIP within our committee. In my opinion it was a good and successful cooperation of the international committee. It wasn’t easy to make a choice out of a wide range of qualified candidates from Moldova. Representatives from different disciplines and from different universities in Moldova as well as student representatives have been selected by our committee to support the work of ANACIP during the next years.
In my opinion it was a wise decision to implement an international composed committee to select the candidates for the board membership because in such a way it’s guaranteed that there is no conflict of interest between institutions in Moldova. For the next round of selection processes I would suggest that the agency has formulated qualification profiles or criteria for the selection of board members which would support the work of such an international committee. The candidates should be asked to hand in short CVs (max. 3 pages) and a motivation letter. Comparable documents which focus on certain aspects could make the work for applicants and committee members easier. Also sufficient time should be scheduled for the committee members to meet so that strengths and weaknesses of the candidates can be discussed more easily.

The existence of an external evaluation and accreditation process of institutions and their study programs correlated to the European requirements and practices is new for Moldova. From your experience, what would be the challenges that might face ANACIP and secrets of success for the Agency to successfully complete the tasks for which it was created?
In Germany the institutional accreditation (called „system accreditation”) was introduced in 2008, so after the accreditation system has nearly 9 years of experiences with programme accreditation behind our backs. Nevertheless there are still a lot of challenges to face. Some institutions enter the accreditation procedure without being well prepared to go through the process successfully. If the accreditation of a study programme fails universities in Germany take the result in a „sportive manner”, if the accreditation of a whole university threatens to fail the agencies have to face a lot of pressure from different stakeholders which is hard to handle if an agency isn’t backend by the accreditation system and politics. The programme accreditations which have been practiced by German universities in the last 15 years provided also a kind of learning process on quality assurance. Without this learning process it’s very hard to be able to perform well on an institutional level. Universities need a very elaborated internal QA system to get an institutional accreditation. During all the site visits AQAS carried out in Moldova I haven’t seen such a far developed internal QA system, yet. I suppose it’s too early to start with the instrument of institutional accreditation in Moldova within the next five years.
Over the past years we think you have managed to observe (ascertain) the realities and challenges of higher education in the Republic of Moldova. Do you have any suggestions and recommendations for all the stakeholders (partners/participants/contributors) involved in the process?
What I saw during the last years were very motivated people: I hope you carry on with this positive mind-set because only these stakeholders can influence Moldova in its way forward. The Higher Education System should try to strengthen international cooperation with other universities and institutions to improve the exchange about international trends in teaching and research. The aspect of research should be strengthened in the universities of Moldova on a national level because the country needs modern research projects which answer the questions of the society. Awareness is needed that a high number of very good qualified PhD holders are needed in the universities to prepare the next generation for the challenges of the future of your country. And ANACIP has to learn to take unpopular decisions to stop study programmes which are not in line with the national demands and the accreditation criteria.