The external evaluation of higher education (HE) programs seeks to ensure the continuous improvement of the quality in university education and certifies the fact that the results and performance in teaching and research standards assumed by the educational institution corresponds to the intended standards. In the absence of a national quality assurance agency, a great number of HE institutions in Moldova remained unaccredited, while for the others, terms of accreditation expired. Without certifying the quality accreditation of HE programs, HE providers cannot convince (or barely manage to convince) the beneficiaries of educational services of the fact that their programs meet quality standards, as well as that professional training ensures safe placement in the labor market.

Otherwise, throughout the "independence era" of Moldova, local HE institutions experienced only one instance of institutional accreditation. It represented an external assessment of various degree programs offered by Moldovan HE institutions. It was only within the framework of the TEMPUS QUAEM project that the universities of the consortium, including MSU, "tried" to undergo the experience of external evaluation in order to have their study programs accredited. The persons in charge for these programs at all levels went through all the stages of this procedure which targeted quality assurance; they experienced that evaluation together with their colleagues from other universities and experts from European accreditation agencies.

An unrivalled experience for the representatives of Moldovan universities was the process of developing criteria for the external evaluation of study programs by adjusting the AQAS criteria to the realities and specificities of HE in Moldova. The same can be said of the workshops about evaluation criteria and the accreditation procedure. Having benefited from this training as well as from the experience in the given project, several members of the Moldovan team were later selected for the Board of the National Agency for Quality Assurance in Vocational Education of the Republic of Moldova, which was established in August 2014.

After having developed a common set of evaluation criteria and training principles, MSU offered for international accreditation three bachelor programs from three various areas of training: Finance and Banking (Economics), History (Humanities) and Chemistry (Sciences). The persons in charge of developing the programs and quality officers elaborated argument-based requests for each of them in order to initiate the procedure of accreditation. As a result of request analysis, it was the History study program that was chosen for evaluation by AQAS.

Later on, MSU Quality Management Department launched the self-evaluation report of this study program, by involving all academic and program managers from all levels. The self-evaluation process has offered a unique and sometimes surprising experience of assessing own results and performance independently, as well as identifying areas or segments that require correction or improvement. It was already in the process of self-evaluation that the program makers identified possibilities and methods of improvement. Thus, the self-evaluation report was submitted to AQAS in due time. The board of expert evaluators consisted of renowned professionals in the field: Professor Lucian Nastasă Kovacs, Professor Dr. Stefan Troebst, Margareta Ivan - the representative of the employers - and the student Rachelle Esterhazy. The above-mentioned evaluators assessed the study program based on the self-evaluation report and in the course of the evaluation visit that took place on March 31 - April 1 2015. Another unique eperience in this respect was organizing and holding meetings with all groups of stakeholders and beneficiaries of the study program: MSU administration, Faculty of History and Philosophy managers, persons in charge of the study program, students and employers.

Following the external evaluation and the evaluation report of the assessors, the Board for Accreditation of AQAS concluded that the Bachelor study program for the History specialty, offered by the MSU Faculty of History and Philosophy shall be granted accreditation in accordance with the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education for a period of five years. The accreditation was granted conditionally, compliance with conditions being mandatory until March 31, 2016.

Alongside with the joy of international recognition of training quality of the Bachelor History program, MSU has acquired an extremely important and beneficial experience for the provision of quality assurance and for the improvement of study programs offered by the university. The analyses, assessments and recommendations of expert evaluators of the given study program have served as an incentive and support to start a series of actions and measures that would target improving the quality of this study program as well as of the other programs offered by MSU.

Dr. Liliana Rotaru