Central Participation Council

Quality agreements – central participation council

Which rights do you, as the central participation council have, with respect to the quality agreements? This depends on the choice of your institution to arrange the quality agreements at a centralized or decentralized level. Even if your institution arranges the agreement at a decentralized level, you still have an important role.

• Centralized, decentralized or both?

Rights of the central participation council

• Focus areas for centralized consenting rights

• Focus areas for decentralized or shared consenting rights

• Five tips

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Centralized, decentralized or both?

The institutional board establishes quality agreements in cooperation with the participation council. The board may develop plans, in accordance with the sector agreements, at the centralized level (institutional level) or the decentralized level (faculty-, domain-, academic-, or educational program level). Many institutions opted for a combination of both. It is agreed upon, however, that the right to consent lies with the participation council at the level where the money for the quality agreements is being allocated. Always aim to prevent the formation of dual consent: consenting rights at multiple levels are too cumbersome. In any case, the board and the participation council are both concerned with securing a broad involvement of the community, both students and faculty as well as other stakeholders.

Are you not sure whether quality agreements are worked out at a centralized or decentralized level at your institution? Check with the board or a policy officer.

Right to facilitation

The sector agreements also stipulate that the institutional board has to facilitate the central participation council – also in the case of decentralized formulation – in executing their tasks regarding the quality agreements. To big universities of applied sciences and universities, it applies that the council members must have at least 8 hours per week to spend on their tasks. In addition, the participation council always has the rights to information, a training budget, and providing solicited and unsolicited advice.

Right to report in the annual report

The central participation council has the right to report on the process and content of the quality plans in a separate chapter of the annual report. For this purpose, it is important that the council gathers knowledge from the entire organization about the process. Clear communication with the decentralized participation is therefore key.

Specification of the budget

The advances of study funds are part of the outline of the budget, to which the participation council has consenting rights. The quality agreements are part of the outline of the budget, and are, where possible, subdivided. You may always ask (right to information) for the precise destination of these expenses. In the case of centralized consenting rights, this specification is more important than in case of decentralized consenting rights, since the institutional board in case of decentralized authority has less influence on the spending of the advances of study funds. Still, it remains important to keep linking policy agreements to the amount of money made available for implementation of these agreements. This prevents a difference between the available budget and the execution of the measures.

Focus areas for centralized consenting rights

Depending on the extent to which the institutional board opts for a centralized formulation of the spending of the advances of study funds, the right to consent lies with the central participation council. The council is the first contact point for the NVAO-panel that visits the institution to assess the plans, potential dialogues with the minister, and in case of modifications to the plans.

In case of centralized consenting rights, it may be challenging to maintain a complete overview of the progress of the entire institution. It is therefore of importance to have a strong connection with other layers of participation, which may facilitate a better view on the progress at faculty- or educational program level. Their input is very valuable.

Focus areas for decentralized or shared consenting rights

In the case of a combination of centralized and decentralized influence – or when consenting rights are wholly transferred to the decentralized level – the central participation council also has an important role in quality agreements. The decentralized participation council is usually available for fewer hours, which means that substantive knowledge (about quality agreements for example) can vary significantly. Apart from that, the decentralized participation council usually has a less extensive network that can be mobilized or addressed whenever a problem arises.

Therefore, it is of importance that the central participation council stays informed about the processes at the decentralized level. The central participation council can be a great source of knowledge for the members of the decentralized participation council. Whenever big concerns arise about (a part of) the decentralized process, it may be desirable to encourage open discussion about these issues at the centralized level. After all, the institutional board holds the final responsibility for executing these quality agreements.

Five tips

  1. Utilize the knowledge of your predecessors. They are often able to tell you a lot about what has happened in previous years in terms of quality agreements. Make sure that your participation body reports sufficiently for your own successors.
  2. The amount of advances of study funds increases annually. The precise amounts per year are known to your institution. Archive these amounts by retrieving these, for instance, from the outline of the budget or from the multi-year budget of the process plan. This may be very useful for the process of transferring to the next generation of participation members and provides clarity regarding the amount to which you give your consent.
  3. Do not hesitate to provide unsolicited advice to your board about the quality agreements. Apart from the right to consent, this comprises the most powerful tool you can employ.
  4. In the cases of both the right of consultation and the right to information, the board is required to respond, and to argue why they decide not to follow an advice given by the central participation or why they refuse to provide requested information. Therefore, make sure that the board complies with these requirements.
  5. Per institution, the Netherlands Court of Audit (Dutch: de Algemene Rekenkamer) has evaluated the pre-investments as described in the performance agreements. As the participation council, you maintain the right to access this report. Often, these pre-investments comprise the guiding principles for the quality agreements. The evaluation by the Netherlands Court of Audit is therefore also interesting to the process of quality agreements.