An accredited system is one that has been evaluated, certifies and appraised as meeting the general set standards. Accredited systems are taken to be competent and credible. These systems are also authoritative by nature for them to qualify for the accreditation. For any for accreditation to be to be carried out, certified personnel carry out the process by following an analytical step by step assessment of the overall functions of the system in question. Accreditation also only institutions’ certificates are recognized and accepted beyond geographical boundaries and economical as well as ideological divides. It makes certain that the certification and testing of these institutions to third parties follow the generally accepted set standards and requirements (Schwarz and Westerheijden, 97).
In a broad perspective, accreditation serves many functions. Through accreditation, accrediting agency verifies whether an institution actually meets the set standards. Similarly, an accrediting agency also finds out whether a program meets the set standards of a program of its nature. Research has also found out that accreditation also aids prospective learners in making choices for the institutions they would wish to join. It does this by mapping out institutions that have been approved as meeting required standards of education.
On management platform, accreditation has been found to help institutions to define the limit to which they can manage their credit especially with regard to transferability. Sometimes an institution that is accredited may use its position on accreditation to bargain on public or private matters. In other word, accreditation puts an institution in a better position when the institution has to defend itself against any misperception on the manner through which it conducts its activities (Schwarz and Westerheijden, 27).
Similarly, accreditation serves an important finance function in that it is being used as basis of determining the extent to which an institution can receive federal aid. Since accredited institutions are approved for the management of education within any state, the federal government has a duty to fund them. These institutions have been assessed and found out to be carrying their educational programs within the provisions of what is established as the accepted standards.
Through accreditation, institutional staffs get involved in the management of the education system. Agencies do this by engaging the staff during evaluation process that leads to accreditation of the institution. These staff members get to participate by being consulted and assessed in terms of how they plan and manage the affairs of their various departments or faculties. One should notice that it is these faculties and departments that make up an institution when put together overall. One of the most important functions of accreditation is that it helps in creating the principles used for professional certification in addition to licensing. Besides, accreditation is also being used to assess and upgrade some courses. Creating goals and aims through mission and vision statements is another achievement of accreditation to institutions and educational planners.
Having seen the functions of accreditation, it is vital to demonstrate in a more elaborate way in which accrediting agencies carry out their work. To begin with, accrediting agency establishes standards. The agency does this by working in close partnership with educational institutions. Before an accrediting agency comes in, it is a common practice for the institution seeking accreditation to conduct a study of its general operation in meeting set standards and objectives set by the accrediting agency. Such an institution conducts an internal evaluation on its performance to see whether it meets the minimum set standards of the accrediting agency.
Thereafter, the accrediting agency sends a panel of evaluators to do a study on the institution or program to see whether the institution or program in question meets the set standards for accreditation. If the agency is satisfied after conducting an assessment, it then proceeds to publish the institution in an official publication that recognizes the status of the institution. Nevertheless, the work of accrediting agency does not end with the granting of accreditation. The agency continues to observe the accredited program or institution to see that it continuous to operate within the standards for which it was elevated. The accrediting agency also re-evaluates every accredited institution or program to make sure that they continue to operate as expected of them (Ewell, 72).
Different Types of Accreditation
Owing to the fact that there has been increased search of knowledge throughout the world, there has been a necessity to make sure that academic certificates are obtained from accredited institution. This is especially so because e-technology has enabled acquisition of what one would call virtual degrees. Many colleges and academic institution are now offering online courses to learners all over the world. This trend calls for assessing necessary academic of discipline and professionalism so that such institution that offer their academic courses online do so within the acceptable standards of academic learning.
If left unobserved, many academic institutions may fail to make sure that their online programs are carried out as required by established standards. This is because there are some institutions that are driven by the desire to make profit more than the obligation to impart knowledge to learners in the right way. Depending on the courses being offered, institutions have different accreditation. By being accredited, it is a declaration that the institution in question has proved beyond reasonable doubt that it can be trusted with doing what it does in the proper way as required by established regulations.
Accreditation is therefore done according to different types of institutions, either academic or none academic institutions. These institutions include public or private institutions, Profit making or non-profit making institutions, distance learning colleges and universities, faith based institutions, health programs, law schools, medical schools amongst others. Due to the varied nature of institutions, there are two broad classes of accreditation, which are institutional accreditation and specialized accreditation (Ewell, 149). Specialized accreditation is also called professional accreditation.
Institutional accreditation is a status normally achieved by a higher institution of learning that has met all the minimum requirements of an accreditation agency. To be accredited as a university or a college, it is imperative that such an institution is assessed to check whether it has met the requirements in full. These aspects are assessed in terms administration and its effectiveness, the quality of academics, and operations of the institution in general. When an institution has been accredited, it implies that the institution has met the world standards. It also implies that the institution offers quality standards of services as expected of it as part of the global village institutions.
Specialized accreditation applies to programs, specialized departments, or schools in colleges or universities that have been accredited. This type of accreditation put its focus on a specific field of study with emphasis on quality standards being focused on more than anything else. Specialized accreditation would apply to professions like education, law, medicine, or engineering. Specialized accreditation has been found to help people make informed choices by finding out what would be expected of learners at the end of a particular learning period.
Accreditation plays an important function in the US system of education. The federal government has established a policy that it only sponsors students who qualify for admission into state accredited institutions. The idea behind this is to make sure that the US government money and resources in form of loans and grants is only used in worthwhile courses offered by approved colleges and universities. This way, the federal government hopes to reap back returns in the future through the expertise of the human resources in the country. The USDE (United States Department of Education) is concerned with student well being, financial positions and achievements. The federal government thus works closely with USDE by making sure that it funds those accredited institutions that have been accredited by an agency approved by the USDE (Schwarz and Westerheijden, 31).
American Accreditation System
American accredited system is quite wide, addressing a number of areas of concerns within the American society. It is from the institutional accreditation organization that regional accreditation organization and national accreditation organizations. It is vital to note that regional and national accreditation organizations have specific roles to play. Each has been noted to have a particular function within a given geographical region that they cover.
Regional Accrediting Organizations
Regional accreditation organizations are tasked with the responsibility to assess up to six regions in the United States. Their responsibility includes conducting accreditation process in the regions that they have been tasked with to monitor. Additionally, they are also charged with a duty to review these institutions in their totality. Report from CHEA (Council for Higher Education Accreditation) indicates that up to approximately 90% of institutions reviewed by regional accrediting organizations are degree awarding and non-profit making.
National Accrediting organizations
National accreditation organizations have a stronger mandate than regional accreditation organizations. They are charged with managing the accreditation process in any state in the US. They can review virtually any institution in the US unlike regional accreditation organizations. Reports by CHEA show that of the nationally accredited institutions in the United States, 34.8% are degree-granting institutions while 65.1% do not grant degree. CHEA also points out that 20.4% if nationally accreditation is non-profit making organization while 79.4% of national accreditation is non-profit making (Ewell, 89).
Religion accreditation is a special kind of accreditation in which some religious institutions are allowed by the law not to be accredited along secular lines. However, they pledge to remain in utmost good faith with the government. This is because these religious accreditations have been recognized as different from the regional accreditation. Such institutions are allowed to practice in such a manner since they have demonstrated that they (theological institutions) teach only values that are primary for Christmas living and are ready to uphold laws laid down by the state(Ewell, 102).
One can see that education accreditation in the US see to be active for both professional accreditations as well as for institutional accreditation. Each type of accreditation applies differently in the United States, in indifferent regions and for different institutions. We are therefore not in a position to say that the accredited system in the United States is specifically of one type. A close analysis will reveal that regional accreditation organizations and national accreditation organizations address both professional and institutional accreditation requests.
The result would present an education accreditation model of professional accreditation processed by region accreditation organizations or national accreditation organizations. On the other hand, Institutional accreditation can be acquired from regional accreditation organizations or national accreditation organizations to respond to matters of certification affecting institutions directly. It thus becomes hard to specify that only one type of accreditation work in the states. Other education credential accreditation that is still not yet recognized by CHEA and DOE (Department of Education) is the evaluation of institutions depending on credentials of the graduates they produce (Ewell, 79). Under this method, an institution may only be accredited if it has shown through evidence of good performance that it is up to the expected standards.
Euro-Accredited System and Agency
In England, the education system is regulated within the scope of compliance of the law, and accreditation agencies. It is illegal for an institution to offer any degree without the direct permission from the office of secretary of state. In fact, the government regulates some qualifications. These probably relate to specific qualifications the government deems as security threat. It is interesting to note that accreditation to an institution does not necessarily mean that accreditation to offer any degree. Institutions like Department for Children, Schools and Families, Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, the Accreditation Services for International Colleges, amongst others, maintain accredited institutions.
In France, the process of accreditation is very elaborate. A system has been put in place to make sure that education system passes though institutional accreditation, program accreditation, license to practice and accreditation. The assessment process goes through validation and revalidation before accreditation. The education system is also monitored by accreditation audit and a system of external examination. French accreditation in engineering, for instance, operates under the CTI (Commission des Titres d’Ingénieur). The CTI exerts its activity from outside public institutions (Grandes écoles, university engineering schools). It has defined a set of references, relevant evaluation criteria and techniques necessary for the accreditation process (Schwarz and Westerheijden, 165). The objectives are to modernize and internationalize engineering training, lose the gap between ‘products’ and ‘needs’ by a strong involvement of industry, develop a constantly reviewed accreditation system, and search for excellence to attract the elite.
In Netherlands, educational Accreditation has been introduced in the reform of Dutch Higher Education towards the bachelor-master structure. Accreditation is seen as the independent proof that a certain quality-level has been reached by a program. Accreditation is based on an application by an institution. The basis for the accreditation-decision is a report by an external panel. The report has to be based on the accreditation-framework, developed by an accreditation organization. The external panel has to be appointed by preferably a registered Quality Assurance Agency.
List of Accredited Agency Recognized By US DOE or CHEA
Some of the recognized accredited agency by the United states Department of education and Council for Higher Education Accreditation include Regional Accreditors like Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, Western Association of Colleges and Schools, New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Higher Learning Commission, and Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. On the other hand, National Accreditors include Accrediting Bureau of Health Education, American Academy for Liberal Education, Distance Education and Training Council Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, amongst many others.
Comparison of Accredited System Between USA and Europe
One of the most noticeable elements is the fact that both Europe and USA have accredited systems that are run by agencies. Most of these agencies are independent in the USA as well as in European countries. However, countries like England have accreditation systems whose mandate of authorization is still subject to government influence. Government has the power to decide which degrees should not be offered. It is also interesting to note that while accreditation in the United States universities and colleges imply that degrees from accredited institutions are also accredited, in Some European countries like France the rule does not hold (Schwarz and Westerheijden, 124). An institution may be accredited in France, but with particular degree program not accredited. Besides, the accreditation process seems to be under stringent regulation in France than in the United States.
However, both systems seem to have harmonized their systems. We find the United States also using New England Association of Schools and Colleges as an approved accreditation agency. Moreover, both systems have put in place systems that make sure that there is government funding and grants for students in accredited institutions of higher learning. In USA, a semester credit hour is 15 to 16 contact hours per semester. Since most colleges and universities 3 semesters per year, a student will thus have 3 semester credit hours or an equivalent of 45 to 48 credit hours. In European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System, a full academic year is 60 credits. A transfer between these systems would mean that 60 credits would be equal to 3 semester credit hours and vice versa. This way, the two systems can be harmonized. In summary, accreditation systems have the same aims of improving education. The difference that may exist only exists in the methods employed to achieve these goals.
Peter, Ewell. U.S. Accreditation and the Future of Quality Assurance. Washington D.C: The Council for Higher Education Accreditation, 2008.
Stefanie, Schwarz and Don, Westerheijden. Accreditation and Evaluation in the European Higher Education Area (Higher Education Dynamics). New York: Springer, 2007.
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