What is Accreditation?
Accreditation is a system or process for providing public confidence and a tool for improvement used by educational institutions.
It promises a basic level of quality in an educational institution through a process that examines a school's faculty, course content, recruiting practices, admissions procedures, and more.
The purpose of accreditation is similar world wide:
- to ensure quality education programs through the use of standards and rigorous evaluation criteria
- to stimulate institutions toward higher levels of quality and efficiency
- to provide a system for public trust and accountability
Accreditation status provides information about the reputation of an institution and the general quality of its academic programs.
In most countries education providers are nationally controlled and regulated, usually by a single government agency such as a Ministry of Education. In the U.S. and Canada, however, there is no centralized authority but regional accreditation bodies, such as the Middle States Association that accredits Oneonta, ensure high standards in academic programs and institutions.
The associations or governing bodies that grant accreditation have responsibility for establishing criteria, visiting and evaluating institutions, and awarding accreditation to those programs and institutions that meet their criteria.
The Importance of Accreditation
Perhaps the best evidence that any online education program is worth our time and money comes from the school's accreditation. The accreditation process ensures the school has been reviewed in terms of its academics, recruiting, admissions, faculty, and more. It signals to us that the institution will provide quality education and continuously work to improve its overall effectiveness and student outcomes.
CHEA, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, http://www.chea.org/default.asp reminds us that accreditation also serves other purposes beyond assuring academic quality to students and the public.
- Accreditation is required for students to gain access to federal funds for grants and loans in the U.S.
- Accreditation makes credit transfer among colleges and universities easier.
- Employers look for accreditation status when evaluating credentials of job applicants and offering financial support to employees
When you see that an institution is accredited by a recognized authority, you can be sure of its integrity and commitment to students.
Types of Accreditation
Institutions and individual programs (faculties) within an institution participate in the accreditation process. The two types of accreditation commonly used throughout the world are:
- Institutional accreditation
- Specialized, professional, or programmatic accreditation
Institutional accreditation is awarded when a college or university meets the prescribed standards of the accrediting agency. The effectiveness of the entire school operation - including academics, administration, and related services -- is reviewed and certified. This affirmation ensures a high degree of quality for the public and is recognized throughout the education world.
Specialized, professional, or programmatic accreditation
Departments, programs, or schools within a college or university that is institutionally accredited often seek specialized accreditation. Specialized accreditation focuses on a narrower set of standards particular to that field of study - engineering, law, teaching, and nursing are examples.
The licensing boards that regulate some professions may require a student to attend programs that hold special accreditation, so it is important for the prospective student to know what is required to be a licensed practitioner in their field.