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Accreditation Do's and Don'ts

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At its best, accreditation serves to improve the quality of educational programs, foster self reflection and self examination, and help all constituencies of the accredited program be better informed about its goals and progress.

Hallmarks of a Good Accreditation System
Some of the characteristics of good accreditation systems include:

The current process is voluntary and preferably led by local educators and practitioners (as opposed to accreditation by visitors from faraway countries)
The process is not controlled by the government (government inspection is not accreditation)
Outside of the United States, programs have their choice of an accrediting body (there is competition between accrediting bodies)
A professional agency, external to the accredited program, conducts the process
- Basing the process on the objectives of the program and the constituencies it serves
- Using representation from all major constituencies in the evaluation team
The evaluation is based on clear, published standards
The process is usually evaluative rather than regulatory
- Providing no detailed prescriptions
- Designating no specific methodology

As one example, all participants in the accreditation process should realize that it is not the place of the evaluation team to provide the visited program with detailed prescriptions and instructions on methodology. The evaluation team should also understand that “one size does not fit all” -- different programs have different constituencies, aims, traditions and histories. Accreditation must be conducted in context. Some of the potential misuses of the accreditation process include:

Coercing schools and programs to be accredited (this is very common in government regulations where the title "engineer" mst have a degree from an accredited program)
Using accreditation as disciplinary action
Using accreditation for ranking and comparison of accredited programs
Using accreditation to controlling the school, limit competition or cap enrollments
Favor one constituency of the program over others (but constituencies vary at any school, depending on the local industry representation)
Homogenize higher education