If You are Thinking of Becoming an Engineer, You Need to Know About ABET

microscope2By NewsWeek Educational Insight

In a world that has become increasingly interconnected and where technology is no longer an “industry”, as it permeates everything we do from ordering food to managing your healthcare, it is no surprise there is a shortage of qualified tech professionals.

Every day, many jobs in engineering, IT and sciences go unfilled because unfortunately not all students in today’s higher education environment are exposed to the same level of preparation or programming. That’s where ABET accreditation plays a very important role by assuring confidence and supporting global career mobility in the fields we accredit:

ABET accreditation:

  • Assures prospective students that a program has received international recognition of its quality
  • Promotes “best practices” in education
  • Directly involves faculty and staff in self-assessment and continuous quality improvement processes
  • Is based on “learning outcomes,” rather than “teaching inputs.”

So if you want to become an engineer, a computer scientist, or launch a career in any of the STEM fields, you want to make sure you can be confident not just in your degree, but in the education you have received along the way. That is why it’s important you graduate from an ABET-accredited program.

ABET accreditation is the global standard in STEM education. From engineering and computing, to the applied and natural sciences, graduating from an ABET-accredited program will put you in the best position to obtain a job in your field. With accredited programs in 30 countries, you can be sure that employers all over the world will recognize the value of your education, as they seek to find professionals prepared and equipped to handle the complex environments where they are expected to thrive. Universities and employers worldwide understand that high educational and program standards are an important part of finding the best tech professionals.

As the global accreditor of university programs in STEM disciplines, ABET’s job is to make certain students and employers have the confidence that a program meets the quality standards and produces graduates prepared to enter a global workforce. As a specialized accreditor, ABET plays a critical role in ensuring the quality of education for future tech professionals, who will in return play a crucial role in the global economy by helping solve the world’s most complex problems.

We promote excellence in technical education by focusing on continuous quality improvement processes, not by prescribing methods. With technological change occurring so rapidly, institutions seeking to ensure their programs are dynamically evolving participate in the ABET accreditation process.

ABET accreditation:

Ensures that graduates have met the educational requirements necessary to enter the profession
Provides opportunities for the industry to guide the educational process to reflect current and future needs

What makes ABET the world standard for excellence in engineering, engineering technology, computing, and the applied and natural sciences?

Our accreditation criteria.

ABET accreditation criteria are developed by technical professionals and members of our 35 member societies. Each society dedicates volunteers to perform program reviews related to its professions. Coming from academic, industrial and governmental backgrounds, ABET volunteers are trained experts who evaluate programs for relevancy, content, and quality. This third-party peer review is critical in the technical fields, where quality, precision, and safety are of utmost importance, and sets ABET apart from other accreditors. It is a solid process that has been refined over 80 years.

By bringing together thought leaders from industry and academia, ABET ensures their processes truly align with the needs of employers and educators. Bringing both industry and academic perspectives together, our criteria remain both relevant and current.

For employers worldwide, ABET accreditation serves as an effective screening tool for identifying qualified new hires. Ask any employer in the STEM fields and they will tell you that the people they are looking to hire must not be singularly good at engineering, science or technology. These new hires must also be strong communicators, business-minded and globally aware. In professions that are truly global by nature, graduates need to connect with customers, learn new jobs in different functions and organizations, work with diverse teams, all while maintaining technical currency and excellence in all they do.

Many universities also consider ABET-accreditation while reviewing applicants interested in pursuing advanced degrees. If a prospective student comes from an ABET-accredited program, admission officials and department heads will know that he or she has a solid education behind them and the foundation necessary to move forward and succeed, whether they are from Portland, Porto or Palestine. And this increases their chances of obtaining an advanced degree.

Another key factor in the accreditation process is ensuring programs have the latitude to innovate and develop creative new approaches to education. Especially in the fast-changing sectors we serve, it is important that programs keep evolving with the needs of industry and society. By instilling a standard of continuous improvement, ABET-accredited programs must always be adapting and evolving to meet industry needs. This ensures students are well-equipped to serve the society we live in; making our world safer, more comfortable, sustainable and efficient.

ABET is a nonprofit, non-governmental accrediting agency for programs in applied science, computing, engineering and engineering technology and we are recognized as an accreditor by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

For questions about ABET accreditation, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. To learn more, visit our website at http://www.abet.org/

Republicans Should Fix College Accreditation — But How?

  • Category: Accreditation
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accredit1By George Leef for the National Review

A month ago, who would have guessed that we’d be looking at GOP control of policy in both Congress and the White House? I sure wouldn’t have.

But since that has turned out to be the case, we can think about all kinds of reforms. In higher education, for example, it might be possible to change our silly system of college accreditation. Decades ago, the fact that a school was accredited probably was a fairly decent indication that it had respectable standards and was a place where a degree indicated some measure of intellectual accomplishment. That, however, is no longer true. Students today earn degrees from accredited colleges and universities without learning much. For many, college is a long party with an eroded curriculum and inflated grades, despite the fact that their schools are accredited. Without accreditation, colleges aren’t eligible for federal student-aid money. That was supposed to prevent students from wasting money on degree mills, but it hasn’t worked out the way politicians thought it would back in 1952.

In this week’s Pope Center Clarion Call, I write about the prospects for two bills that would make serious changes in the way the accreditation system works. There’s the Higher Education Reform and Opportunity Act, sponsored by Senator Mike Lee and Representative Ron DeSantis and the Higher Education Innovation Act, sponsored by Senators Marco Rubio and Michael Bennet. Either or both could pass and I don’t see why Trump wouldn’t sign them into law. What they’d do is to open the system to the states (Lee) and allow new federal accreditors (Rubio) with the objective being to allow students to use federal-aid funds at a much greater variety of postsecondary education and training options.

Those changes could prove beneficial if they got Americans out of the habit of thinking that college is the best choice for almost everyone after high school. On the other hand, the existing alternatives (such as coding academies) are creatures of the free market and I fear that eligibility for federal money will infect them with the same cost and regulatory problems that we see in “regular” colleges.

Ideally, instead of making more schools eligible for federal money, we would aim at making none eligible — i.e., getting the feds out of the business of financing college entirely.

Regulators Vote to Shut Down Nation's Largest For-Profit Accrediting Agency

  • Category: Accreditation
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everettBy Lauren Camera

In a huge victory for opponents of for-profit schools, a federal panel voted Thursday to shut down the largest accrediting agency of private sector colleges and universities amid intense criticism in recent years for loose oversight of educational institutions.

The 10-3 decision, handed down Thursday by the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, effectively eliminates access to federal financial aid to hundreds of schools accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools that enroll nearly 800,000 students.

ACICS officials blasted the decision.

"For better or worse we have become the subject of intense political and public scrutiny and we believe many of the public comments directed to ACICS are not well founded," said Anthony Bieda, executive in charge at ACICS during his testimony.

Steve Gunderson, president and CEO of Career Education Colleges and Universities, warned during testimony that the revocation of ACICS’ authority would amount to a collapse of post-secondary vocational training in the U.S.

In total, the Department of Education recognizes 37 accrediting agencies that act as gatekeepers to the federal student loan system. Those agencies review colleges based on a variety of issues, including academic quality, personnel, instructional resources and many others. Using that information, the agencies approve or deny schools access to federal financial aid benefits.

ACICS, which approves about 725 institutions and last year oversaw $3.3 billion in federal financial aid, has accredited schools including the now-shuttered Corinthian Colleges.

In fact, according to an analysis from the Center for American Progress, from 2010 to 2015, the ACICS in 90 instances approved and named schools to its honor roll around the same time they were under investigation. The companies that owned those schools, which took in more than $5.7 billion in federal funds over the past three years, represent 52 percent of all federal aid dollars received by ACICS-approved colleges during that period.

Last week the Department of Education issued a formal recommendation to eliminate ACICS altogether, outlining a 21-point list of outstanding issues that it charges the accreditor has yet to address.

The ruling is far from the final execution for the accrediting agency, which plans to appeal the decision, first to the secretary of education and then the federal courts.

Among other things, officials at the accrediting agency argued they have made a number of changes that speak to the agency’s commitment to fix past mistakes, including the creation of an ethics review board, assurances of greater accuracy regarding student achievement data and greater public disclosure.

In fact, on Wednesday, just a day before the federal accrediting agency handed down its death sentence, ACICS announced the formation of a “Special ‘Blue Ribbon’ Advisory Committee” that will conduct an in-depth examination of ACICS’ governance, standards, practices, operations, staffing, evaluator pool, support services and accreditation processes.

“ACICS is committed to enacting meaningful reforms that will demonstrate to our partners in federal and state government that we are turning over a new leaf,” Bieda said.

Those actions are too little, too late, many on the NACIQI panel underscored.

“I need to hear more than, ‘We’re creating a committee,’” said Simon Boehme, the student representative who graduated from Cornell University in 2014 and was appointed to the accrediting review board by the Education Department.

Revoking ACICS’ accrediting authority is just the latest event in a larger conversation on accreditation, for which there is broad agreement needs updating.

The Department of Education has called on accrediting agencies to beef up their review of colleges and universities, just as lawmakers have called on the department to step up its review of accreditors.

Undersecretary Ted Mitchell, the Education Department's point person for higher education, has said the department is hamstrung because it cannot strengthen the system without Congress updating the Higher Education Act, which lawmakers are working on but likely won't be able to pass until after the presidential election.

“The only way to ensure the system works – to truly give us assurance that institutions are serving students well – is to have an accreditation process that allows the flexibility for innovation and the rigor to hold institutions accountable,” Mitchell said during opening remarks Wednesday at the NACIQI panel. “And the only way to do that is to focus on outcomes.”

And that’s exactly what the Education Department has been trying to do around the edges.

In November, it announced plans to make public the standards that every accreditor uses when evaluating student outcomes and require accreditors to submit the letters they send colleges and universities when they're put on probation.

“When we see schools provide extremely poor outcomes for students – or even commit fraud – while maintaining accreditation, that is a black mark on the entire field,” Mitchell said. “The presence of poor players taints the reputation of all accreditors and raises questions about the value of accreditation as a whole – that should be as troubling to the accreditation community as it is to us.”

But critics argue that too often the administration’s focus on outcomes – both in the accreditation space and elsewhere in the higher education space – unfairly targets for-profit colleges and ignores similar intransigencies at other types of colleges and universities.

Case in point: A new report from Third Way, a nonpartisan policy think tank in Washington, D.C., shows that nearly half of students enrolled in four-year private, nonprofit colleges aren’t graduating. And many of those who do graduate aren’t earning sufficient incomes even years after completion and are unable to repay their loans.

To be sure, the NACIQI panelists, and even the representative from the Education Department, agreed that the steps ACICS outlined to fix its problems are good corrective actions. They also acknowledged that the accrediting agency has, to some extent, been held hostage by bad actors in the for-profit sector that wage legal battles against the accreditor every time it attempts to sanction them.

“I don’t want anyone to think that this is just an evil agency,” said Steve Porcelli, who presented the Education Department’s recommendation. “That’s not the case. It’s very complicated.”

But ultimately, the panelists decided, the totality and severity of past and ongoing issues outweighed the possibility of the accrediting agency re-establishing itself successfully.

As panelist Paul LeBlanc, the president of Southern New Hampshire University, asked: “Are we being asked to believe that the team that oversaw this systematic failure will be the team to turn it around?”

Article source: US News

Changing world challenges higher education, accreditation

changing worldBy Mary Beth Marklein for University World News

The shifting terrain of higher education worldwide is challenging quality assurance and accreditation professionals to examine how they can adjust or transform traditional practices and policies while also preserving core academic values.

That was one of the overriding messages to emerge out of back-to-back conferences on higher education last week in Washington DC, which drew more than 400 people from 30 countries including Japan, Egypt, Croatia, Israel, Jamaica, India and China.

While the theme for both meetings was the changing landscape of higher education, “we went beyond change to acknowledge disruption", said Judith Eaton, president of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or CHEA, which hosted the gathering along with CHEA's International Quality Group or CIQG.

"And that's disruption of all kinds – in the political space, the policy space, what's going on around the world."

Not business as usual

The United Kingdom's Brexit vote and Donald Trump's unexpected win in the United States presidential election are just two high-profile examples of how business as usual has been turned on its ear.

Corruption in higher education is nothing new, but no country is immune from it, and the potential consequences of fraudulent research, phony credentials or stolen exam answers can reverberate well beyond geographic borders in an increasingly interdependent society.

On a somewhat more upbeat note, an explosion of innovation has increased opportunity and access to higher education around the world. But it also has thrown into question the relevance of traditional methods of teaching and learning.

Amid all the upheaval, one thing is certain – higher education is more important than ever.

Jamil Salmi, former coordinator for tertiary education at the World Bank, reminded conference attendees that higher education lies at the heart of the United Nations sustainable development agenda.

Salmi urged attendees and the accreditation bodies they represent to embrace the emerging alternatives to traditional providers, new kinds of non-degree credentials and new ways of teaching for a new generation of students, who grew up with the internet, Facebook and smart phones. Salmi said his grandson's first spoken word was ‘iPad’.

The reason is simple: there really is no other option.

Technological innovation is "really changing the way [today's students] access information, the way they learn, the way they manage expectations," Salmi said. "We live now in beta mode. We are constantly asked to learn something new."

Many countries have turned to CIQG's seven-point statement of principles for guidance during such tumultuous times, Eaton said.

The principles, developed in 2015, offer a global framework around which a diverse array of higher education systems and national and regional agencies can organise quality assurance policies and address change.

They were developed in response to greater student mobility, a stronger emphasis on faculty exchange and cross-border collaboration and growing reliance on online and web-based education, all of which has underscored the need to find common ground on matters of educational quality.

Over the course of the week, quality assurance professionals shared insights, success stories, frustrations and advice on emerging trends. Among issues that were addressed:

The student voice

One recurring theme suggests a growing interest in capturing and incorporating a student perspective on the quality of their education.

Salmi noted, for example, that student engagement surveys, first devised in the United States, have spread to Australia, Canada, across Europe and into China, South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. A government-funded initiative in Scotland trains student leaders to participate in campus reviews of quality assurances.

"They have perspectives and opinions which are interesting and relevant," said Manja Klemencic, a lecturer in higher education at Harvard University. "If students are given a meaningful role within the process of quality assurance, they can directly influence the practice of higher education."

Comparisons rather than rankings

While rankings continue to play a role in higher education policy, an initiative that enables comparisons shows promise as a tool for accrediting and quality assurance bodies.

U-Multirank, developed several years ago with funding from the European Commission, was intended to be an improvement over the much-despised global rankings, said U-Multirank architect Frank Ziegele, executive director of the Centre for Higher Education in Germany.

U-Multirank offers a comprehensive set of indicators such as student mobility, teaching and learning, research and knowledge transfer, allowing for more granular – and therefore more meaningful – comparisons.

Efforts to expand U-Multirank have met with some success: Ziegele is working on a pilot study with China, has had success in Japan, and sees emerging interest from Africa. While US institutions have been tepid in their response, U-Multirank uses federal data reported by the institutions and will include 240 US institutions in its database to be updated in March.

Student learning outcomes

Driven largely by the Bologna Process, the emphasis on student learning outcomes has gained political support in quality assurance in many countries.

However, preserving carefully guarded institutional autonomy has become a major concern as some governments look to quality assurance as a regulatory tool. Moreover, tools that measure outcomes are inadequate.

"We don’t want just to measure them," said Maria José Lemaitre, executive director of the Centro Interuniversitario de Desarrollo in Chile. "We want to improve them."

Risk-based assessment models

A potential game-changer in quality assurance and assessment is the concept of risk.

The United Kingdom and Australia have been leaders in approaching quality assurance and assessment through a risk-based model. Australia's risk indicators include factors such as student attrition and completion and institutional financial viability.

Last year, the UK government announced its intention to abolish the cyclical reporting process, in which every institution undergoes review, toward a more risk-based approach that eases the burden for institutions that consistently demonstrate good performance. It expects new regulatory frameworks to be in place by 2019.

Expert as dirty word

Perhaps the most troubling trend for higher education is the diminished appreciation for fundamental academic values, education consultant John Daniel told attendees. Expert is "a dirty word", he said.

Universities that view themselves as ‘elite’ need to come up with a new descriptor. And empirical evidence – the quest of academic knowledge-seekers across the globe – has been displaced by, to borrow a phrase used by Trump advisers, ‘alternative facts’.

"The vocabulary of higher education is tarnished," Daniel said. But "I don’t think we can back off the ideal that... it’s better to have knowledge than to not have knowledge."

The Best of ABET's Accredited Programs 2016

  • Category: Accreditation
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abetABET is the global accreditor of nearly 3,600 technical programs at over 700 colleges and universities in 29 countries. The work that we do influences programs all over the world. From Lima to Manila and Miami to Honolulu, the quality we guarantee inspires confidence in the programs we accredit.

Our accreditation is proof that a program has met standards essential to produce graduates ready to enter the critical fields of applied science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology. Graduates from an ABET-accredited program have a solid educational foundation and are capable of leading the way in innovation, emerging technologies, and in anticipating the welfare and safety needs of the public.

Our focus is strictly on the education students receive. The global standards that we set and the review process that we employ are rigorous, yet flexible. Our program evaluators look at outcomes—what students are actually learning from courses rather than what they are being taught—because those are the real indicators that a graduate has the professional and technical skills that employers demand. Sought worldwide, ABET’s voluntary peer-review process is highly respected because it adds real value to academic programs in disciplines where quality, precision, and safety are of the utmost importance.

This process is the culmination of a practice of ongoing self-assessment and continuous improvement, which assures confidence that ABET-accredited programs are meeting the needs of their students, preparing graduates to enter their careers, and responsive to the needs of the professions and the world.

We accredit college and university programs, not degrees, departments, colleges, institutions, or individuals. This allows us to be single-minded in our commitment to determine that a program fully prepares a student to enter the workforce.  

We accomplish this through the work of our Experts—professionals from industry, academia, and government. They are recruited and assigned by leading professional and technical societies, such as IEEE, ASME and ASCE. Virtually every team includes executives from companies such as Boeing, Caterpillar, DuPont, GM, IBM, Raytheon, and UPS.

Responsive to increasing globalization, we work to ensure that the graduates of ABET-accredited programs can employ their talents internationally. We do this by signing agreements with educational quality assurance organizations in other countries and jurisdictions. Not only does this allow ABET-accredited program graduates to use their skills around the world, but it also raises their value to employers. The U.S. Government, for example, and many multinational corporations seek employees with degrees from ABET-accredited programs that translate globally.

When ABET’s quality standards are applied and promoted around the globe, the results are a better-educated, geographically mobile, diverse technical workforce well prepared to advance innovation and excel professionally in fields of critical importance to society.

Students and their families choose schools for many different reasons, but one thing they all seek is a solid quality education. ABET accreditation allows families to be confident that their students are attending a program that will give them the knowledge and skills to continue their education or enter the workforce.

Accreditation: What It Does and What It Should Do

accreditationBy Judith S. Eaton

Accreditation is the primary means of assuring education. Accreditors use a self-regulatory, collegial, formative review of institutions and programs by academic peers to perform sev­eral vital roles. Historically, these have always included an affirmation of threshold quality and guidance about strength­ening academic performance.

Then, some 60 years ago, accrediting organizations-as reliable authorities on academic quality-agreed to serve as gatekeepers for the federal government: Accredited status became a requirement for institutions or programs to be eli­gible for federal funds for student financial aid, research, or programs-today amounting to $175 billion per year. Over time, the federal government has developed a myriad of requirements, spelled out in law and regulation, that accreditors must meet to be approved to play this role (a process known as "recognition").

The gatekeeping role and the relationship with the federal government now dominate the world of accreditation. Do we want accreditation to continue to perform the gatekeeper function? If accreditation does not, what entity would or should? How does the work of accreditation-including gatekeeping-affect colleges and universities through its impact on their governing boards? What is the effect of accreditation, including gatekeeping, on the key values that have been central to US higher education since its inception?

Gatekeeping by Accreditors

Accreditation, even with its federal role, remains owned, funded, and managed by colleges and universities.  Presidents, chief academic officers, and faculty make the crucial decisions regarding accreditation standards, policies, and procedures; whether accredited status should be awarded or denied; and how their organizations operate. By doing quality review themselves rather than leaving it to government officials, college and university leaders believe that they have effectively substituted self-regulation for government regulation and protected themselves against political interference.

Support for maintaining the gatekeeping role has been a constant among the large majority of accrediting organizations, federally recognized or not. Not just academics but accreditors point out that reviewing and making judgments about the quality of higher education is a complex task that only academic professional s can do knowledgably. Supporters also value the collegial dimension of accredita­tion, with reviews that are essentially formative and focused on quality improvement.

Those who do not want accreditors to be gatekeepers are mostly to be found outside the accreditation and academic communities. They include observers of accreditation in the policy community, in think tanks, and in the press. These observers focus on what they consider to be defects of the peer-review process on which accreditation relies heavily.

They argue that the process is not adequately rigorous and that peers cannot avoid conflicts of interest because they are more invested in protecting each other than in offering the harsh judgments about academic quality that may sometimes be needed. They claim that peer review provides neither accountability nor consumer protection.

Critics also point to the extensive governmental authority given to accreditors and assert that these nongovernmental organizations are not adequately scrutinized or answerable to government or the public for exercising this authority. Finally, some observers see accreditation as a vehicle to ensure that colleges and universities promote certain types of political thought or social values. Speech codes are one example the critics point to, as is the documented preference in academe for liberal or progressive causes.

ls it best that accreditors continue to be gatekeepers? Accreditors want to play this role, and academics and the federal government want them to. The issue is not so much whether accreditation continues to do gatekeeping, at least in the near term, but about the growing impact of the gate­ keeping role on accreditors' practices and values. As the federal government's regulation of accreditation expands, its emphasis on compliance grows, and its engagement in the academic decision-making of colleges and universities increases, how can the collegial, peer-driven, and self-regulatory core of accreditation remain robust and intact?

Proponents of gatekeeping want these features of accreditation to be sustained, along with gatekeeping.  Critics of accreditors as gatekeepers see these features as incompatible. For both parties, the debate about accreditation's gatekeeping role comes down to three questions: Can self-regulation and government regulation not only co-exist but be produc­tive? Can effective peer review co-exist with ever-expanding government review? Can the collegial approach at the heart of accreditation be reconciled with government demands that accreditation function primarily as a form of compliance?

Gatekeeping by Others

Some of accreditation's critics recommend that other par­ ties take on the gatekeeping role. When asked who those others might be, they typically suggest the federal government-but some have nominated the states or yet-to-be created private-sector organizations outside of higher education.

Recommendations that gatekeeping be done by others is generally driven by a desire that higher education provide more frequent, useful, and concrete evidence of effective performance, be more transparent, and offer greater consumer protection. This means more emphasis on measurable performance indicators such as graduation rates, employment, and evidence of student learning.

The critics also recommend triggers or levels of college and university performance that, if not met, would result in a denial of federal funds-as well as more energetic monitoring of institutions to assure compliance with laws and regulations governing the use of student financial aid and other federal money. Finally, they think that more and better information about college performance should be provided to the public.

Those who think that it is a bad idea for others to take on gatekeeping are mainly to be found in the academic and accreditation communities. Some accreditation leaders are convinced that accreditation itself would go by the wayside if they lost the gatekeeping function-that institutions and programs would abandon accreditation over time.

Many college and university leaders do not want to see others as gatekeepers, even as accreditors are forced to play a larger and larger compliance role, are progressively more controlled by the federal government, and increasingly serve as conduits for greater government oversight of colleges and universities. These leaders believe that even if accreditors are playing their role in a way that the leaders do not like, accreditors are preferable to other possible gate­ keepers.

As long as gatekeeping involves judgments about academic quality, removing it from accreditors is not a good idea. However, if gatekeeping increasingly shifts from academic considerations to a compliance review with a small set of performance indicators established by the federal government and having little to do with academic quality (such as those suggested by the proposed College Ratings System), it may no longer matter who does the gatekeeping. The gate­ keeping role will have been fundamentally transformed.

Does Accreditation Challenge Governing Boards?

Accreditors have always challenged governing boards­ there is a structural tension built into the relationship between the two. The key question is whether accreditation is done in a way that supports institutional autonomy and enhances the role of governing boards or if it undermines the responsible independence of institutions and the leadership roles of boards of trustees.

Throughout the history of accreditation, the tension has been manageable, even productive. Typically, accreditation both builds upon and reinforces institutional autonomy through attention to institutional mission, the driving force in the evaluation of colleges and universities. At the same time, accreditation standards are applied across all institutions, whatever the mission, and, intended or not, drive sameness in institutional direction and performance.

Accreditors have standards about fiduciary responsibility and stewardship that is both financial and academic, about the relationship between boards and institutional executives that hold the latter accountable but do not result in micro­ management by boards, and about the commitment to shared governance. All of this has historically been compatible with the values that boards themselves and the governing-board literature have espoused.

However, both the climate in which governing boards currently operate and the practices of accreditation have changed, especially over the past ten years. These changes have sometimes put accreditors and governing boards at odds with each other. Some controversial examples include the University of Virginia's Board of Visitors' efforts in 2012 to remove its president, as well as the actions of the Pennsylvania State University Board of Trustees in relation to the Sandusky case.

Perhaps of greatest significance is the fact that accreditors are playing a larger role in major business decisions of colleges and universities, making judgments that can trigger consternation from governing boards. The institutional accreditor for the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture has a standard that requires the school to become legally separate from its parent foundation or lose its accreditation in several years. To date, the board of the foundation has voted to give up accreditation.

Other examples include, in 2013, the Thunderbird School of Global Management's proposed joint venture with Laureate Education, Inc., which did not receive approval from its institutional accreditor. Tiffin University in Ohio established a partnership with Ivy Bridge College that was not approved by its accreditor. Who is ultimately responsible here, governing boards or the accreditors?

Accreditation's Impact on the key Values of Higher Education

Accreditation is built upon four key values of higher education: the responsibility of academic peers to determine quality; the commitment to mission as essential to maintaining the diversity of higher education; institutional autonomy as a necessary foundation for academic leadership of colleges and universities; and academic freedom as central to effective teaching, learning, and research.

Conditions that have supported these values have deteriorated considerably in the last several years. The use of peer review is routinely criticized. Institutional mission and autonomy are undermined by federal and other efforts to measure colleges and universities with the same yardstick (e.g., graduation and transfer rates, affordability, access), independent of the institutional differences captured by mission. The current debate about academic freedom, although largely independent of accreditation, has raised questions about the role of accreditation in supporting and sustaining this vital value.

Accreditation itself has not produced this climate change. Current conditions are due to a confluence of forces that include public distrust of social institutions and authority in general. Nonetheless, accreditors, working with institutions, need to push back.

They need to resist the shift from depending on academics to judge quality to asking non-academics to play this key role. This can be done, in part, by a focus on greater rigor in peer review. And accreditors and academics need to ensure that ratings systems, rankings, dashboards, and scorecards are sensitive to institutional mission. Everyone in the academic community needs to support institutional autonomy as the foundation for strong academic leadership. Finally, there is a growing need for accreditors to further engage in the national discussion of academic freedom.

When taking on the gatekeeping role, accreditors agreed to carry out collegial reviews of colleges and universities ' and inform government of the results, not to become compliance officers for federal laws and regulations or to surrender fundamental practices such as peer review or fundamental responsibilities such as judging academic quality. If gatekeeping is reduced to a compliance checklist largely irrelevant to academic quality but forcing accreditors to abandon 1 their collegiality, commitment to peer review, and the formative evaluation that is essential to quality improvement, gate­ keeping is not worth retaining.

Finally, accreditors need to push back against any actions that interfere with their commitment to the key values of peer review, institutional mission, institutional autonomy, and academic freedom. Boards of visitors, accreditors, and campus leaders have more that brings them together than divides them when it comes to the values that are central to higher education.

Stakeholders in the US are Divided Over Accreditation Reform

accreditationby Jamaal Abdul-Alim for Diverse

As Congress seeks to reform the accreditation system for institutions of higher education, it should avoid a “one-size-fits-all” approach that fails to take into account the varied missions of different colleges and universities that serve diverse student populations.

That was the advice that Dr. George A. Pruitt, president of Thomas Edison State University, proffered Thursday during a two-hour hearing on accreditation conducted by the Republican-controlled House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

“It is certainly important that metrics be mission-sensitive,” Pruitt testified. “In the absence of that, metrics tend to assess the demographics of the student body and not the quality of the institution.”

To illustrate his point, Pruitt noted how some observers might disdainfully regard institutions with graduation rates of 20 percent or lower as being “too low.”

“It is too low if your students are going to school full time and expect to graduate in four years,” Pruitt said. “None of the 17,000 in my institution go full time and none expect to graduate in four years,” he explained about Edison, a Trenton, New Jersey-based institution that he described as a “specialty” university that provides flexible coursework for “self-directed” adults.

Conversely, Pruitt said of Princeton University — his institutional colleague “down the street” — virtually all of the students attend full time and expect to graduate in four years.

“To create one metric that you apply across the board to different institutions without regard to the individual mission of the institution or the constituencies they’re serving distorts the picture of both institutions,” Pruitt said. “The dreaded template never works for diverse institutions serving diverse populations.

“It actually misleads the public and looks for false indicators of quality that actually confuses the conversation,” said Pruitt, who is former chair of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education — a post he held for three terms until this past December.

“That’s why it’s so important to have these indicators referenced to that particular institution against similar institutions and peers,” Pruitt said. “You can do that … and that’s the way it should be done and not the dreaded template.”

Pruitt said if he had his way, he would scrap the College Scorecard — a product of the Obama administration meant to provide students and families with information that purportedly would enable them to make better decisions when they choose a particular college or university. Pruitt — whose institutional graduation rates do not appear on the scorecard — said the scorecard leads to “bizarre” results.

Pruitt’s testimony comes as questions linger over the direction the federal government will take with respect to its role in accreditation as it seeks to hold colleges and universities — particularly those within the for-profit sector — accountable for the student outcomes they achieve with the billions of taxpayer dollars they receive each year in the form of federal student aid.

For instance, enforcement of the Obama administration’s “gainful employment” regulation that sought to hold institutions accountable for poor outcomes for students has been delayed under U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

The responsibility of holding institutions accountable through accreditation falls to what is commonly referred to as “the triad,” that is, states, the federal government and accrediting bodies.

While Pruitt and others spoke of the burden and costs of complying with federal reporting requirements, other panelists, such as Ben Miller, senior director for postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning thinktank, stressed the need to make the triad more assertive and more outcomes-focused.

“The triad is failing us,” Miller said. “While no part of the triad is blameless, accreditors have either stood by or acted with molasses-like speed while taxpayer dollars and student dreams got wasted.”

To demonstrate his point, Miller noted how the campuses of the for-profit Corinthian Colleges “maintained accreditation until the day it closed or was sold, even as allegations of falsified job placement rates, altered grades and inadequate education piled up.”

“There are many schools of all types today that can proudly advertise their accreditation while producing high levels of borrowing, low completion rates and poor repayment outcomes,” Miller said. “Do accreditors know about these problems? Yes. They wag their fingers and sometimes issue threats. They rarely pull the plug.

“Everyone in this room pays for this inaction,” Miller said. “As taxpayers, we all pay when federal loans are forgiven due to fraud or aid does not turn into a credential.”

However, Dr. Mary Ellen Petrisko, president of the WASC Senior College and University Commission, cautioned against being quick to revoke accreditation.

“We’re very keenly aware that students have no other institutions to attend if they are not able to attend the one where they are currently enrolled,” Petrisko said. “So we want to keep institutions strong and address issues of noncompliance with a range of actions, not pulling the plug automatically.”

That recommendation resonated with Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., who chairs the House Education Committee.

“I am happy for the issue to have been brought up about some for-profit institutions being closed precipitously,” Foxx said. “But what troubles me is the total lack of concern that the previous administration had for the students in those institutions.

“It seems to me that it was so unkind for the (Department of Education) to simply pull the plug. And I can’t blame the accreditors for the students having the problem, because it was the department that said, ‘We’re cutting you off from your money,’ and then they closed without the ability to teach out, without the ability for those students to make a transition.”

However, Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., the committee’s ranking member, said the fact that some institutions maintain accreditation “right up to the day they collapse is evidence that more needs be done.”

“The federal government has a $150 billion a year interest in getting this right,” Scott said. “So either the accrediting agencies, who should be in the best position to judge the quality of education, must credibly make the assessments, or the federal government will have to figure out something that’s both fair and workable.”

Dr. Michale S. McComis, executive director of the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, or ACCSC, which mostly oversees for-profit institutions, said it is important for standards to be applied consistently and for the federal government not to inject “undue and inappropriate federal intrusion” into the academic processes of higher education.

“Holding accreditors accountable for the way they work with their institutions and establish those outcome standards is key,” McComis said. “Any guidance that Congress can give to the department in the establishment of those regulations to talk about the consistent application across all accreditors would be useful.”

Miller stressed the need for following up with students several years after they graduate.

“We should be talking to people long after they’ve left and seeing, ‘Did this result in what you thought it would?’ Because people in the moment don’t know until they leave,” Miller said.

“We’ve seen this with a lot of the troubled schools,” he continued. “They thought they were getting a good education in the moment, then left and tried to find a job, and found out it totally didn’t work.”

Jamaal Abdul-Alim can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or you can follow him on Twitter @dcwriter360.

AURAK Programs Earn ABET Accreditation

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aurakME NewsWire

The American University of Ras Al Khaimah (AURAK) announced that two programs within its School of Engineering were awarded with full ABET accreditation this week.

The prestigious Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, or ABET, is the leading accrediting body for post-secondary academic programs in ‘applied science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology’.

The two programs to be granted the accreditation at AURAK, the Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering and the Bachelor of Science in Electronics and Communication Engineering, are now internationally recognized as programs of the highest quality in terms of producing graduates prepared to enter a global workforce.

Professor Hassan Hamdan Al Alkim, AURAK president who has resolutely driven the University towards gaining international accreditation, was delighted upon hearing the news.  

“Congratulations to all. This shows that a clear vision and a hard work and commitment always lead to success,” stated Prof. Al Alkim. “I also reiterate my sincere thanks to the School of Engineering, especially the dean, Professor Mousa Mohsen, the two department chairs, and the faculty. My thanks and gratitude are also extended to all of those who contributed in one way or another to this wonderful achievement.”

AURAK firmly believe that this is the first success of many. As students continue to graduate, an increasing amount of academic programs are becoming eligible for the accreditation process. The University is striving for ABET accreditation for further programs in the School of Engineering, AACSB accreditation for the School of Business, as well as institutional accreditation from SACSCOC.

Pharm.D. program gains renewed accreditation

acpe reaccreditation 2015 01 180“This is a great testimony to the hard work and dedication of the School of Pharmacy’s dean, faculty, staff and students. Their passion for continued and unparalleled excellence in the Pharm.D. program have paid off handsomely,” said LAU President Joseph G. Jabbra of the news that the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) had extended the university’s Doctor of Pharmacy program’s accreditation for another eight years.

The ACPE is the only agency in the U.S. that offers accreditation to Pharm.D. programs and LAU’s School of Pharmacy (SOP) first gained accreditation — which will be extended for another eight years this coming June — in 2002.

“The process was long and challenging. In addition to the comprehensive on-site review of the ACPE visiting team in the fall, we had for two years been preparing a self-study report,” explains Imad Btaiche, interim dean of the SOP. “ACPE standards are comprehensive. Each one addresses a part of the program and the school. Producing the report required a great deal of coordination and data collection, focusing on students, faculty, assessment, curriculum, practice experiences, facilities and finance,” he adds.

 

As a guarantor of quality, accreditation affords LAU’s graduates opportunities to work in the best hospitals in the U.S. “I have been working very hard to ensure my place in the Pharm.D. program,” says fourth year pharmacy student Vikan Aznavorian. While there are 75 students enrolled in each of the five years that make up the B.S. in Pharmacy curriculum, only 30 are accepted annually to the Pharm.D. program, which requires an additional sixth year of study.

Aznavorian is confident and determined, however. Spending half of his final year learning at a hospital in Texas is only a part of the appeal of the LAU program. “I intend to spend my residency in the States, so graduating from a U.S. accredited program with experience at a hospital in that country will give me a huge advantage.”

Pharm.D. student Alexandra Abi Saleh has just returned from Texas, where she and other sixth year students spent a semester completing core courses at the Houston Methodist Hospital. “Educationally it was great,” she enthuses. “I was exposed to a lot and we learned and had hands on experience in every aspect of clinical pharmacy, including in-patient and out-patient care and in the E.R.”

The affiliation with the Methodist Hospital is one of many factors that ensured continuation of the LAU program’s accreditation, says Btaiche. “It has been an asset of quality to our students. Pharmacy is a practice-based profession, so you have to provide them with good sites for their practice so they will be well-prepared.”

While very pleased with the renewed accreditation, Btaiche sees it as a springboard for further program development. “We now intend to focus on faculty research productivity, possibly expanding into graduate programs for pharmaceutical education,” he says. “We also hope to further develop the clinical practice model at our own university hospital, to enable greater cooperation alongside other medical professionals in the interest of patient care.”

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