Academic accreditation offers a valuable opportunity for an institution of Higher Education to receive recognition as an organization that offers quality education and research in benefit of society. But it could also become a threat.
Pressure coming from civil society and governments is compelling universities to adopt higher accreditation standards and deliver concrete results that validate the investment made by students and their families. An accreditation process that is not duly prepared can lead to uncovering defficiencies in quality and management mistakes. As a result, the credibility and reputation of the organization is put at risk.
If the institution is not aligned with the opportunity offered by the accreditation challenge, it won’t be able to handle the collateral effects that come up throughout the process. Here are some of the most important factors to consider.
This is not just about gathering the information required by the accreditation procedure. It’s about the strategical thought process that can turn the accreditation itself into an opportunity for continued improvement. These days the innovation boom has brought constant change to education departments. Only high-performing institutions have been able to adapt.
The former higher education coordinator at the World Bank Jamil Salmi told University World News that technological innovation is “really changing the way in which students today access information, the way they learn and how they manage expectations. Life is now in beta mode. We are asked to constantly learn new things.”
Below we share some of the factors to bear in mind during this process.
1. Process costs
The accreditation process price is only worth the trouble if the benefit outweighs the cost both in monetary terms and also for improving the capacities of internal management. The procedure itself is long and involves the entire university, which means the calculations and investment always should be done by looking at the long term.
2. Institutional integration
The various faculties, research centers and academic departments that make up a university often function completely independently from the general administration of the institution. Many institutions have highlighted the need for improved integration in the evaluation process in order to improve the overall academic growth and international collaboration.
According to Effective Assessment in a Digital Age of JISC integration, “may have implications for the student experience. Institutions must work to ensure that the technical infrastructure and systems are in the proper place and that the teams and technicians work with professors to successfully deliver relevant technologies. The regulatory frameworks also must adapt to calls for better evaluations based on technology.”
On the other hand, Manja Klemencic professor at Harvard University tells University World News, "If students are given a significant role in the quality assurance process, they can directly influence the practice of higher education".
3. Create a culture of self-assessment and self-regulation
When ongoing improvement is the goal of all involved parties, processes such as accreditation promote the development of better plans and programs.
While this may produce discomfort because of the sensation of a threat arising from sharing performance indicators, the managerial and evaluation oversight that are involved, the implementation of a self-assessment culture that can make “community” efforts coalesce, and over time the very same sharing exercise can become proof of joint progress.
4. Include the needs of the job market in the programs
The transition from delivering academic knowledge to the integration of work skills is a key factor in the future of education. That is why it is important for the the institution to constantly revise the graduate profiles for all degree programs, classes, and curricular maps so that they reflect the skill level sought by the industry and the public sector.
Therefore, it is key to improve the relationship among educational institutions with the job market and conduct follow-up on graduates from the various departments to assess, explore and compare if the university degree programs can quickly adjust to the job market or not.
5. Strategically sharing objectives with the academic body
The accreditation process can cause teachers anxiety because it suggests their ability to innovate in their lesson plans will by stymied. Facing such challenges, it is essential that the institution share the information on the accreditation procedure carefully and intelligently with professors as well as the internal improvements that will result both in and outside of the classroom.
At the same time the organization must open feedback channels that let professors comment on the process and keep a record of the changes that may be affecting educational innovation.
6. Use of technology in assessments for accreditation
Institutions of Higher Education are incorporating technology in their internal assessments for storing, controlling and managing essential data needed for monitoring processes, identifying gaps and low performance in order to find solutions and create improvements.
These technologies aim to strengthen institutional management and also the student learning experience, especially the levels of retention and studentcommitment.
According to the Academy of Higher Education in the United Kingdom, “Through the use of relevant technology, the student experience can be improved thorugh better access to information on assessments, a wider range of homework, quicker and more automated feedback and measurements on support for peers and groups.”
Getting accredited is becoming more difficult for institutions of higher education at the international level. The growing pressure from governments and the market itself is pushing universities toward higher accreditation standards.
There is a series of key factors such as costs, integration and the culture of an institution, strategic information sharing, and more. Keeping all of these factors in mind is the first step toward successful accreditation.