Home | 2011 Workshop

Quality Assurance
August 20, 2009 – 1:30 p.m.

Presenter: Barbara Brittingham, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education, New
England Association of Schools and Colleges

This presentation provided an overview of the accreditation process for higher education institutions in the United States and standard-setting institutions and processes for accreditation worldwide. It explored the process by which school inputs, processes and outcomes are assessed in order to determine whether an institution is meeting its mission and the standards of the higher education community. Participants discussed the range of accrediting bodies worldwide, the role of accreditation in building partnerships between U.S. universities and overseas institutions, and the difficulty of global standard setting and ensuring transparency in institutional self-assessment.

Barbara Brittingham first reviewed the historical roots of accreditation in New England. She then provided an overview of elements of quality assurance (standards, institutional self-study, team visits, and commission decisions). Standards for accreditation include: i) an articulation by the higher education community of what a college or university must do in order to deserve the public trust (quality assurance), and ii) a framework for institutional development and self-evaluation (quality improvement). In many countries the second element has been a challenge as schools are reticent to identify areas that need improvement.

U.S. Institutions with branch campuses or instructional locations abroad (campuses, vs. locations vs. contracts) have different accreditation processes. Generally, these are regionally accredited American-style institutions with English-language instruction and they can be similarly assessed. However there are selected specialized accreditation processes abroad for programs, such as engineering, teacher education, pharmacy, theology, and business. U.S. accreditors are professionally involved in the U.S. Department of State programs such as Fulbright scholarships and individual visits abroad.

Quality assurance work on an international scale is undertaken by a number of organizations including the International Network of Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE), GIQAC, a partnership of the World Bank & UNESCO, and the UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education. European, Arab, African, Asia-Pacific, and Eurasian regional networks also serve as standard setting bodies. Challenges to quality assurance extend beyond money, as university structures and processes must be assessed, peer review and professional associations need to be established, and government support must be delicately managed. Quality assurance systems can thus serve many purposes (assuring vs. promoting quality, for example). Recently increased international interest in quality assurance comes at a time when higher education participation rates in growing economies are increasing (and challenging governments to maintain their support), and private higher education and distance are experiencing rapid growth.

Key take away points of this session included discussion of the US accreditation model’s evolution and the need for expanded higher education quality assurance worldwide.

To view the presentations, please click on link below:
NEASC, Brittingham : Open

For questions related to the 2009 Education Workshop,
please contact Rebekah Levi at rlevi@jbsinternational.com