International Quality Review and Accreditation:
The Role of CHEA Accreditors

 

In fall 1999, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) surveyed its 1999–2000 participating national, regional and specialized accrediting organizations to learn whether and to what extent these accreditors are operating internationally.

CHEA initiated this inquiry because of the growing interest of U.S. accreditors and their member institutions and programs in international operation, the expanding presence of online offerings that are de facto international and the increased attention that various countries around the world are paying to U.S. accreditation. CHEA is frequently called upon to answer questions from its U.S. constituents and its international colleagues about international quality review.

All CHEA accreditors (55) responded to the survey: five national, eight regional and 42 specialized/professional accrediting organizations. National and regional accreditors review institutions; specialized/professional accreditors review programs and single-purpose schools.

General Findings

The survey yielded a valuable profile of CHEA accreditors operating outside the U.S. (See Table 1.)

61.8% (34 of 55) CHEA accreditors operate internationally:

  • All (5 of 5) national accreditors,
  • 87.5% (7 of 8) regional accreditors, and
  • 52.3% (22 of 42) specialized accreditors.

355 institutions and programs were accredited by the 34 CHEA organizations as of fall, 1999 (includes three with candidacy status).

27.5% (15 of 55) CHEA organizations have separate principles, guidelines or standards for accrediting internationally.

The predominant type of international accrediting activity varies with the type of accreditor: regional accreditors are more involved in accrediting U.S. institutions operating outside the U.S. while specialized accreditors are more active in accrediting non-U.S. programs operating outside the U.S.


Table 1
General Findings: CHEA Accrediting Organizations Operating Outside the U.S.
 
Number of Accreditors Operating Outside the U.S.
Number of Institutions and Programs
Number of Separate Principles, Guidelines or Standards
National
5
84
4
Regional
7
160
6
Specialized
22
111
5
Totals
34
355*
15
*Some accreditors indicated that they were engaged in international activity, but did not stipulate numbers of institutions or programs; this is likely an undercount.

Survey Questions and Responses**
**Eight accreditors are engaged in two types of international activity and are counted twice, once for each type of activity.
(See Table 5.)

CHEA participating organizations were asked these questions about institutions and programs operating internationally:

Do you accredit U.S. institutions or programs (site or virtual) operating outside the U.S.? (If so, how many and where?)

Do you accredit non-U.S. institutions or programs (site or virtual) operating

  • In the U.S.? (If so, how many and where?)
  • Outside the U.S.? (If so, how many and where?)

Have you developed principles, guidelines or standards concerning accreditation review of institutions or programs (site or virtual) outside the U.S.?

Do you accredit U.S. institutions or programs (site or virtual) operating outside the U.S.? (If so, how many and where?)

Seventeen of 55 accreditors participating in CHEA (30.9%) accredit U.S. institutions or programs operating outside the U.S.:

  • Three of five national accrediting organizations (60%),
  • Six of eight regional accrediting organizations (75%), and
  • Eight of 42 specialized accrediting organizations (19%).

These 17 organizations accredit 178 U.S. institutions and programs operating outside the U.S.:

  • National organizations accredit 22 operations,
  • Regional organizations accredit 148 operations, and
  • Specialized organizations accredit 8 operations.

Table 2
 
Organizations Accrediting U.S. Institutions
or Programs Outside the U.S.
# of Institutions
and Programs
 
National
3
22
 
Regional
6
148
 
Specialized
8
8
 
Totals
17
178
 


Do you accredit non-U.S. institutions or programs (site or virtual) operating in the U.S.? (If so, how many and where?)

One regional organization accredits two non-U.S. institutions and programs operating in the U.S.

Do you accredit non-U.S. institutions or programs (site or virtual) operating outside the U.S.? (If so, how many and where?)

Twenty-four of 55 of accreditors participating in CHEA (41.8%) are accrediting non-U.S. institutions or programs operating outside the U.S.:

  • Five of five national accreditors (100%),
  • Two of eight regional accreditors (25%), and
  • 17 of 42 specialized accreditors (40.4%).

These 24 organizations accredit 175 institutions and programs:

  • National organizations accredit 62 operations,
  • Regional organizations accredit 10 operations, and
  • Specialized organizations accredit 103 operations.

Table 3
 
Organizations Accrediting Non-U.S. Institutions
or Programs Outside the U.S.
# of Institutions
and Programs
 
National
5
62
 
Regional
2
10
 
Specialized
17
103
 
Totals
24
175
 

Have you developed principles, guidelines and standards concerning accreditation review of institutions or programs (site or virtual) outside the U.S.?

Fifteen of 55 CHEA accreditors (27.2%) have developed principles, guidelines or standards for review of institutions or programs outside the U.S.


Table 4
 
Separate Principles, Guidelines or Standards
 
National
4
 
Regional
6
 
Specialized
5
 
Totals
15
 

Several of the regional accreditors use the Council on Postsecondary Accreditation's (COPA) Principles of Good Practice in Overseas International Education Programs for Non-U.S. Nationals (1990). Other regional as well as national and specialized accreditors have developed their own principles, guidelines or standards. Some of the 15 accreditors indicated that they had separate principles, guidelines or standards but did not describe them.


Table 5
CHEA Organizations Reported Accrediting Activity in 65 Countries*

1. Australia
2. Austria
3. Bahamas
4. Belgium
5. Bosnia
6. Brazil
7. Bulgaria
8. Canada
9. Cayman Islands
10. Chile
11. Costa Rica
12. Cuba
13. Cyprus
14. Egypt
15. England
16. Estonia
17. France
18. Germany
19. Ghana
20. Greece
21. Haiti
22. Hong Kong, China

23. Hungary
24. Iceland
25. India
26. Ireland
27. Israel
28. Italy
29. Jamaica
30. Japan
31. Kenya
32. Korea
33. Kuwait
34. Malaysia
35. Mexico
36. Monaco
37. Mongolia
38. Morocco
39. Netherlands
40. New Zealand
41. Nigeria
42. Norway
43. Pakistan
44. Panama
45. People's Republic of China
46. Peru
47. Philippines
48. Poland
49. Portugal
50. Romania
51. Russia
52. Saudi Arabia
53. Scotland
54. Singapore
55. South Africa
56. Spain
57. Sweden
58. Switzerland
59. Taiwan
60. Tanzania
61. Thailand
62. Trinidad
63. Turkey
64. United Arab Emirates
65. Zimbabwe
*Some accreditors chose not to indicate countries in which they operate.

Discussion

While data on prior international accreditation activity is not available, the results of the survey suggest a considerable current interest in international quality assurance activity, with 34 organizations accrediting 355 institutions and programs in 65 countries. And, anecdotal information and frequent queries from accreditors indicates that this is growing: more U.S. institutions and programs are seeking to operate internationally and more non-U.S. institutions are interested in obtaining U.S. accreditation.

The survey results can also be evaluated in light of what CHEA learned from its invitational International Seminar held in January 2000. Fifty (50) people from 10 countries attended this meeting held in Washington, D.C. The purpose of the seminar was to exchange information about international quality assurance, to identify important issues for future consideration and to lay a foundation for ongoing communication. A summary of the seminar may be found on the CHEA website at www.chea.org.

The issues and concerns raised at the seminar strongly suggest that U.S. accreditors will be asked to expand their international role in the future and to work more closely with quality assurance leaders around the world. For example, seminar participants are seeking additional information about quality assurance practices and accreditation from a variety of countries. They want new and expanded means to communicate and affirm the quality of institutions and programs offered internationally. They want to jointly address good practices in quality review. They are seeking strategies to address distance learning. Quality assurance leaders from countries outside the U.S. want additional information about the complex and diverse U.S. accreditation enterprise. U.S. accreditors expressed their need to learn more about the quality review practices in other countries.

Where does this leave us? John Petersen, author of the CHEA Occasional Paper Internationalizing Quality Assurance in Higher Education (July 1999), provides a succinct response to the international challenge facing institutions, programs and accreditors: "Higher education daily becomes more of a world enterprise. Reasonable assurance of quality and integrity is a necessity as institutions, students, academic credit, and qualifications extend beyond state, regional, and national borders," (page 13).

CHEA is responding to this challenge with several initiatives. These include development of a CHEA electronic data base of accreditation organizations and quality assurance agencies around the world, a glossary of quality assurance terms commonly used in many countries, a listing of key international agreements about quality assurance and a survey to identify major issues in international quality assurance. CHEA's goal is to effectively respond to the need for reliable information and effective communication in the international quality assurance arena.

 

Judith S. Eaton
President
Council for Higher Education Accreditation

 
Last Modified: Aug 25, 2016

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